Many NFL Experts Still Call Joe Montana the Best Quarterback of All Time, According to ESPN Survey

One of sports fans’ favorite activities is to debate the greatest athletes. Going position-by-position gives you even more to discuss. Recently, ESPN surveyed 50 NFL experts to see who they pick as the greatest NFL player at each offensive position.

As you would expect, some of the biggest names were at the quarterback position. Tom Brady was named the GOAT at quarterback, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. But the runner-up may not be who some people expected.

ESPN’s survey of all-time NFL greats

ESPN asked 50 experts, reporters, and analysts to pick the NFL’s best player of all time at each position. Each voter had one vote per position, which made the tabulation easy; the player with the most votes was named the GOAT for his position.

At quarterback: 23-year veteran Brady, who earned 44 of the 50 votes for a landslide victory. The seven-time Super Bowl winner and three-time MVP is the athlete many consider the best at his position and perhaps the best NFL player regardless of position. Choosing Brady was likely easy for most of the voters.

A surprising runner-up for best QB, reports ESPN

If Brady was named the GOAT, many people would expect five-time MVP Peyton Manning to be the runner-up. But he wasn’t. Manning earned two votes, which put him in third place among quarterbacks in the survey. The second spot on the list went to a quarterback who has been retired from the NFL for more than a quarter century.

Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Joe Montana attend an event in 2012
NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Joe Montana | Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group

Hall of Famer Joe Montana earned the No. 2 spot behind Brady with four of the survey’s 50 votes. Sal Paolantonio felt Montana’s Super Bowl performances gave Montana the edge over Brady.

The longtime ESPN personality “was 4-0 in the Super Bowl with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.” As Paolantonio noted, it’s “tough to beat perfection” in championship games, especially when Brady has lost three Super Bowls.

Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez was impressed by Montana’s four titles in the era in which he played — “when rules benefited the defense” — unlike the offense-heavy NFL of Brady’s era when quarterbacks easily put up impressive performances.

The rest of the NFL GOATs by position

Brady is one of few modern players to make it atop the GOAT list at his position, according to the poll results. Here are the rest of the players to earn GOAT honors at other offensive positions.

Running back: Jim Brown

Jim Brown played just nine seasons in the league. But that was long enough for him to have a Hall of Fame career that included three MVPs and Pro Bowl selections in every season he played. That earned him 23 of the 50 votes to top the running back ranking.

Wide receiver

With 45 votes, Jerry Rice ran away with the wide receiver vote. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 13 of his 20 seasons. The all-time great won three Super Bowls in four appearances.

Tight end: Rob Gronkowski

Brady’s longtime teammate Rob Gronkowski had 23 votes to edge out Tony Gonzalez (21) to take home the title of tight end GOAT. A Pro Bowler in five of his 11 seasons, Gronk is often considered the most dominant tight end in history — helped by his two Super Bowl rings with Brady.

Offensive tackle: Anthony Munoz

Anthony Munoz is considered one of the best offensive linemen to play the game. Twenty-seven of the 50 voters named him the best offensive tackle in history, thanks in part to 11 straight seasons of being named an All-Pro.

Offensive guard: Larry Allen

With 21 votes, Larry Allen earned GOAT honors at the offensive guard position. The Hall of Famer was a key piece of the Cowboys team that won Super Bowl XXX.

Center: Mike Webster

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Mike Webster earned 15 votes to be named the best center in NFL history. He played all but the last season of his career with the Steelers, serving as team captain in the Steelers’ dynasty that won four championships.

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