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Tom Brady vs. Joe Montana.

The conversation on who is the greatest quarterback in NFL history is a lengthy one. Is it the most yards? Is it the most touchdowns? Is it the most Super Bowl wins? Are different eras a factor? One could go on and on about what constitutes a great NFL quarterback and many names could be thrown into the ring in the battle for the GOAT.

However, the conversation usually steers in the direction of two men, Tom Brady and Joe Montana, both of whom were taken much later in the draft than the usual Hall of Famer. With 10 Super Bowl rings, five NFL MVP awards, seven Super Bowl MVP awards, and more than 115,000 passing yards between them, is there a right answer?

Here’s the tale of the tape in the ongoing Tom Brady vs. Joe Montana battle.

Joe Montana stats

  • Career starts: 164
  • Regular-season record as a starter: 117-47 (.713)
  • Career passing yards: 40,551
  • Touchdowns: 273
  • Interceptions: 139
  • Completion percentage: 63.2 (3,409-for-5,391)
  • Passer rating: 93.2
  • NFL MVP awards: 2 (1989, 1990)
  • Pro Bowl selections: 8
  • NFL All-Pro selections: 6 (3 First Team, 3 Second Team)
  • Playoff record: 16-7 (.696)
  • Super Bowl wins: 4
  • Super Bowl MVP awards: 3

Taken in the third round, the 82nd overall pick, out of Notre Dame in the 1979 NFL draft, Joe Montana was the most successful NFL quarterback of his era. He played in all 16 games in his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers but was the backup for Steve Deberg and started only once. He became the full-time starter in 1980 and led the league in completion percentage the next two seasons.

The 49ers became a powerhouse in the 1980s, winning four Super Bowls. Montana was the first player to win three Super Bowl MVP awards. In those four Super Bowl victories, Montana threw 122 passes with zero interceptions, still an NFL record. He also has the highest passer rating in Super Bowl history at 127.8.

Joe Montana missed the 1991 season with an elbow injury and was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs late in his career as the 49ers had moved on to Steve Young. In 25 games with the Chiefs, Montana was 17-8 before retiring in 1995.

Tom Brady stats

  • Career starts: 283
  • Regular-season record as a starter: 219-64 (.774)
  • Career passing yards: 74,571
  • Touchdowns: 541
  • Interceptions: 179
  • Completion percentage: 63.8 (6,377-for-9,988)
  • Passer rating: 97.0
  • NFL MVP awards: 3 (2007, 2010, 2017)
  • Pro Bowl selections: 14
  • NFL All-Pro selections: 5 (3 First Team, 2 Second Team)
  • Playoff record: 30-11 (.732)
  • Super Bowl wins: 6
  • Super Bowl MVP awards: 4

Like Montana, Tom Brady was taken later in the draft, chosen in the sixth round out of Michigan with the 199th overall selection in the 2000 draft by the New England Patriots. When Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury in Brady’s second season, he assumed the starting job and never looked back. The Patriots won the Super Bowl that season and Brady was named the MVP, his first of four in his career. After missing the playoffs the following year, Brady and the Pats won back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 2003 and 2004.

What’s been amazing about Tom Brady is his durability. Outside of the knee injury that kept him out of the 2008 season, his ability to play at a high level at the quarterback position in the NFL is essentially unparalleled. He holds the NFL record for most years as a starter with one team and also has the most playoff wins and appearances of any player in history. His six Super Bowl rings are also the most in history.

Who’s better, Tom Brady or Joe Montana?

Tom Brady Joe Montana
Tom Brady & Joe Montana | MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

So let’s get down to it. Who is the better quarterback, Tom Brady or Joe Montana? Some would say that it’s an easy call as Brady has more rings, more wins, more yards, and pretty much more everything than does Montana. However, it must be taken into account that Brady has started nearly 120 more games. Yes, that speaks to his durability and that must also be put in play.

So let’s dive into averages then. Certain years have to be taken out for both, right? Neither was the full-time starter during their respective rookie seasons and Montana was the starter for only half of the 1980 season. There was a strike-shortened season in 1982 and Montana missed half of the 1986 season, all of 1991 and played in just one game in 1992. So let’s take the strike-shortened season and the half-season and turn it into one. Brady played in just one game in 2008 so that’s out. So that’s 11 full seasons for Montana and 18 for Brady.

By that count, Montana averaged approximately 3,503 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions per season. In comparison, Brady has averaged 4,138 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 10 picks. Advantage Brady. Joe Montana won his fourth Super Bowl in his 10th year as a starter. Brady won his fourth in his 14th season as a starter. Advantage Montana. Brady has won six Super Bowl titles to Montana’s four. Advantage Brady. Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl. Advantage Montana.

Any way you look at it, the argument can be made for either one. As it was with the recent comparison of Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers, the era in which both men played must be taken into account as well.

The Tom Brady vs. Joe Montana conversation will go on forever. Who you got?