The world of sports is a funny subject. While it is only a game, it has an ability that only religion, politics, and Mario Kart otherwise possess. Sports can bring some groups of people together, and tear others apart. They can split friendships and families in half due to rivalry games or a big free agent signing. Sports debate can become especially heated when one tries to answer the biggest question of them all. Who’s the greatest of all time? In sports like basketball, baseball, and hockey, the answer is relatively clear. Fans consider Michael Jordan, “The Babe”, and Wayne Gretzky as the “GOATs” in their respected fields. But in football, things are much foggier. There are a handful of players with a good argument as the best ever. However, two athletes almost immediately come to the forefront. New England’s Tom Brady, and former Cleveland Brown, Jim Brown.
The Case for Brady
By no means should Tom Brady be in the position he’s in right now. No one ever expected Brady to be the head of the snake on the greatest NFL dynasty ever. Brady walked on to the University of Michigan and started as the seventh-string quarterback. He was never even supposed to see the field, even to hold the ball for the team’s place kicker. But that’s what other people thought would happen. Brady himself had other plans.
By 1999, Brady quarterbacked a well-oiled Michigan football machine. Michigan finished 10-2 that year as #5 in the country. Brady passed for 2,217 yards and 16 touchdowns. Not world-beater numbers, but definitely sufficient. Brady then left Michigan and entered the 2000 NFL Draft. And with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Tom Brady, from the University of Michigan. At the time, no scouts expected any NFL production from Brady. Quarterbacks picked before him included Chad Pennington and Spergon Wynn.
Brady led the Patriots to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Since then, he’s been downright exceptional. Perhaps even the greatest ever. He’s won 10% of all Super Bowls in history and has the most wins ever by a quarterback (201). He’s won 14 AFC East Championships out of a possible 16 since becoming a starter. Brady has been incredible and a definite first-ballot hall of famer, but is he the best ever?
The Case for Brown
Fans often consider Jim Brown the benchmark for great running backs. And that’s a relatively high benchmark for players to live up to. Brown played for 12 seasons from 1957-1965 for the Cleveland Browns. At 6’2, 232, Brown had bruiser ability as a runner but also had incredible speed. Brown was a phenom because he used both finesse and power to get around defenders and run through the tackles.
Brown himself is decorated with titles like Brady. He appeared in three NFL championship games, winning one. Brown won the NFL MVP award four times, including as a rookie in 1957. Of course, he also won Rookie of the Year that year. Brown became the leading rusher in NFL history (at the time) in only nine seasons. That record remained until 1984 when Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears broke it in his tenth season. His record as the all-time leading rusher of the Cleveland Browns still remains.
Brown was the first player in history to rush for 10,000 yards. He scored 100 touchdowns in 93 games, which remained a record until LaDainian Tomlinson did it in only 89 games. He led the league in rushing for eight seasons, including five straight and then three straight. Brown became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
It’s almost impossible to pick the superior player out of these two. Tom Brady and Jim Brown are neck and neck in this race for Greatest of All Time. Additionally, fans cannot make this decision without at least a little bit of bias, even if it’s subconscious. But in trying to put aside all bias, fans will always come back to the player that they personally like more.
Tom Brady is a quarterback. Quarterbacks rule the league nowadays. Jim Brown was a fullback. Fullbacks ruled the league when he played. They’re impossible to compare unless one looks from a subjective point of view. With the way that Brady’s going right now, I probably will be wrong by the time he retires. But for now, Jim Brown still has that ever so slight edge in my mind. Then again, maybe it’s neither. Maybe it’s Peyton Manning or Joe Montana or Jerry Rice. But the football community as a whole will never know. Why? Because the football community, with most of them being fans, have likes and dislikes and biases. So who really is the Greatest of All Time, from an objective standpoint? Football itself might never know. The debate rages on, and it will until people stop playing the game altogether.