After the New England Patriots' most recent dismantling of the Buffalo Bills I wrote, with less than unanimous acceptance, that no quarterback in NFL history compares to Tom Brady. New Englanders e-mailed to applaud my keen sense of observation. Those removed from Beantown wrote to express dismay and in some cases profound anger that I'd have the audacity to draw such a firm conclusion.
The topic's worth addressing because the explanation serves a dual purpose. It delineates why Brady warrants the title of "greatest quarterback ever," while also detailing reasons J.P. Losman might re-emerge on another NFL team and earn praise as a highly competent quarterback.
Individual success in team sports often depends upon the vagaries of circumstance. It's a confluence of factors that dictates what a player accomplishes and, by extension, what a team accomplishes. How good would Jim Kelly have been without Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed? Would Terry Bradshaw be a Hall of Fame quarterback if he was throwing to nameless receivers instead of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth?
Shaq and Kobe. How many titles do the Lakers win with one removed from the equation?
Does Roger Maris hit 61 without Mickey Mantle batting behind him?
Circumstance is what separates Brady from the pack in the great quarterback debate. He's achieved a high level of individual and team success while playing for a franchise that during his tenure has resided in a state of rapid flux.
Yes, Brady currently has the luxury of playing behind one of the game's premier offensive lines. But there was no such security blanket when the injury-riddled Patriots won their last Super Bowl with a piecemeal front.
Yes, he now benefits from having a rejuvenated Randy Moss as his primary target in a deep receiving corps. And the other notable receivers during his tenure have been . . . Troy Brown? Whatever became of Deion Branch, MVP of Super Bowl XXXVIII, once he traded circumstance for wealth?
Two of New England's three championships under Brady came with Buffalo Bills castaway Antowain Smith as featured running back. No longer does the brilliance of Charlie Weis account for the extent of the Patriots' offensive productivity. Outside of Moss, name another probable Hall of Famer who has played for New England's offense during the Brady era. Then tell me another quarterback who has excelled, and repeatedly, with an equally anonymous supporting cast at his side.
Few athletes in team sports are, to quote Reggie Jackson, the straw that stirs the drink. For most, success comes if and when circumstances permit their ascent. Which brings us back to Losman.
Losman would have been a good fit on the St. Louis Rams team that won Super Bowl XXXIV with Kurt Warner at the controls. Those Rams had Torry Holt and Issac Bruce at wideout, another dangerous receiver in Marshall Faulk coming out of the backfield. St. Louis possessed the speed to stretch the field and employed a befuddling array of offensive formations. The ability to recognize coverages and deliver fast and accurate passes was less pronounced than in many other offenses.
That Rams' style fits Losman more than the offense he's running in Buffalo, which afforded him no true No. 2 receiver even before Peerless Price was injured. The Bills are about quick passes and narrow openings, which puts a premium on recognition and accuracy and makes Trent Edwards better suited to the job.
Losman, like most athletes, requires the benefit of circumstance in order to maximize his talent. Brady's the exception. Which is why he resides on the summit.