Is Tom Brady the Best Quarterback Ever?

Long before every NFL playbook covered every aspect of the two-minute offense, Bobby Layne willed the Detroit Lions to victory when time wasn't on their side.

"He could make two minutes last for an hour," Bratkowski said.

Football was far less complex in those days.

"Layne and Unitas were the first great two-minute guys, before it got real well-coached," Kennan said. "They just figured it out. And they willed the team to win in that two-minute drill."

Starr's memorable winning drive through sub-freezing temperatures delivered Green Bay over the Dallas Cowboys in the Ice Bowl in the 1967 NFL Championship Game. Elway's efforts during "The Drive" came to define his career as well as the Cleveland Browns' inability to win big games during the 1980s.

Montana followed suit later in the decade with the drive that beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

"There is a certain awareness that the good ones have, of the situation and the handling of it," Bratkowski said.


Where Brady fits: Preparation is one of his strengths. Sixth-round draft choices generally don't become future Hall of Famers without putting in effort, experts said.

Panelists were reluctant to evaluate the work ethics of quarterbacks they didn't coach or work with directly. Layne and Stabler were notorious partiers, but they also played before defenses became so complex. Their undeniable ability to "play cards" -- on and off the field -- might have carried them through.

All the great ones worked hard in their own ways.

Layne was widely known as a world-class carouser during his days with the Lions in the 1950s, but his practice habits were apparently commendable.

"He would keep anyone that would stay on the practice field afterward to catch," said Haley, who played for Pittsburgh when Layne was the Steelers' quarterback in the early 1960s. "Here he had been out all night, but he would keep those guys after, and he loved to play football."

Bratkowski holds a special appreciation for hard work after watching Starr go from 17th-round draft choice to NFL legend.

"If you don't work at it, you are not going to succeed," he said. "The Tom Bradys of the word are the first ones there and the last to leave."


Where Brady fits: Panelists did not rank Brady among the elite in this category, but neither did they consider it a weakness.

Most great quarterbacks could move well enough to avoid trouble.

Some could flat-out fly.

Among the greats, Young graded out as the best pure runner. Tarkenton, Staubach and Elway were among the best scramblers.

"When the plays did not work, Staubach made something out of it," Kennan said. "I think that is the ultimate thing for a quarterback. What does a quarterback do when the play gets screwed up? That makes guys either get run out of the league or in the Hall of Fame."

Elway stood out in his ability to scramble, then strike deep downfield with accuracy. Defenders had a hard time dragging him down when he ran.

Other quarterbacks moved effectively in the pocket despite lacking breakaway speed.

"Manning is a very good quarterback at moving in a small area and getting rid of the ball," Meyer said. "I'm talking about a 5-foot-by-5-foot area. Slide, bang, and the ball is gone."

Panelists valued outstanding mobility as beneficial, but far from crucial.

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