*This was originally published on White Cover Magazine…
It could have been solar-shattering, if we’d gotten Peyton Manning v Brady in the AFC Championship, just one more time. It surely would have been the last time, because it doesn’t seem Denver will have anything close to enough to make the NFL’s semifinals in 2016. (But of course, trends and cheap conclusions are normally either wrong or short-sighted.)
Still, this is all-time great final four quarterbacking.
Tom Brady. Andrew Luck. Russell Wilson. Aaron Rodgers.
And reading it over I realize, you know what, I’d rather have Luck in there than Manning. Why flog the same scene we’ve seen a hundred times, a hundred different ways that were all the same? Luck’s new, he’s awesome, and it’s not often you can insert the new guy and come out with a better storyline.
Three of them are Super Bowl champions, two of them championship MVPs. Brady is, in my opinion, second of all-time only to Joe Montana – and I never saw Montana play, so Brady could be even above him. I’m going only by records, and Montana’s four championships – together with his 16 wins – is the stuff of Mount Sinai.
Read: ‘The 10 Greatest Postseason Quarterbacks in NFL History‘ by Bryn Swartz, The Bleacher Report
(It doesn’t hurt that the NFL is pretty shallow, historically. We’re only on the league’s 49th championship and since I came into memory – around the 48th or so – we’ve been spoiled by legitimate legends like Brady, Manning, John Elway, Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman, and this Seattle defence. The list of all-timers is short as hell – it doesn’t a lot of effort or time to read into who Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr, or Walter Payton were. And that’s literally it. Gale Sayer was pre-Super Bowl terrific. Jim Brown, too. Joe Namath had that one championship, just like so many others. You get bonus points if you mention Roger Staubach or Tony Dorsett in an argument. Even Big Ben Roethlisberger – a wonderful quarterback, for sure, just he seems a little early on to be debated into Hall of Fame territory – is Canton-worthy, even at this point.)
Russell Wilson is only in his third year, and can you remember a time when he wasn’t RUSSELL WILSON… big letters, bright lights behind them, vouching for every product in every commercial in America?
Aaron Rodgers has a Super Bowl… but only one? It’s not enough to have won in the NFL right now, you have to have won a bunch (Ben and Eli Manning each have two, by the way) and you have to win really, really well. Rodgers is also probably the best quarterback in the league and has been over-top and across the past several seasons, save for a seven-touchdown game by Manning or a few Drew Brees-to-Jimmy Graham lobs over the line.
Andrew Luck hasn’t even had the chance to win a Super Bowl yet – I mean, two great playoff wins, that comeback over Kansas City and this year’s dethroning of Manning and the Broncos in the crown seat for the AFC west of Denver, are enough to impress on their own. Luck is just three seasons in, and there’s every expectation he’ll have his bust shelved in Ohio in 20 years or so.
The protege – the Mozart – is the worst of the final four quarterbacks, which makes this an incredible semifinal weekend.
And we were nearly disappointed with Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, and Tony Romo.
We’ve been forced to watch Flacco take on Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl, and we talked more about Peyton when Eli beat Brady then we talked about the guy who actually won the game.
Of course, that was just a storyline. And there’s on for 2015 too, whichever road today travels.