Remember When Tom Brady Was No Longer a Top Five Quarterback?

A gleeful look back on a useless sports media debate.

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Let’s take a minute on this happy Monday morning to remember June, 2014—a slow NFL news month indeed, during which sports analysts occupied themselves by musing on whether Tom Brady was still one of the league’s top 5 quarterbacks. Why? Because it feels good, that’s why.

It began when Pro Football Focus columnist Sam Monson made the clickbaity claim that Brady’s face ought to be wiped from NFL’s Mt. Rushmore:

There is no doubt that Brady is still a good quarterback — his peak was so high that even in the midst of decline there is a lot of room to fall before it becomes a problem — but there is little doubt at this point that we are witnessing his decline in action.

This argument spawned a lot of kvetching in the Boston area and a lot of response pieces in the sports media at at large. (Even Monson wrote a piece responding to himself.) More importantly, it helped to create a season-long atmosphere in which Brady’s every move was analyzed as possible evidence of his mortality (and thus our own). Monson started off a conversation that everyone was excited to have. “Fans and the press love a deathwatch, especially when it involves a team that always wins,” the New York Times noted last week. A very rough start to the season didn’t help things. “Tom Brady has stunk so bad his job security is up for discussion,” claimed a New York Post headline. (Belichick had played backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during the fourth quarter of the infamous loss to Kansas City. He had not confirmed the idea that the quarterback starting position was up for grabs.)

No doubt the Super Bowl XLIX win will not put off these conversations from ever happening again. Tom Brady is, after all, subject to time like the rest of us. But the game certainly put them on hold for the most part. Like that carton of eggs in your refrigerator that you took a chance on last week, it turns out that Brady’s expiration date might stretch longer than was popularly believed. Which is good. Because sports analysts need a little space to debate whether Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time.

Even Monson, originator of the “Not Top 5” debate, walked back his “wipe down Mt. Rushmore” stance: “He turned it around,” Monson told the “Dennis & Callahan” show ahead of the Super Bowl.  “He’s absolutely back on that Mount Rushmore. He’s carved his face back into the mountain.”

The lesson? Probably don’t listen to sports analysts in June.