Super Bowl 2012: Another Ring Would Clearly Establish Tom Brady as Greatest Ever

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws against the Miami Dolphins during the second half of New England's 27-24 win at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

In the 12 seasons that New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has been with the team—and in the 11 in which he's been the team's starter—they've made it to the Super Bowl four times and have won three of them, including back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004.

Those three rings have long been the catalyst for the argument that Brady is the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL, and if he wins his fourth this year, it's hard to disagree.

Since the merger, only two quarterbacks have won four Super Bowls—the Pittsburgh Steelers' Terry Bradshaw and the San Francisco 49ers' Joe Montana. Montana, more so than Bradshaw, has long been considered one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best, to ever play the game.

However, with a fourth ring this year, Brady will surpass him. That doesn't discount the accomplishments of Montana, who clearly set the standard of what an ideal quarterback looks like, but Brady is of a different era, one in which it is more difficult to achieve what he has.

Throughout his professional career, Brady has been consistently good. The only quarterback during the same time span who is comparable is the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning, but Manning only has one Super Bowl championship and two appearances to his name during his storied career and may never reach one again.

With Brady under center, the Patriots have missed the playoffs just twice, including 2008 when he missed the entire season with a knee injury (that year, the Patriots ended the season at 11-5 but did not make the playoffs).

He's helped them to win a total of 15 playoff games to date, and has done so through changes in personnel, changes in offensive philosophy and changes made by opposing defenses in an effort to specifically stop him and his high-powered offense.

Brady's best season, however, came in a year that saw his team lose the Super Bowl. In 2007, thanks to Brady's 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns, the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, garnering him his first of two Most Valuable Player awards.

This year, Brady is one of three quarterbacks to pass for over 5,000 yards and he's the only one of those three remaining in the NFL playoffs.

If the Patriots defeat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game this Sunday and make it to the Super Bowl, they'll be heavily favored to win, and that's simply because Brady's offensive onslaught often appears unstoppable.

Nothing solidifies the legendary status of a quarterback more than how many Super Bowl rings he possesses. If Brady wins his fourth this February, he'll not only solidify his status as the best quarterback of his generation, but the best quarterback of all time.

Throughout his career, Brady has managed to stay the same high-level player he's always been while also drastically changing the game around him. That's the hallmark of an all-time great. With one more Super Bowl championship, that's just what Brady will be.