Brady is having a historic season and has already had a remarkable career, but is he the greatest quarterback to ever play the game?
Peyton Manning is often referred to as the best player in this decade, and Joe Montana is widely regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time, but it may very well be Brady who sits at the top of this list when it is all said and done.
For all intensive purposes, I'm going to compare Montana, Brady and Manning, because their heads would be on the Mt. Rushmore for NFL Quarterbacks if there were such a thing.
Let's break it down. Here are their average statistical seasons based on games that each quarterback started in:
Joe Montana: 3,379 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 13.5 interceptions and a career 92.3 quarterback rating.
Tom Brady: 3,840 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 11.5 interceptions and a 94.9 quarterback rating.
Peyton Manning: 4,224 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 94.9 quarterback rating.
The game is played a little different today, and that's why Brady and Manning throw for more yards, but I think we can all agree that the three quarterbacks are very comparable.
So, what sets them apart from each other?
Peyton Manning has been Mr. Quarterback since he's entered the league. He has won the most MVP awards (four) in NFL history, and he basically serves as a second coach while he is out there on the field; his football IQ is off the charts.
With all that being said, a quarterback's true measure of greatness is based on his postseason success.
Manning has played in the Super Bowl twice and has one ring to show for it. Manning's lone Super Bowl victory came over (ahem) Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears in 2006. He also played in last year's big dance, but would fall to Drew Brees and the Saints.
His career playoff record is 9-9. Manning hasn't been a schmuck by any means when it pertains to postseason success, but he hasn't accomplished what the next two signal callers have.
Tom Brady burst onto the scene in 2001, when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury early in the season. All he did that year was lead a team of no names to the Super Bowl and defeat the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams. Not bad for a first-year starter, and Brady hasn't slowed down since.
Brady has played in four Super Bowls and has three rings to show for it. In each of Brady's three Super Bowl victories, he led a fourth-quarter drive that either tied the game or took the lead. He's pretty clutch. The one Super Bowl that he lost (to the New York Giants in 2007) came after leading the Patriots to an undefeated regular season.
Brady has always done the most with what's been around him. He's won three Super Bowls without a dominant presence at the wide receiver position. Deion Branch has probably been the best guy he's thrown to during his championship runs; Branch is a nice player, but he's not an All-Pro or anything.
The one time Tom Brady had a legitimate deep threat, Randy Moss, he set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes, and the two combined to be the league's deadliest tandem in their time together. Since then, the Patriots have traded Moss, and you would think that Brady would slow down after losing one of the greatest receivers of all time.
But he hasn't. He's having one of his best seasons ever. He looks like he's going to win his second MVP award, and his Patriots look poised for the Super Bowl.
Next we have the Comeback King, Joe Montana. Montana is the bar against which all quarterbacks are measured. Is it because he has all the records? No, Brett Favre does. In fact, Vinny Testaverde has thrown for more yards and touchdowns than Joe Montana.
So why is Montana widely considered to be the greatest that ever lived?
Joe Cool was a winner. Period. Montana has won four Super Bowls (Terry Bradshaw is the only other quarterback with four), and he's never lost one once he got there either. Montana was the MVP in three of his four Super Bowl victories.
In the game Montana wasn't the MVP, he led the 49ers down the field at the end of the fourth quarter against the Bengals to win, 20-16 (Rice was the MVP). He's defeated the likes of Dan Marino and John Elway on football's biggest stage. With the game on the line, there is not another guy you'd want calling signals in the huddle.
So who is the greatest quarterback of all time?
Right now, Joe Montana has the edge. He has the most rings, and that's what matters most. However, Tom Brady is hot on his trail. If he can pull off another championship in historic fashion, then he may very well be on the same level as Montana. The greatest of all time.