Is Tom Brady the Best Quarterback Ever?

Fouts, working in Don Coryell's innovative offense during a Hall of Fame career with the San Diego Chargers, owned the skinny post route. Aikman and Montana also made it work beautifully.

"And, boy, is that an important route," Levy said. "Most of those quick skinny post routes come against a blitz where you use what you call sight-adjust, where if the wide receiver and the quarterback both read it, all bets are off, he runs that quick post without any audible."

The traditional post route requires the receiver to veer toward the goal post, race past the free safety and catch the ball 40 or 50 yards downfield.

The skinny post is more complicated. The receiver takes a less pronounced angle toward the post, catching the ball between 17 and 22 yards downfield. The quarterback must throw the ball high enough to avoid the linebackers and hard enough for it to arrive before the free safety blasts the receiver. He does all this while freezing the free safety with his eyes, at the expense of tracking the cornerback in coverage.

Fouts would take a quick five-step drop and throw the ball without the benefit of a hitch step, which would have thrown off the pattern's all-important timing. His intended receiver would widen slightly as he released. On the receiver's fourth outside step, he would break inside slightly, hands at the ready.

"The ball has to be thrown on time so the safety doesn't get over in time to kill the receiver," Kennan said. "It's a timing throw and it's a rhythm throw, and big, strong guys don't do it as well as guys who just understand the timing and rhythm. Fouts, he totally understood all of that."

Bratkowski recalled Fouts throwing skinny post routes "almost like a machine" during warm-ups, firing one after another to get the timing just right.

"I don't care what coverage you were playing on defense," Meyer said, "you had better make sure that you had that quick post taken away on the single-receiver side, because Dan would find it right away, and boy, he could put that ball in there."


Where Brady fits: No quarterback has shown less mercy than Brady this season, but panelists did not provide detailed rankings for this category.

The great ones know when to go for the kill.

Haley recalled the time Unitas, calling his own plays, dialed up a risky slant to Lenny Moore in a short-yardage situation when the slightest misfire would have meant losing the game. The play produced a Baltimore touchdown.

"It was fourth-and-short; you think they gotta run it," Haley said. "For somebody to have the nerve to throw the ball, because they are going to lose the game if he misses it -- I said to myself, 'No one would do that. You can't afford to make those kinds of decisions in that part of the field with the game on the line.'"

You couldn't afford to make those decisions, but Unitas could. Fouts also knew when to pounce.

"I thought Dan understood tempo better than any quarterback I've ever seen," Kennan said. "He was an absolute killer when he got you on the run.

"He got in and out of the huddle quickly. He knew he had you on the run, he snapped the ball on the first snap, he threw it and he knew when he had you and he went for the jugular and he got you."


Where Brady fits: He is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead game-winning drives in the fourth quarters of three Super Bowls. That includes two winning drives in the final two minutes.

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