Marv Levy got it right back in 2008 when we asked him to identify the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
"To try to say who was the greatest would be an injustice to so many others," the Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bills coach said.
That's taking the high road. I would have expected Robert Kraft, the esteemed New England Patriots owner, to follow a similar path. It came as a surprise to learn Friday that Kraft had publicly advocated for his quarterback, Tom Brady, as not only the greatest quarterback, but as better than a certain San Francisco 49ers legend.
"I think that Tommy, with all due respect, is better than Joe Montana," Kraft told NFL.com.
Kraft should support Brady, of course. When he took it a step further, I thought Kraft swerved from his lane. Why support his guy at the expense of another?
Ryan Feldman of ESPN Stats & Information has put together an item comparing the two quarterbacks. His conclusion: "If raw numbers are all that matters, there’s a solid argument for Brady. But if you take into account how much quarterback play has changed by comparing against their peers, Montana seems to come out ahead."
And if you consider Montana's 4-0 record in Super Bowls, then what? Brady has been brilliant. He's the only quarterback to lead game-winning drives in the final two minutes of three Super Bowls. But he's also on a two-game Super Bowl losing skid against Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Montana never lost the big one.
"I know that's a leap," Kraft continued, "but I really think (Brady) might already be the best of all time. I watch how involved he is, how driven he is. He's like (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick, he's into the details. And he's got a skill that makes him so special, he can process all of it so quickly. And then, he's just got that quality. Certain people have that sincerity. He's a very genuine guy. People can relate to him. People can trust him."
Fair points, all. This is a conversation worth having. Our top 10 list from 2008, based on conversations with Levy, Art Rooney Jr., Zeke Bratkowski, Ken Meyer, Larry Kennan, James Harris and Dick Haley, put Johnny Unitas at the top. Montana was second and Brady third.
Brady has continued to play at a high level. He might legitimately deserve consideration as the best ever. It just feels like a breach of protocol for one owner to hold up his player at the expense of another -- especially at the expense of Montana.
"It's unfair to name the best, because some other guys were just as good in their own situations," Bratkowski, a former All-American quarterback at Georgia who played under George Halas and Vince Lombardi in the NFL, said for that 2008 piece.
To be continued.