Tom Brady New England Patriots
After winning the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and reaching his seventh Super Bowl, it’s clear that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Getty Images

Considering quarterback is probably the most important position in all of the “Big Four” American sports, there is often a discussion regarding who is the greatest of all time. With all of the success he’s had throughout his career, Tom Brady finds himself at the heart of the debate.

As the New England Patriots’ quarterback prepares to play for yet another championship, Brady appears to have cemented his legacy as the best signal caller in NFL history.

A few quarterbacks are usually mentioned in the “greatest of all time” conversation. Cases are made for Joe Montana and John Elway, as well as Peyton Manning. Johnny Unitas’ prime was before the Super Bowl era, but he gets consideration too. None of their accolades, however, compare to the accomplishments of No. 12.

Even if the Patriots lose to the Atlanta Falcons on Feb. 5, Brady stands in a class by himself. He’ll be starting in his seventh Super Bowl, giving him two more appearances than Elway’s five. Brady is tied with Montana with four titles and three Super Bowl MVP awards, and the odds are in his favor to set the all-time mark in both categories in Super Bowl LI.

Montana is often given credit for going undefeated in the Super Bowl, but Brady clearly has the edge by reaching the big game three more times. Brady has also been productive for longer, playing like an MVP candidate in his 16th year as a starter and starting 76 more games than the San Francisco 49ers legend.

When looking strictly at regular-season statistics, Manning’s career appears to be more impressive than Brady’s. He’s the all-time leader in most major passing categories, and he has five MVP trophies compared to Brady’s two. But Brady holds his own, ranking fourth overall in career passing touchdowns, yards and completions, and his 97.2 career passer rating is even better than Manning’s. Combining those numbers with two more titles for Brady and three more Super Bowl appearances, the comparison between the quarterbacks isn’t very close.

Manning was a shell of his old self when he won Super Bowl 50 as the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback, and he was forced to retire in the offseason. Brady, on the other hand, is playing arguably the best football of his career at 39 years old. It’s reasonable to believe that he’ll still be an elite quarterback for a few more seasons, approaching Manning’s career numbers and possibly winning five or six titles.

Brady’s 183 career victories are just three behind Manning’s all-time mark, and he could blow past that number before his career is over. While Manning suffered 79 total losses, Brady has only been defeated 52 times. The Patriots have missed the playoffs just twice since he became the starter in 2001, including the 2008 season, when Brady missed the season’s final 15 games with an injury.

Brady has had plenty of help along the way, perhaps more so than any other quarterback in history. Head coach Bill Belichick might be more responsible for New England’s success in the 21st century, leading the team to 14 AFC East titles in 16 years. Brady often plays on one of the NFL’s best all-around teams, as he’s doing this season, with the Patriots boasting the league’s No. 1 scoring defense.

But there’s no denying how integral Brady has been to New England’s dynasty. While Montana and Manning were blessed with a Hall of Fame wide receiver for the majority of their careers, Brady only played with an all-time great wide out when Randy Moss was a Patriot from 2007-2009. This season, he’s turned the previously unknown Chris Hogan into a major threat, just as he’s done with receivers throughout his career.

LeGarrette Blount has had a career year for the Patriots, but New England usually doesn’t have one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks. Elway needed Terrell Davis to come along before he could win a Super Bowl, and Brady has won four without any great running backs.

Some will argue that a win for Brady over the Falcons would make him the best quarterback in history, but the reality is that he already owns that distinction.