Tom Brady has a slight edge over his idol Joe Montana. Getty

While growing up in Northern California, Tom Brady idolized Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. On Sunday, with over 100 million people watching, the New England Patriots superstar could win his fifth Super Bowl, one more than Montana, and perhaps end fans' debate over "the greatest quarterback of all-time."

Basing a quarterback's worth on the number of Super Bowl wins has always been a flawed measuring stick. One player on a roster of 53 can't be completely responsible for a team's success or failure, and it may be hard to tell Dan Marino and Fran Tarkenton that their accomplishments fell short of the likes of Trent Dilfer and Jeff Hostetler.

Unfortunately, the number of Super Bowl wins continues to be the main debate point, raising the interest of Sunday's title game between the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Breaking down Brady and Montana is difficult because the NFL has changed so much over the years. In recent years, the league has relied more on the pass than the rush and there are tougher rules on protecting passers.

And does the real debate even come down to"Brady vs. Montana?" There are several other quarterbacks that deserve to be in the mix like John Elway, Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and many more.

According to Brett Favre, it does in fact, come down to Brady and Montana.

"I’ve always said that Joe Montana is the best QB I’ve ever seen play. I would put those two on the top of the pedestal, side by side. There’s no other class. It’s those two," Favre told USA Today this week.

While Brady's career isn't over, it's interesting to break down and compare Brady with Montana ahead of Super Bowl LI.

Super Bowl Wins And Appearances

Sunday's matchup will clear up this section. Montana was a perfect four-for-four in Super Bowls. But Brady is in his seventh and has four rings.

Here's what will hurt Brady: losing for a third time to make his Super Bowl record 4-3. It also will work against him if he has a subpar game. Brady reached the Super Bowl three more times than Montana, but he may lose three times. In many sports fans' eyes, Montana will be remembered as the more clutch quarterback for his perfect Super Bowl record. Many fans will also rightly point to how stacked the NFC was in Montana's time with the 49ers, with powerhouse teams like the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Washington Redskins standing in his way to reach the Super Bowl.

Should the Patriots win, and Brady has a typical quality performance, this category will be settled. Brady will have a 5-2 record and that's better than Montana's four titles.

Edge: Undecided


Brady has played in 237 regular season games while Montana played in 192 so comparing career touchdowns and yards would be misleading. Montana led the NFL in completion percentage five times, while Brady did it just once. But Brady led the NFL in touchdowns four times while Montana did it just once (Technically twice but 1982 wasn't a full season.)

They both led the league in quarterback rating twice. Brady has the better career quarterback rating (97.2) compared to Montana's (92.3).

Montana seemed to be blessed with better talent, namely Jerry Rice. Brady, on the other hand, had Randy Moss, but not in his prime years. There has been a revolving door of No. 1 wide receivers in New England, yet Brady has managed to persevere. It's a big reason why Montana went to eight Pro Bowls and Brady has gone to 12.

Edge: Brady

Passing Skills

Both quarterbacks showed great intelligence and accuracy in their sophisticated systems. Is the tightness of a spiral important? If so, Brady's spiral wins this argument because he has one of the best ever and the same cannot be said for Montana.

Edge: Slightly for Brady


Brady isn't known for his ability to run past the line of scrimmage. Montana, on the other hand, deserves more credit for his mobility. He rushed for over 150 yards in a season four times, while Brady never did it once.

Edge: Montana

Leadership Skills

This is hard to measure, but Montana's "John Candy" moment in Super Bowl XXIII helped relax his teammates and was a defining moment that helped cement his "Joe Cool" and "Comeback Kid" persona. It was that demeanor that kept him the starter over star backup Steve Young. Brady, meanwhile, is known for his intensity and demanding personality.

Edge: Slightly for Montana

Arm Strength

Brady does a better job of throwing long than Montana, but the difference seems minimal. Montana had so many receivers who excelled at yards-after-catch that going for deep passes was often unnecessary for the 49ers.

Edge: Slightly for Brady


In the Brady vs. Montana debate, it seems like Brady has already done slightly more over his career to be considered the better quarterback. What remains interesting is how much longer Brady will continue to play. He's 39 years old but he's still among the league's best.