From a four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback drafted in the sixth round, to an MVP quarterback of the first two Super Bowls, the greatest players in Super Bowl history delivered when the stakes were the highest.
To rank the 50 greatest players in Super Bowl history, ESPN's Stats & Information group put together a ballot of the 120 greatest players in football's biggest game based on their statistics and overall performance. Then our expert panel of writers, editors, broadcasters and other experts voted on head-to-head matchups with more than 3,000 votes cast. The result is the 50 greatest players in Super Bowl history.
Interestingly, while to fans Brady may well be football’s Armstrong, among current and former players and coaches, Deflategate—much like the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate—was greeted with a shrug and a sigh. There are two primary camps when it comes to Brady and alleged cheating: those who believe the NFL overstepped its boundaries and those who believe the prevalence of cheating is so widespread it matters not.
The leading voice in category B is John Teerlinck, a longtime NFL defensive line coach who retired in 2012 after 11 years with the Colts. In 27 total seasons in the league (four as a player, 23 on the sidelines), Teerlinck says he witnessed every sort of imaginable rules violation. Vaseline-coated jerseys? Check. Taping the practices of opposing teams? Check. Paying off players for vicious hits? Check. Deflating and inflating footballs? Check.
“Everyone—and I mean everyone—is guilty of doctoring and messing with footballs,” he says. “But the media makes a big deal out of something that’s not a big deal. At home games, I’ve seen teams take 50 footballs, put them in the sun, roll them around, scuff them up. I’ve seen kickers take 45-pound plates from the bench room, put the nose of the football through the weight and drop the ball through, just to break the nose off either end of the ball and un-stiff it. I can tell you stories about two-way glass divides where one team spies on the other. I can tell you about microphones in the visiting team’s locker room. I can tell you about guys coming in and taking pictures of what coaches write on the board. There’s no end to it.”
Were Teerlinck still coaching, he says he would have complained about the deflated footballs—“but not out of any real anger. I’d just want an edge.” Truth be told, the man who hated the majority of opposing quarterbacks (“It’s a position of wimps,” he says) doesn’t merely admire Brady. He loves him.
“When you’re good, people don’t like you,” says Teerlinck. “The cheating thing—that’s just bulls--t. Tom Brady is really good.”
STEVE SMITH: TOM BRADY ‘SEVERAL STEPS’ ABOVE AARON RODGERS
Steve Smith said Tuesday that when it comes to measuring Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers, it’s not much of a contest.
“You know, Tom Brady is doing a great job without [Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski], without some of the big name guys he’s had in the past, but that makes his legacy even bigger,” Smith told ESPN. “Because no matter who you put out there, he makes those guys better. He’s very methodical, he can carve you up, just like you said about [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers. But I think he’s a step above Aaron Rodgers. Several steps.”