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Are there really 20 players better than Tom Brady?

11.05.10 at 3:34 pm ET

FOXBORO — In the this day and age of immediate analysis and opinion, the mere mention of trying to rank the top 100 players in NFL history generates endless hours of discussion and debate.

Putting together a series interviewing players and coaches and having special “presenters” of each player is brilliant. Enter NFL Films.

The top 10 was announced on Thursday night and there was no Tom Brady (No. 21) but rather Peyton Manning ranked No. 8. Every Patriots fan will tell you the difference. Three titles for Brady, two Super Bowl MVPs, four Super Bowl appearances, the greatest single statistical season for a quarterback in NFL history (2007), an undefeated regular season and the second-best postseason record (14-4) in NFL history.

But Manning was rated 13 places higher with one Super Bowl title and a slew of offensive records since his breakthrough in 1999. Perhaps the strongest mark in Manning’s column is the remarkable run of winning regular seasons – at least 12 wins in seven straight seasons entering this year – with five already in 2010.

But Manning 8th, Brett Favre 20th and Brady 21st? Really? Bill Belichick offered the following perspective:

“Well when you get into the Hall of Fame conversations, what’€™s the criteria? Is it an outstanding season? Is it the longevity of the career? Is it a stat thing, which a lot of times it is versus what some players do that aren’€™t in stats. They are hitting values. Just how do you want to measure it? Probably all those 20 guys, you can probably take more than that and make a case for a lot of them. It just depends on what your criteria is, which I don’€™t even know what it was.”

All of which begs the following: What would be Belichick’s criteria?

“I don’€™t really have any criteria. I appreciate all of them and all their different roles. But to me, what difference does it make? Whether the guy is first or third or fourth, they’€™re all pretty special. In all honestly, I’€™ve spent a lot more time thinking about the Browns, trying to get ready for Cleveland. I think it’€™s a great thing that NFL Films did; I really do.”

Belichick made a presentation for the Top 100 but it wasn’t on Brady. It was on a player that played one year with Belichick’s late father – Slingin’ Sammy Baugh.

“I enjoyed the Sammy Baugh piece, that opportunity,” Belichick said. “You could put Sammy Baugh at the top of the list if you want to. Where can you find somebody that did what he did as well as he did it, in all three phases of the game? But that was a different era. It’€™s not really apples to apples. It’€™s a player in one era compared to a player in another era ‘€“ it’€™s just not the same. But, I like Sammy’€™s style: quiet, under the radar, just went out there and did it, didn’€™t make a big deal about it and did it again.”

There were three defensive players and seven offensive. Manning was the only active player and there was one set of teammates, Jerry Rice (No. 1) and Joe Montana (No. 4.). Jim Brown was No. 2 and Lawrence Taylor was No. 3.

Belichick spoke very fondly of his personal relationship with Brown and praised Rice but said his perspective on both is very different.

“I definitely learned a lot from [Brown],” Belichick said. “Jerry Rice is kind of the opposite of that. I don’t really have any kind of relationship with Jerry other than playing against him. Obviously, he was a great player, great receiver on an offensive that was very productive.”

Before shutting down the “Greatest Show on Turf” and beating the 2001 St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, one of Belichick’s greatest feats was scheming against Rice and Montana as the Giants defensive coordinator to win the NFC title in 1990 on the way to an improbable Super Bowl XXV championship.

“We had great battles with them,” Belichick said. “The 49ers and Jerry, they had some plays and some games against us that I am sure they are happy about and we had plenty against them that we did well in. It was a great competitive rivalry between the two teams, and Jerry Rice and Lawrence Taylor are probably two of the real ‘€“ I mean, there were a lot of great players on both those teams, don’€™t get me wrong ‘€“ but those were really two of the great players of that era that matched up on respective sides of the ball and added a lot of excitement to the game and the matchup.”

Jim Brown vs. Jerry Rice for honor of the greatest of all time or GOAT as Jon Gruden calls Rice.

“Two great players,” Belichick said. “I don’€™t even know who all the other ones are, but I am sure you can make a case for a lot of guys, but [there is] no doubt those two were pretty special.”

Read More: Brett Favre, Indianapolis Colts, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana



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