There are a lot of storylines surrounding Super Bowl LI, and many of them, unsurprisingly, center on the quarterbacks. Tom Brady is making his seventh Super Bowl appearance, while Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their first Super Bowl since 1998.
“I think that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to play the game,” longtime sportscaster Jim Gray said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Just on statistics, they can lie. You can twist all of that. But facts, you can’t change. And the fact of the matter is there have been 51 Super Bowls after next Sunday, and he will have played in seven of them and he’s 39 years old. He wasn’t even eligible for 12 of them and he will be at about 15 percent of all the Super Bowls played. Then if you take into account this is his 15th or 16th year – he was out for a year with a knee injury – so half of the Super Bowls that he’s been eligible for he’s played in. Eleven championship games. Those are just facts. Nobody has ever done anything like that. Nobody has ever won like this. It’s just dominance. He hasn’t done it with the receivers and with the marquee players that others have had. So I think Joe Montana is a great quarterback. Johnny Unitas, obviously it’s hard to rank these people in different time frames and different decades and it becomes impossible. But my opinion is he’s the greatest ever and he’s 39 years old, and statistically this year, look at the year he had.”
Brady threw for 28 touchdowns and two interceptions in 12 games this season. He followed that with a 384-yard, three-touchdown, turnover-free day against Pittsburgh in an AFC Championship demolition of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ryan, meanwhile, has gone from good to great this year and, if victorious in Super Bowl LI, could experience one of the biggest perception and legacy jumps in NFL history.
“I think that’s a good assessment, and I think he’s earned it,” Gray said. “I think all of that potential that everybody has always seen has a chance to come to total fruition. He’s a terrific, terrific quarterback and he will take a huge jump in the eyes of football fans and the nation in general. Not only can you like this guy the way he plays and what he’s accomplished this year, but he’s also always available, answers all the questions, he’s seemingly a good person and a good guy, and you have to be happy for him if the Falcons are your team or just as a football fan, just the way he approaches all of us and approaches the fans. I don’t want to say it’s rare, but there’s a humble aspect of him that’s really engaging and you want to put your arm around him.”
Over the years, Gray has interviewed some of the biggest names in and around sports. Next week, he’ll get a chance to sit down with President Donald Trump for Westwood One.
“I’m not nervous,” Gray said. “Not yet.”
Gray has chatted with every U.S. president since Richard Nixon. All of them, Gray said, knew a thing or two about sports.
“Jimmy Carter probably knew the least, but he was a big baseball fan and he loved the Braves,” Gray said. “Back in my time at CBS, the Braves were a great team. He would come to the games quite a bit with Ted Turner and his wife, Rosalynn. He said Tim McCarver taught him so much about baseball. But Richard Nixon was really amazing. Richard Nixon knew statistics about baseball and football and could recite dates and plays and so forth. He was so detailed you wouldn’t know if he was right or wrong, but he was so sure of it that you just thought, ‘My God, this guy’s just an encyclopedia.’ Of course President Ford was a football player and loved to golf. None of them were really devoid of knowledge.”