A final Super Bowl ring will cement Tom Brady’s legacy

There’s no doubt Tom Brady’s one of the greatest players in NFL history. But has he done enough to cement himself as the best to ever play?

Quarterbacks in the NFL have this miraculous tendency to age like a fine wine. No one makes a better case for this thesis than 17-year veteran Tom Brady.

Since being drafted out of Michigan in the sixth round close to two decades ago, the four-time Super Bowl champion has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice, a Second-Team All-Pro twice and has been voted to the Pro Bowl a ridiculous 12 times.

Brady is one of just nine players to win the prestigious MVP award more than once. Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas are among the others.

Brady won the award most recently in 2010, but his most memorable MVP season came in 2007. That was the campaign during which Brady was paired with future Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss. In their inaugural season as a duo, Brady broke the single-season touchdown pass record with 50. Moss hauled in 23, a record that still stands.

What’s so incredible about Brady’s production is how much it has increased through the years. In fact, the Canton-bound Californian recorded six seasons with at least 12 interceptions before he turned 30. Since, Brady has thrown more than nine picks on only three occasions. Over that same nine-year span, Brady has recorded at least 4,000 passing yards and 28 touchdown passes six times. Keep in mind he lost an entire season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2008, as well as four games to his questionable Deflategate suspension this past year.

There’s no question Tom Brady is one of the greatest players ever. The real debate is how he stacks up against the other all-time greats at his position.

In regards to regular season statistics, Brady ranks in the top 10 or better in virtually every relevant category. He’s fourth all-time in total touchdown passes with 456, fourth in total passing yards with 61,582, and fourth in total completions with 5,244. Brady’s ranked third all-time in passer rating, 14th all-time in completion percentage and he’s tied for second all-time with a 1.8 pass interception percentage. Statistically, Brady is on a par with any quarterback in history.

In the postseason, Brady towers above the competition with a whopping 22 playoff wins. He possesses a winning percentage in the playoffs of .710, meaning he’s lost only nine of his 31 total playoff starts. The quarterback with the second-most playoff wins is San Francisco 49ers great Joe Montana, who collected 16 over the course of his career. The players Brady is most often compared to — Montana, Manning, Dan Marino and Brett Favre — don’t even come close to his success as a playoff quarterback.

It’s this success in the playoffs, which has yielded four Super Bowl victories, that ultimately vaults Brady above the rest of the competition. Only two other quarterbacks besides Brady have won four Super Bowls, and both are rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame. While Pittsburgh Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw doesn’t have the overall resume to be compared to Brady, the other player with four of championship rings, Montana, does.

Brady is often compared to Montana because of their similar string of clutch performances in the playoffs. If Brady guides the Patriots to a victory in Super Bowl LI, however, he’ll stand alone as the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history.

So make no mistake: Brady’s legacy hangs in the balance these playoffs. Despite the fact he owns a resume most quarterbacks can only dream of, many still doubt his claim to the title of GOAT.

Brady has his work cut out for him over the next few weeks. He’ll first lock horns with the Houston Texans in the divisional round of the 2016-2017 playoffs, where his Patriots are huge favorites to punch their ticket to the AFC Championship game. If he makes it that far, he’ll take on either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Pittsburgh Steelers for a shot at unquestionable immortality.

If Brady and the New England Patriots hoist the Lombardi Trophy for a fifth time in less than two decades, all doubt will be erased. Tom Brady will, without question, be recognized as the greatest quarterback in pro football history.