CLEVELAND -- To Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, there is no discussion about who is the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.
With the New England Patriots winning four Super Bowl titles and appearing in the NFL’s championship game six times since 2002, the conversation starts and ends with Tom Brady, who made his return from a four-game suspension against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
In his return to action, Brady completed 28 of his 40 throws for 406 yards with three touchdowns on the way to a 33-13 win for the Patriots (4-1) over the Browns (0-5). It marked the eighth time in his 17-year career that Brady threw for 400 yards in a game, and all three of those touchdown passes went to tight end Martellus Bennett.
“In my book, he is the greatest ever,” Haden said. “He is my favorite quarterback of all time. I really like Aaron Rodgers, but Tom Brady, he is my favorite quarterback, just the way that he is able to just basically be like a coach on the field, and when you say that, just being able to run the total offense, being able to be so calm and patient and read defenses, make checks and make calls, I just think that he is the best to do it.”
Although Brady had four weeks to stew over his suspension because of a scandal involving the deflation of footballs used in a rout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game two years ago, his Patriots teammates have seen the same focused quarterback they always have.
And Haden knew better than to expect Brady at anything other than his best.
“He is a true professional,” Haden said. “Whenever he is out on the field, he studies professionally, he knows where he wants to go with the ball and he is confident in his players. Him and his coach, they have been together for so long, so they just know each other like the back of their hands. I think that he is going to come back in mid-season form.”
Prior to Sunday’s game against the Browns, Brady had completed 4,953 of his 7,792 pass attempts for 58,028 yards and 428 touchdowns against 150 interceptions, and rushed for another 17 scores in his previous 16 seasons out of the University of Michigan.
Despite taking 402 sacks for 2,509 lost yards, Brady has proven remarkably durable, with only 15 games lost to injury since he took over the starting job from Drew Bledsoe during the 2001 season, which turned out to be New England’s first of three Super Bowl wins over a four-year stretch.
All 15 of those games came in 2008, when Brady suffered anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament tears in his left knee in a season-opening game against Kansas City.
“He is what he is,” Haden said. “He is going to be able to make his plays, but at the same time, we have to make sure that we are in our gaps. We have to make sure that we are doing our things and making sure we are winning our one-on-one matchups, so at the end of the day, if the guys are not open, he can’t throw the ball. You have to make sure we are on top of our stuff.”