Tom Brady: Where Does He Rank Among the Greatest QBs of All-Time?

Everett KellyContributor IIIAugust 29, 2012

Tom Brady has accomplished great feats in his NFL career. Where does he rank among the greatest QB of all-time?
Tom Brady has accomplished great feats in his NFL career. Where does he rank among the greatest QB of all-time?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As Tom Brady enters the 2012 season, it's hard not to look at his overall work so far and not be completely blown away.

Brady's numbers, especially since his breakout 2007 season in which he threw for an NFL record 50 TD, have been absurd. Common human beings that line up behind center on Sundays do not resemble Tom Brady in the least.

What Jerry Rice was to WR, what Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis were/are to LB and what Barry Sanders and Jim Brown were to RB, Brady is to QBs. Not counting his comeback season in 2009 after missing all but one quarter of 2008 with injury, Brady's numbers are mind-blowing.

Before Tom Brady, I always considered Joe Montana to be the pinnacle of outstanding QB play and efficiency. Not to belittle the three-time Super Bowl MVP and four-time Super Bowl winner, but Montana's best season is light-years behind Brady's best season. You could combine Montana's two best seasons, and it wouldn't be that much better than Brady's 2007 or 2011 season.

Going back to Brady since 2007 (again, not counting 2009) Brady has thrown 101—yes, that's right—101 more TD passes than INT (regular season only), while totaling just under 14,000 yards in those three seasons.

When faced with such prolific passing numbers, I simply don't know how to compare Brady to another QB. One simply can't. Brady has clearly separated himself from all other mortals during that time.

Tom Brady threw his 300th career regular season TD in the Patriots' final game of 2011. Among QB with at least 300 regular season TDs, only Peyton Manning has a higher TD/INT differential than Brady.

Highest TD/INT Differential Among QB with 300 Regular Season TD passes

Peyton Manning +201

Tom Brady +185

Dan Marino +168

Fran Tarkenton +76

2011 was a breakout year for QBs across the NFL. Drew Brees put up similar, if not better, all-around numbers than Tom Brady, and is the closest QB in relation to efficiency and overall passing numbers among active QBs. 

Drew Brees could be the closest to Brady right now among those still competing in the NFL. Brees has put up incredible numbers since joining the Saints in 2006, throwing for over just under 28,400 yards, more than 4,000 yards than the next QB on that list, Philip Rivers. Brees has averaged just under 300 passing yards per game over that span, 28 yards more than Brady, who is second on the list.

Most Passing Yards Per Game Since 2006

Drew Brees 298.9

Tom Brady 270.9  

Peyton Manning    270.5

>Min. 80 starts

Brees and Brady both enter the 2012 with active streaks in most consecutive games throwing a TD. Brees is second on the list with 43, while Brady ranks fourth with 32.

Most Consecutive Games Throwing a TD

John Unitas  47

Drew Brees 43>

Brett Favre 36

Tom Brady 32> 

>Active streak

Source: ESPN Stats and Info

Brees and Brady also rank one and two in most passing yards in a single season in NFL history, and are the only two QBs in NFL history to record more than one season throwing for over 4,800 yards. 

Most Passing Yards in a Single Season

2011 Drew Brees 5,476

2011 Tom Brady 5,235

1984 Dan Marino 5,084

2008 Drew Brees 5,069

2011 Matthew Stafford 5,038 

Source: ESPN Stats and Info

Highest QBR* Since 2008

Peyton Manning 77.8

Drew Brees 72.8

Aaron Rodgers 72.0

Tom Brady 71.3

Source: ESPN Stats and Info

* Total Quarterback Rating (abbreviated as Total QBR or simply QBR) is a measure of the performance of quarterbacks or any other passers in the NFL developed by ESPN in 2011. 

The one area Brady has Brees beaten hands down is the way he has performed in the postseason. While Brees led the Saints to a win in Super Bowl XLIV, winning MVP honors as well, he only has five postseason wins under his belt, and is 0-3 in his postseason career on the road.

Brady meanwhile either holds or is tied for many of the postseason records for QBs. Since taking over as starter for the Patriots in the 2001 season, Brady has led them to the postseason every year except 2002 and 2008, which he missed with an injury. New England has won the AFC East nine times and have advanced to the AFC Championship Game six times, winning five. 

The sixth-round pick in 2000 holds postseason records for most completions (499), is tied for the most wins with Joe Montana (16) and ranks second to Brett Favre for most consecutive postseason games with a TD pass (18) that ended when he did not throw one against the Ravens in the 2011 AFC Championship Game.

Only Joe Montana has a better TD/INT ratio than Brady in NFL Postseason history.

Highest TD/INT Differential in NFL Postseason History

Joe Montana +24

Tom Brady +18

Drew Brees +18

Kurt Warner +17

Source: ESPN Stats and Info

Only Terry Bradshaw and Montana have won more Super Bowls than Brady, who is tied with Troy Aikman with three. Brady, along with John Elway, are the only QBs to start in five Super Bowls. While Brady's legacy has been scarred a little bit with his losses to the Giants and Eli Manning in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, he still, baring injury, has time to tie or surpass Montana and Bradshaw.

Most Super Bowls Won Among Starting QBs

Terry Bradshaw 4 4-0

Joe Montana 4 4-0

Tom Brady 3 3-2>>  

Troy Aikman 3   3-0

>>John Elway was the only other QB to start in five Super Bowls

Most Postseason Wins Among Starting QBs

Tom Brady 16

Joe Montana 16

Terry Bradshaw 14                                                                                                

John Elway 14

So where does that leave us as far as where Brady ranks all-time? No doubt the closest competitor Brady has since becoming a starter in 2001 has been Peyton Manning, who has been as about as consistent a QB as there has ever been in the history of the league.

Since 2002, Manning has recorded eight seasons of at least 4,000 yards, while Brady just has four. While Brady has had better individual seasons than Manning, the long-time Colt has been the model of consistency in his career.

This is a great time to be a starting QB in the NFL. Perhaps never before has there been such a wealth of magnificent starting QBs in NFL history. Among the younger generation, Aaron Rodgers has a Super Bowl under his belt and has put together the highest passer rating in the history of the NFL in 2011, breaking Peyton Manning's 2004 record.

Matthew Stafford joined Brady and Brees in throwing for over 5,000 yards last season. Eli Manning just won his second Super Bowl in 2011, while setting the record for most fourth-quarter TD passes in a single season.

Ben Roethlisberger is another multi-Super Bowl winner, while Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to the playoffs in three of his four NFL seasons. Tony Romo and Matt Schaub have been magnificent at times leading their teams, while Michael Vick and Cam Newton possess rocket arms and speed that can win games. 

Highest NFL Passer Rating in Single Regular Season                      

2011  Aaron Rodgers   122.5    

2004  Peyton Manning    121.1    

2007  Tom Brady         117.2    

1994  Steve Young       112.8    

Despite all those extremely talented QBs, Brady still sits at the top as the best...for now.


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