The Verdict Is In: Fans Say Tom Brady Is the GOAT Quarterback — but Not the GOAT Athlete
The never-ending debate on who is the GOAT (common parlance for “greatest of all time”) NFL quarterback has been settled — at least for now. Seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, who announced his retirement last week, holds that distinction, according to U.S. adults and NFL fans in a new Morning Consult survey.
Brady was selected as the best QB ever in resounding fashion among self-identified NFL fans, 32 percentage points ahead of the runner-up, San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana.
But Brady’s GOAT status does not extend to all sports. NBA legend Michael Jordan has the quarterback beat as the greatest athlete of all time, per the survey.
NFL Fans Say Tom Brady Is the Best Quarterback of All Time
Brady is the GOAT NFL quarterback
- More than 2 in 5 NFL fans (43%) and 33% of adults believe Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, beating out 22 other esteemed signal-callers included in the survey.
- About half of adults (52%) said they “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with the notion that Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback, while 65% of NFL fans and 74% of self-identified “avid” NFL fans said the same.
- Montana, the subject of a contentious debate about quarterbacks last week on ESPN, ranked second among all three groups (adults, NFL fans and avid fans of the league). About 1 in 10 NFL fans (11%) and adults (9%) said the four-time Super Bowl champion is the best quarterback ever.
- Two-time Super Bowl winner and “Monday Night Football” alternative broadcaster Peyton Manning (7%) and Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (4%) rounded out the top four quarterbacks among NFL fans.
U.S. Sports Fans Name Michael Jordan the Greatest Athlete Ever
Michael Jordan is the GOAT athlete
- Brady can’t claim the honor of the greatest athlete of all time — that award went to NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan. Nearly 1 in 5 self-identified sports fans (19%) said the Chicago Bulls’ six-time NBA champion is the best ever among the 31 other star athletes included in the survey.
- Brady (12%) finished second behind Jordan, followed by Muhammad Ali. Almost 1 in 10 sports fans (8%) said the boxer is the greatest athlete.
- Interest in watching Brady — who reportedly signed a 10-year, $375 million contract to be Fox’s top NFL analyst — as a broadcaster is not quite as impressive, the survey found. About 2 in 5 adults (41%) and 3 in 5 NFL fans (58%) said they are either “very” or “somewhat” interested in watching him in the broadcast booth.
The state of the Brady brand
Brady is the highest-paid NFL player ever, according to Sportico, which estimated the 45-year-old accumulated $550 million in career earnings, including more than $200 million in marketing deals and off-field endeavors.
He continues to draw attention for his athleisure clothing line, Brady Brand. Though his investment in cryptocurrency firm FTX — for which he appeared in Super Bowl LVI advertisements — will likely be wiped out amid the company’s bankruptcy proceedings.
Brady’s public profile may lessen, albeit briefly, as he unwinds over the next 18-plus months. After that, he’s set to reappear in the public eye when he joins the Fox Sports broadcast team in the fall of 2024 as the network’s lead NFL analyst. It will be virtually impossible for his second career to live up to the highs of his first, but Brady has been counted out before.
The Feb. 4-5, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,203 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Mark J. Burns is a senior data reporter at Morning Consult covering the business of sports. @markjburns88