As sports fans, we all have our favorite players. The ones who helped us to fall in love with the game. A lot of times the debate is “who is the Mt. Rushmore of blank”. It’s easy to talk about the players of old who helped mold the game. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Jim Brown, but honestly, if you were born in the mid to late 90s, you just don’t understand their greatness as much as those who watched it.
As is with most things, you won’t change the opinion of people set in their ways, sports fans included. So, let’s make our own Millennial NFL Mount Rushmore shall we? The only way to make this list is not only the performance of your game but how the story of football will be told after you leave. Let’s start with the four best quarterbacks of the 2000s.
Millennial Mountain: The Quarterback Mount Rushmore
Drew Brees, 2001-2020, San Diego (Los Angeles) Chargers/New Orleans Saints
A career that started off less than ideal turned out to be one of the best any player has ever had at the position. Drew Brees came into the NFL considerably undersized in comparison to your prototypical quarterback.
After struggling to stave off Doug Flutie early in his career and then tearing his labrum in the 2005 season, Brees appeared to be a talented, but limited quarterback until the Saints signed him in 2006. This signing not only altered the course of Brees’ career but ultimately the NFL and college football landscapes.
The Dolphins refusal to sign him is the reason then-head coach Nick Saban resigned and went to Alabama! His first three seasons with the Saints saw him breaking not only franchise records, but NFL records as well including passing yards in a season (5069) and completions in a season (440).
In 2009, he led the Saints to a Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Colts garnering MVP honors and forever signifying his place in NFL lore. Brees retired after the 2020 season as one of the greatest to ever play the position. He still holds 14 franchise records and 2 NFL records as of this writing.
He was a five-time All-Pro, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl XLIV MVP, and a Walter Payton Man of the Year. The story of football cannot be told without Drew Brees.
Aaron Rodgers, 2005-??, Green Bay Packers
It’s hard enough to be an NFL quarterback, but how about being drafted as the replacement for an all-timer? That’s exactly what the Packers were doing when they drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005.
In what was a surprising move, the 49ers selected Alex Smith with the #1 overall pick in that draft and Rodgers fell all the way to 24th. Rodgers spent his first three seasons as the backup quarterback to Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Once he got his opportunity to play in the 2008 season, it was apparent very quickly that he was an outstanding player.
To start his career, he had the third-longest streak in franchise history without an interception. In his third year, Rodgers went to Super Bowl XLV and won by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on his way to winning the Super Bowl MVP. In his fourth year he won the NFL MVP. While he doesn’t have as gaudy of passing numbers as some of the other greats, he was the most talented player the position had ever seen and his resume speaks for itself.
Rodgers currently holds eight NFL records including the fewest games to both 300 and 400 touchdowns and consecutive attempts without an interception (402). In his MVP year of 2011, he broke the season record for consecutive games with a passer rating over 110 (11) and 100 (10). He is a four-time MVP, four-time All-Pro, and a Super Bowl MVP.
Rodgers, until recently, was the most dynamic player the position had ever seen, but he is absolutely one of the reasons this sport has garnered the popularity it has in the last two decades
Peyton Manning, 1998-2015, Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning was one of those guys who was highly touted and then completely backed up all expectations. Not to mention the fact that at the top of his game, it was arguable he was the best ever.
Manning burst onto the scene during his rookie year where he had 3,739 yards with 26 touchdowns. He also set five NFL records his rookie year, one being the infamous most interceptions in a season. The next year, he broke the record for most game-winning drives and led his team to a first-round bye.
He won back-to-back MVPs in 2003 and 2004, and in 2006, got the monkey off his back and won the Super Bowl. He won two more MVPs between then and 2009, where he ultimately lost a Super Bowl to a Drew Brees-led Saints team.
After a debilitating neck injury that cost him an entire year, Manning ultimately was released by the Colts in one of the most emotional press conferences you’ll see. Peyton wasn’t done though. He signed a deal with the Broncos where he ultimately won a fifth MVP and had two more Super Bowl appearances, winning one against the Panthers.
What made Manning special wasn’t his physical or athletic makeup, but his mental attributes. It is arguable that he is the greatest pre-snap quarterback that has ever played the game. He single-handedly made “Omaha” famous and was manipulating defenses more than anyone ever had. It’s hard to argue him as anything less than AT LEAST second-best.
Five MVPs and a 2-2 record in Super Bowls is fantastic, but not the best. Which leads us to our #1…
Tom Brady 1999-?, New England Patriots/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Simply known now as the “GOAT”, Tom Brady came into this league with humble football beginnings. After being in a true quarterback split at the University of Michigan, Brady came into the NFL as a sixth-round pick with limited physical attributes and the belief he was nothing more than a backup who would be a journeyman. That was until he got his opportunity.
After the NFL’s first $100 million man Drew Bledsoe was injured, Brady got his opportunity and ran with it. Brady got his first start in Week 3 of the season and ultimately led his team all the way to Super Bowl XXXVI. In his first season as a pro, Brady led his team on a game-winning drive that ended in a field goal to beat the St. Louis Rams.
From that moment forward, a star was born. Tom Brady can simply be described as the most clutch player that has ever played. He has a multitude of longevity records that may never be broken, but his most impressive stat is the crunch time records. Brady has won a record seven Super Bowls. In six of these, he has led a game-winning drive.
He has won 34 playoff games, which is equivalent to two full seasons. Finally, he has five Super Bowl MVP awards. Simply put, when the game means the most, Brady is the best. He is and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, the greatest quarterback to ever play.
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