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Green and Bold: The Making of a GOAT

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Green and Bold: The Making of a GOAT

Over the last week, the Internet has been abuzz about the fact that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will reach the milestone of throwing 300 career touchdown passes in 2017—perhaps in Week 1, as he's already sitting at 297 heading into the season. 

The accompanying question that's up for debate is whether or not the fact that Rodgers will become the only player to hit the 300 mark with fewer than 100 interceptions makes his case as the GOAT. 

Rodgers currently has 72 interceptions. The passer with the next fewest interceptions when he hit the 300 mark is Tom Brady, who did it with only 115 interceptions to his name.

But most of the quarterbacks who have hit this milestone were in the high 100s for interceptions (Dan Marino had 169, Brett Favre had 175, and, hell, John Elway had 226). 

As Elisha Twerski pointed out on Twitter, the other 10 passers to have hit this milestone averaged 171 INTs before their 300th TD. 

Being a successful quarterback is, of course, a feat that requires myriad abilities, accuracy being only one of them.

No one will doubt that part of what makes Rodgers and Brady stand out in the annals of history is their stellar TD-INT ratios and high completion percentages.

But there are so many other factors that go into the "greatest of all time" conversation: production, playmaking ability, athleticism, football IQ, championships, and more. (But remember, kids: wins are not a QB stat.)

The GOAT is a favorite debate among media types and fans alike, especially in the offseason when we have virtually nothing else to discuss. (It's much like the raging debate about "elite" passers from offseasons past.) 

What hurts Rodgers the most in the GOAT conversation is the opposite of a recency bias; he's still in the prime of his career; he hasn't played as long as other contenders, such as Brady; and he only has one Super Bowl win to his name. 

Now, anyone who harps on that last point either doesn't understand the relationship between the offense and defense when it comes to winning titles (as in, the defense needs to actually show up), or truly believes that wins are attributable to a QB.

But really, when it comes down to it, even if Rodgers retired today with just one Super Bowl ring, he's given us plenty of fodder to use in the GOAT talks. 

Wins are an easy measure of success, and people flock to them in debates. That's why we hear so much about Tom Brady's 2007 season, in which, yes, Brady threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns to eight interceptions, but the Patriots also went 16-0 and made it to the Super Bowl.

Rodgers' 2011 season (4,643 yards, 45 TDs, 6 INTs) is statistically just as impressive, but the Packers went 15-1 and failed to win a playoff game. 

Back in February, Rodgers acquiesced that Brady is as good as it gets at the QB position following the Patriots' win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI:

"So from a fan's perspective, what a great game to watch and to see Tom in his greatness on display one more time. I mean, he didn't need to win that to prove that he's the G.O.A.T., but just another part of his legacy there," Rodgers said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger.

The truth is that if both quarterbacks were to retire today, Brady would probably go down as the greatest of all time. (There would be a few vocal cries for Joe Montana in there, too, no doubt.) But that's not the case. Rodgers will presumably play a few years longer than Brady, and he will have done so in a system far less efficient than New England's.

If you hold up Super Bowl rings above all else, you'll probably never believe anyone except Brady could be the GOAT. But if you care to look at the whole picture (perhaps Rodgers' career completion percentage of 65.1 compared to Brady's 63.8, or Rodgers' TD-INT ratio of 4-1 compared to Brady's 3-1), you can appreciate how incredibly accurate Rodgers has been without sacrificing production. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (36) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RCPackerFan's picture

The thing I hate about most conversations when talking about who is the GOAT for QB's is how many Super Bowls they have won.

Perfect example of that is Brady. The last 2 super bowls he essentially was 1 play away from losing both games. If he loses both of those Super Bowls is he considered the GOAT?
The game against Seattle he was on the sidelines when the defense won the game with an interception. But because the defense won that game he should now be considered the GOAT?
Also in his first 3 Super Bowls they won by 3 points in each of those games. The first super bowl they won by a game winning FG by Vinatieri. The 2nd Vinatieri kicked the game winning FG with 4 seconds left. I get that Brady got them into position to kick those game winning FG's, but if Vinatieri misses them and they go and lose is he considered the GOAT then?

I think Super Bowl wins should be in conversations about who is the GOAT, but it shouldn't be the deciding factor. Since Eli Manning has won 2 Super Bowls, so should he be in conversation? No.

Brady is no doubt a great QB. He very well could be the GOAT. I just don't think that the Super Bowl's should be the deciding factor.

The TKstinator's picture

I agree about the SB thing. If that measurement is used, Eli Manning is far greater than Dan Marino. I just can't buy that.
On one hand we hear that football is more of a team game than baseball or basketball, and then on the other hand we have this "great QB's win Super Bowls".
Kinda contradictory if you ask me.

Since '61's picture

TK - We can thank the mindless media for the great QBs win Super Bowls mantra. If that's true how does Trent Dilfer fit in? No QB, great or otherwise, wins or loses any game on his own. Thanks, Since '61

The TKstinator's picture


Or Jeff Hostetler
Mark Rypien
Brad Johnson

I'll just stop.

Since '61's picture

To name a few. Thanks, Since '61

chugwater's picture

Jim Plunkett would be in the HOF if this were true.

Mojo's picture

RC, in fairness to Brady, the two games they lost to NY very easily could have been wins for NE. The Tyree catch was ridiculous and if he doesn't make it - game over. For all intents and purposes NY should have lost. The second time NY won on a last minute drive which included another ridiculous sideline catch.

As for the Vinatieri field-goals, certainly clutch, but NE drove down the field in large part due to Brady's accuracy and poise. The first time NE started at it's own 17 with no TO's. Any mistake that deep and the Rams win. Instead Brady carved them up. In the Panthers SB he drove the team downfield again with just over a minute left to set up Vinatieri again.

He had a QB rating of over 130 in their SB win over the Eagles. NE has had incredible winning streaks and nearly an undefeated season in the Brady era. He put up 50 TD versus 8 Int's in 2007.

Perhaps the a better criteria for determining GOAT would be how many times a certain player has helped put his team in a position to legitimately win it all (make the SB). In that case Brady crushes Arod seven to one. And Brady does this over a 16 year period as NE's starter, so you can't claim he played on one stacked team. Nearly half of his seasons in a long career end up in a SB.

Sure there are the outliers like Dilfer, there always will be. But heading a team to seven SB's and winning five is f'ing amazing.

All this makes me sound like Brady's toady, but really I'm not. However, I can certainly appreciate what he's done and in my estimation, at this point in their respective careers, Brady's much closer to GOAT than Arod. To dismiss what Brady's done as luck is disingenuous and reflects too much of a strenuous hometown bias.

RCPackerFan's picture

Mojo -

Those 2 losses could have easily been wins, and the last 2 wins could have easily been losses. And most of those things had nothing to do with Brady as he was on the sidelines when those plays happened. So why does it matter if they win or lose for him to be determined the GOAT?

That is essentially what my point is. Why should the outcomes of those games especially in Brady's case, determine whether he is the GOAT or not.
Like I have mentioned there have been a lot of people the day after the Patriots beat the Seahawks, clamoring that Brady was the GOAT. But if they didn't win he wouldn't have been?

Brady is no doubt a great QB and possibly the greatest. He has played with a legendary coach and they have done things that just about every team can only dream of.
My whole point is, why should the ring be the determining factor.

Mojo's picture

I guess my greater point was although both Arod and Brady have both been exceptional regular season warriors, when it matters most, Brady has lapped Arod in the playoffs. Brady has put his team in position to win seven SB's (and winning five) to Arods one. And to me, that's in large part what makes a player the GOAT.

And the two Vinatieri FG's were set up by clutch play from Brady. To say Brady had nothing to do with those wins is fraudulent. When you play enough games - as both Brady and Arod have - repeated success isn't just a function of blind luck or systems, but in good part to their respective talents.

Maybe it's a farce to label any player GOAT, regardless of position. But if forced to, I think most unbiased observers would favor Brady over Arod at this point in their careers.

LayingTheLawe's picture

Joe Montana makes a ton of GOAT discussions and he has no great statistics at all. So like it or not, it must be the championships that makes you a GOAT candidate.

I dislike that Quarterbacks are judged by wins and losses as well but it is obviously the case or Marino would eclipse Montana by a great deal.

As far as Rodgers no one statistic jumps you into these discussions no matter how impressive it is. He needs a lot more compilation of both stats and Wins to catch up to the people who top these lists.

Handsback's picture

Jerry Rice who many say is the GOAT as a receiver. He's the best that I ever saw for sure. Was he better than Don Hutson? You can never say if he was or not. The same goes for QB. If Rodgers keeps adding ridiculous stats to his resume w/o winning another SB, does that mean he isn't/couldn't be the GOAT? These are ridiculous arguments for off-season discussions....nothing more.
Now what I really wish is to see Brady verses Rodgers in the SB. That would be fun to see.

The TKstinator's picture

Yes! 12 vs. 12. I would be down with that.

LayingTheLawe's picture

Don Hutson was the Babe Ruth of football. When he was getting 1000 yards and more than10 tds a season the next closest receiver had half those totals or less. His TD records for a season and a career stood for over 40 years much like it took 30 and 50 years before Ruths home run season and career totals were broken.

He sure doesn't get enough cred for his remarkable feats because he played in Green Bay and because football was not that high profile in those days. And these days even Babe Ruth doesn't make the GOAT arguments in baseball so time tends to dull these things.

Since '61's picture

I agree with RC. SB wins are a factor but should not be the deciding factor in determining the GOAT at QB. SBs are a team achievement not an individual achievement. Bart Starr's Packers won 5 NFL Championships during the 60's including the 1st 2 Super Bowls. He won 3 NFL Championships in a row. Brady never did that so maybe Starr is the GOAT. Would anyone actually believe that if the SB existed during the early 60s that Lombardi's Packers would have lost? The NFL Championship game became the Super Bowl due to the AFL/NFL merger and the league needed to change the name of the game for marketing purposes and the Super Bowl was born. Anyway, back to Rodgers, he plays the position better than anyone I have ever seen and I go back to Johnny U., Bart Starr etc... Rodgers ability to play brilliantly while on the move sets him apart from the other all-time great QBs. Dan Marino never won an SB and if you just watch him play you will see one of the all-time great QBs. Like Rodgers, he never really played with a very good defense. Montana played on a great team which was coached by Bill Walsh who was one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, better than Belichicken, because he actually innovated the game with his West Coast offense, which Montana executed brilliantly. As for Rodgers, he currently has the best TD/Int ratio ever, best QB rating ever, best completion % ever and 2 league MVPs. If he maintains this status for the remainder of his career he should at least be considered in the top 10 maybe top 5 of all time. If he wins another SB and maybe another league MVP the GOAT becomes a real possibility. IMO, the only thing holding Rodgers back has been the Packers defense. He should have at least one more SB which ironically enough would have been against NE and Brady in 2014. Another point, the one time Rodgers and Brady faced each other for an entire game the Packers won the game. As I have said in a previous post, will NFL writers, fans, etc. be discussing Rodgers exploits 50+ years from now as we still do with Unitas, Starr, Montana, and others? I believe they will and when they do Rodgers will at least be among the GOATs. Thanks, Since '61

EddieLeeIvory's picture

We "hate" the Super Bowl stat when it's relative to Rodgers & Brady. But we liked it when making a case for Bart Starr winning the first 2 despite being on a more loaded team than the Patriots, and with a better coach.

Stats & Super Bowls aside, let's use our brains, and eyes. The eye test alone shows that Rodgers is as good it gets, or as it's ever been.

If we'd had a good to great defense in the Capers Era (2008-now), Rodgers would have been to more Super Bowls.
The 2014 NFCCG choke in Seattle was as much on Rodgers, though, as anyone not-named-Bostick. Don't give him excuses like Favreists always did for his playoff failures.

RCPackerFan's picture

'We "hate" the Super Bowl stat when it's relative to Rodgers & Brady. But we liked it when making a case for Bart Starr winning the first 2 despite being on a more loaded team than the Patriots, and with a better coach.'

This is not why I hate it.
The reason why I hate it is just after the Patriots beat Seattle I heard so many people talking about how with that win Brady was then the greatest QB to play. My question was 'what if they lost'. Would that make him not the best QB? No matter what happened in that game he would have won or lost the game on the sidelines. I'm not sure how his defenses interception to win this game means that Brady is the greatest QB ever.

LayingTheLawe's picture

To answer your question yes. If Brady had lost to Seattle and Atlanta and now had 4 super bowl losses on his resume he would disappear from all GOAT discussions. So all you are finding is just how hard it is to win a Superbowl. You not only have the whole season and playoffs but the fact that the Superbowl game itself can come down to one play.

The 60s Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys to get into Super Bowl 1 and 2 by one play each time. So the Packers are two plays away from playing for the Landry Trophy. Because who won the game is all that matters when it is looked at in the hindsight of time.

The TKstinator's picture

Wasn't it "Ivery"?

Tarynfor12's picture

Has Green Bay relinquished the " Title Town " mantra. If not, why are so many attempting to make or perceive Rodgers as the greatest via his stat sheet while dismissing the very essence of Title Town.
Green Bay owns legit claim to the name Title Town via winning Championships not via their stat sheets since every team has stats but don't have the Titles.
QBs need to be held to the standard for greatest via Championships won....not could, should, would have if onlys.
Whether Brady was or wasn't one play from losing is immaterial since they simply won and as the anointed leader, he either roast on the fire for defeat or basks in glory for victory.
As of today, Brady is the greatest and unless Rodgers wins more Rings fast, he'll be what he is today when finished. ...a conversation piece in these type of debates.

RCPackerFan's picture

So in essence. Since Butler intercepted the pass at the goal line which sealed the victory for the Patriots, Brady is automatically anointed the best ever? I mean he was doing a marvelous job cheering from the sidelines when that play happened.

Let me ask you this question. If Butler doesn't intercept that and Seattle scores a TD there, is Brady still the best ever?

Tarynfor12's picture

All must do their job to be successful as a whole. Did Brady not give his team the lead and by doing so, the defense needed to do theirs and did, whether on the last play or the first of Seattle's possession.

RCPackerFan's picture

Exactly. it takes a team effort.

I just don't think its right to anoint a player the best ever based on what the team does.

Using that game as an example. The defense made the play. Brady had nothing to do with the play the defense made. So why should he be called the best after that game in which the defense determined the outcome? The team won that game. Brady didn't solely win that game. So why should he become known as the best ever because of it?

Tarynfor12's picture

Wasn't Rodgers on the sideline when the defense stopped Pittsburg? By that, why is Rodgers even being acclaimed as the winner of that SB.

RCPackerFan's picture

He was the winning QB on the Super Bowl winning team. Just like with Brady he didn't win that game by himself.

Due to the nature of the position the QB gets most of the credit and most of the blame when they win/lose games. They are the most important person on the field.

The TKstinator's picture

Until The Great TKstinator steps onto the field, that is.

LayingTheLawe's picture

I agree. RIght now Drew Brees career of over 66,000 yards and close to 500 tds with one super bowl and Rodgers can't even compare to that. Rodgers has his amazing td/int ratio as his "go to" stat and Brees has his passed over 5000 yards 5 times when no one else has done it more than once. But if Rodgers adds another MVP and Super Bowl win or two then he can put these statistical debates aside because winning counts a whole lot more.

Joe Montana had 40,000 yards and 273 tds which are far below all the other QBS from the modern era in these discussions but his 4 championships has half or more of these people still wanting to make him the GOAT. So winning is the key and the Packers need to do it more.

DThomas's picture

Michelle: "The accompanying question that's up for debate is whether or not the fact that Rodgers will become the only player to hit the 300 mark with fewer than 100 interceptions makes his case as the GOAT."

The answer to that question is no. No single stat definitively makes the case for any player to be the GOAT. Not titles, not TD/INT ratio, not completion percentage or any other stat. No player will ever be crowned the GOAT because no stat is controlling, the circumstances of every player in contention differ, and it's nearly impossible to compare players from different eras. And even if that weren't the case, the GOAT is a subjective determination made by each fan who cares to turn his or her attention to the matter. So there will never be a single GOAT, except for Babe Ruth. He's definitely the GOAT. ;)

croatpackfan's picture

You have my vote... I agree with you!

TXCHEESE's picture

EddieLeeIvory said it best, you can only make this determination with your eyes. As my brother, who is a huge Cowboy fan said, "There have never been two better quarterbacks in football than Favre and Rodgers, because there aren't any others who can make the plays they do".

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I don't really agree. Ilie Nastase made shots few, maybe no one else could make, but his tendency to play undisciplined, low percentage shots hurt him in the won loss column. Favre's penchant for the low percentage throw lost games at times.

Anderson44's picture

Like it or not championships and performing big on the biggest stage will always be part of the making of a GOAT. Montana (GOAT IMO), Brady, Mantle, Jordan etc, all had their legends enhanced by playing big when it mattered the most. AR will need to enhance his legend also with a couple more SB wins before he is recognized as the NFL GOAT. Just the way the world works.

Flow49's picture

GOAT is a stupid argument with no beginning and no end. We might as well argue about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

The TKstinator's picture

One, two, three.

The TKstinator's picture

Edited for content.
Since there was none.

The TKstinator's picture

Stricken from the record.

marpag1's picture

Goat, schmoat.

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