Any list of the top five quarterbacks in NFL history is suspect if it doesn’t include three names: Elway, Manning and Brady.
And there are few with a better perspective on those three than Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak was part of the famed 1983 quarterback class, except they were sweeping up the confetti by the time he was taken in the eighth round. Selected 196 picks behind Elway, he was Elway’s backup until 1991, swung through San Fran as he began his career as an assistant and was there for a Super Bowl win, hooked up again with the Broncos as Elway was capping his playing career with titles, passed through Houston and Baltimore then went back to Denver where he won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning. He’s coached against Brady four times in the playoffs and five more times in the regular season.
Knowing Kubiak wouldn’t rank Elway, Manning and Brady, we asked him anyway on a conference call Wednesday with New England media.
“I’m not going there,” Kubiak laughed. “They’re all ones in my opinion. They’re all Hall of Fame players and they’re all different in the way that they play and how they went about things. They’re all different and [have] different strengths.
“It’s been a joy for me,” he added. “I’ve had a hell of a run with one of them, played with one of them and coached one of them. That’s pretty cool from John’s perspective and now I work for him. I competed against Peyton for many years and got to be around him for a year. From a coaching standpoint, that was very challenging and I really enjoyed that. Tom, just to see him first hand many times in some great football games, I’ll always cherish. I have the utmost respect for what he does. [They’re] just all great players and tremendous people, too.”
The one attribute Kubiak says they share isn’t a surprise.
“The way that they compete,” he said. “If you asked me one thing, I wouldn’t even start to talk about how they throw it. I’ll just say the way that they compete. They raised the level of everybody around them. They’re the ultimate warriors and competitors when they stepped in between the white lines. That’s what this game is about.”
Kubiak also made a good point about something that’s overlooked sometimes with the best at that spot. Their longevity. And it’s never just punching-the-clock, collecting-a-check longevity. With these three who in the league for a combined total of 50 NFL seasons, they were great until the end.
“Look how long each and every one of them has done it,” said Kubiak. “You think about three guys that have played that damn long and played that well, it’s just amazing.”
What’s Kubiak seeing from Brady this season?
“He looks the same to me, guys,” he summarized. “He is just exceptional. He is a tremendous player, he is a tremendous leader [and] I have the utmost respect for him. He has always played at a high level and he’s just playing tremendous right now and they’re running the ball really well, too. We understand [and] have a great respect for him. We know it’s the ultimate challenge when you play him.”