Let’s make sure we know who we are talking with here.
This is Justin Tuck, the former Giants defensive end. He dislikes quarterbacks. All of them. There is something about the position he played, and the position they play, that does not allow Tuck to get past this.
“It was hard for me, at times, to like Eli [Manning],’’ Tuck said.
Wait, what? Doesn’t everyone like Eli?
Well, Eli was a quarterback, and those guys tend to make Tuck’s blood boil — even, it appears, the quarterback on his own team.
If Tuck can feel this way about good ol’ Eli, imagine the disdain he harbors for Tom Brady.
“So for me to say this is phenomenal in it’s own right,’’ Tuck told The Post. “He’s the greatest football — he’s definitely the greatest quarterback of all time, and he’s approaching the greatest football player of all time. And he might already be there, considering how we judge our stars.
“The two biggest matrix[es] we judge our stars on are success and longevity, right? I mean, what’s the argument here? He’s been to 10 Super Bowls, he’s won six, maybe seven, depending when we’re talking. He’s been to I don’t know how many Pro Bowls, and he’s had a 20-plus year career, and he’s not slowing down. He literally looks like he could play five more years.’’
The football pathways of so many defensive players are littered with reminders of Brady conquests, Tuck and the other Giants who played in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI walk nothing but happy trails. Those Giants teams slayed the Brady dragon once, shockingly, and did it again four years later.
Nine years after the Giants left Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with a 21-17 victory, it was not unfair to wonder how much Brady had left in his tank, given that he was 34 years old. He is now 43, and in his first year with Tampa Bay has the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, facing the Chiefs on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. He threw 40 touchdown passes, was intercepted just 12 times and compiled a passer rating of 102.2. It is not as if the Bucs carried him here. They got on his back and Brady did the rest.
“Unprecedented,’’ said Osi Umenyiora, another former Giants defensive end with two Super Bowl victories over Brady and the Patriots. “Something I didn’t think was possible. I thought maybe a kicker could play to that age, but at the quarterback position, taking those hits — well, they don’t have to take that many hits anymore. That might have helped him.’’
Umenyiora, 39, has been retired for six years. Tuck, 37, retired five years ago. Brady, older than both of these former defensive stars, shows no sign of stopping.
“The fact that he’s still able to perform and throw the ball the way he does — he’s lost nothing on his arm, his accuracy is still there, his touch is still there,’’ Umenyiora said. “This guy looks like he’s gonna be able to play for another three, four years, and that’s just crazy.’’
What is crazier still is Tuck contemplating Brady as the best player to ever don a uniform in the NFL.
“You know how much I do not like that position, but I’m a hypocrite and fool if I blind myself to the fact of how successful that guy has been,’’ Tuck said. “And all the things he’s accomplished — I didn’t say greatest athlete, he’s not in the running for that, but when you look at what he’s accomplished and still is accomplishing, he has to be in the running, he has to be high in the running.
“The impact a Lawrence Taylor or a Reggie White or a Ronnie Lott or a Jerry Rice or a Walter Payton, all these guys had in the game, that’s different because it’s different positions. But the quarterback position is the most regarded position in our sport, and he is by far now the best ever at that position. I would have to have a really strong retort for someone to knock me off this mountain of saying he’s the front-runner for being the best football player ever.’’