The debate has now been won by the New England Patriots as their comeback win in Superbowl LI - the largest in the game's history, the third-largest comeback win in a playoff game in NFL history - cemented Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback ever and the Patriots as the greatest team of all time.
There are plenty of takes from this game -
Brady throws 50 passes and wins again - A curiously overlooked angle going in was what would happen if the Falcons forced Brady to throw over fifty passes - Brady won his 18th game when throwing over fifty; he is the only quarterback in NFL history to post a winning record - and it is a mind-blowing 18-7 - when having to throw more than fifty passes; Warren Moon (5-5) in NFL history is the only other quarterback who has a non-losing record when throwing at least fifty. It plays into Brady's hands when he has to throw more than fifty passes.
Roger Goodell is the most petulant idiot to ever be placed in charge of a major sports sanctioning body - Goodell's Wednesday presser was all about his petulant hatred of the New England Patriots and was filled with the lawyerese evasions that characterize a liar. Contrast this with former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who acknowledged he should have had the league be more concerned about player concussions than he did.
Goodell's refusal to visit Gillette Stadium comes from his inability to handle being held accountable, and it showed when pressed about it by reporters, not all of the hostile ones being New England reporters. That indicates the national press is slowly turning more and more against Goodell, and they should.
How will Matt Ryan react in 2017? - Ryan was almost flawless in the first 37 or so minutes but once the Patriots began the comeback Ryan regressed back to the playoff failure that had permeated his 2008-12 period. The Falcons O-line that had so controlled things for so long then collapsed on him and it added into utter failure of an offense that had scored 28 points and led by 25 points. Ryan faces the Patriots in Foxboro in 2017 and it seems a certainly Week One's banner celebration will precede a game against the Falcons.
Quarterbacking is what wins championships yet again - The Falcons defense came to play - and it lost. The Patriots defense was utterly helpless - made worse by Brady's pick-six - until Tom Brady rescued it; in all seven Brady Superbowls the defense was defeated and then rescued by Brady; twice the defense then failed again, five times Brady finished the mission.
Defense has never won a championship - not the 1960s Packers, not the 2000 Ravens, not the Steeler Curtain, none of them. It has been quarterbacking that wins championships.
What is it where the Superbowl sees the catches that are never repeated anywhere else? - David Tyree, Jermaine Kearse, and now Julian Edelman.
Why didn't the Falcons run the ball more in the second half? - Because as the play by play sheet indicates when they did run the ball after going up 28-3 it wasn't working.
What do the Patriots need to do down the road for 2017? - The Patriots' smurf-receiver approach certainly works, but it needs bigger guys and more of them to flesh it out - the Falcons were more of a physical downfield-type attack and the Patriots can certainly use that - for too long the receivers (especially Edelman, usually the guy Brady trusts the most) were not making plays. Malcolm Mitchell stepped up when it mattered most and Chris Hogan made several huge catches as well - not having Rob Gronkowski certainly proved a factor, until Martellus Bennett began stepping up when it mattered most.
Defensively the Patriots' zone approach too often got them burned with Falcons receivers all but uncontested where New England's smurf corps was almost always fighting Falcons defensive backs. The Falcons also for so much of the game fought and got the ball harder than Patriot receivers did until the comeback got going.
The Patriots vs the NFC South champion in a Superbowl in Houston - maybe Houston should host the Superbowl every two to three years
Will we ever see another Superbowl like this? - Probably. No one thought Superbowl XXXVIII could ever be topped, then subsequent Superbowls showed shocking competition; Superbowl XLIX was the most shocking finish ever seen and the largest comeback win in the game's history to that point, but this.....the winning quarterback suspended on false pretense by a commissioner exposed as a liar by the process, a team that had not made the game since 1998 exploding to a 28-3 lead, and then the biggest comeback in Superbowl history and the third-largest comeback in playoff history after Buffalo's 1992 win from down 32 points to the Oilers and the Colts' 2013 win over the Chiefs from down 28 points.......was unprecedented. And yet the Superbowl somehow tops itself.
So who will the Patriots have to contend with in 2017 to repeat? - The Miami Dolphins are clearly better now and are developing into a genuine contender and Miami appears to be the only division foe the Patriots have to worry about.
In the AFC South there has been the implosion of Brock Osweiler and what amounts to the team's public admission of making a colossal mistake at signing him, though the caveat remains Osweiler was good with what amounted to a two-read offense and Bill O'Brien made him run a five-plus read offense; one wonders if O'Brien might install a more Osweiler-friendly offense for 2017 - assuming a new Texans quarterback doesn't emerge.
With Houston's struggle the Tennessee Titans, who beat five playoff teams plus the defending champion Broncos (9-7) in 2016 even with late-season injury to Marcus Mariota, look to take over that division and one can be confident Mariota's major step forward in 2016 will continue and extend in 2017. The rest of the division is iffy with the Colts presently stuck at 8-8 and the Jaguars having to rise from the wreckage of a lost decade, though the hiring of Tom Coughlin to the front office is an encouraging sign.
The AFC North is a mess with the Ravens mediocre, the Steelers incapable of adjusting based on their poor performance in the AFC Championship Game, and the Bengals having regressed.
The AFC West proved itself stout but the Chiefs overachieved and the Raiders played superbly but fell apart when Derek Carr got injured; the Broncos meanwhile have a good defense but it's not good enough to win them games; the Chargers are suddenly in an ugly limbo with a move to LA that's developing into a fiasco.
The Superbowl even had a Peter Hermann sighting!
And of course the subplot of all Superbowls is the ads during the telecast. Peter Hermann's ad was easily the most memorable.
The Patriots are accused of being able to plug in anyone to play their system - well this guy and his lovely wife were signed as utility backs and finished with 80 touches for 1,000 yards and fourteen touchdowns.
The Patriots and Falcons radio calls of the comeback
So it went for the greatest Superbowl ever played.
Writer Russ Roberts also examines whether Bill Belichick is lucky.