Tom Brady has retired from football after a 22-year career of consistent success and unmatched achievement. But his stature as the N.F.L.’s greatest quarterback may be best understood by seeing his achievements stacked up against those of hundreds of others who played the same position.
The charts below do just that, comparing Brady with more than 300 other N.F.L. quarterbacks in four measures of cumulative statistics: playoff victories, career passing touchdowns, career passing yards and Pro Bowl selections. Players who were still active during the 2021 season are highlighted.
No. 1: Playoff wins
Wins don’t come easily in the N.F.L., especially in the postseason. That’s what makes Brady’s 35 playoff wins one of his most impressive statistics. No other quarterback has even played in 35 postseason games, let alone won that many. Brady has 19 more wins than the quarterback with the second-most playoff victories, Joe Montana, the former San Francisco 49er, who retired before Brady was drafted. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have fewer postseason wins combined (23) than Brady.
Among Brady’s playoff wins are seven Super Bowl titles, more than any team has ever won.
Will another quarterback surpass Brady’s mark of 35? If anyone in the newest generation of passers has a chance, it may be Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who has eight playoff wins in four years as a starter.
(There were fewer playoff games in earlier generations. A quarterback like Bart Starr of the Green Bay Packers, who had nine playoff wins in 10 appearances, played part of his career when there was just one postseason game, the N.F.L. championship.)
No. 2: Passing touchdowns
Although Patrick Mahomes has had the most touchdown passes (151) since 2018, the year he became Kansas City’s starting quarterback, the career passing touchdown record belongs to Brady. With 624 touchdown passes, Brady has 53 more than Drew Brees, who kept closest to Brady’s pace since 2001, which was Brady’s first year as an N.F.L. starter. Brees retired with 571 career passing touchdowns, and Aaron Rodgers is the closest active quarterback to Brady’s record with 449. Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson are all behind him.
In an era in which offenses are scoring more touchdowns and points than ever, that gap will surely dwindle, though probably not close anytime soon.
No. 3: Passing yards
Brady, with his precise timing, pinpoint accuracy and downfield vision, epitomized the image of the pure pocket passer at a position long defined by pocket savvy. Though many had cautioned that his arm strength would drastically diminish with age, Brady threw for a career high in yards this past season (5,316) at age 44, more than any other quarterback in the league, and set the N.F.L.’s career passing yards record (84,520).
Drew Brees had held the record, passing Peyton Manning in 2018, but it seemed only a matter of time before Brady would overtake Brees, who retired after the 2020 season. The closest active quarterbacks are Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. Brady’s record was also about longevity — and the league’s shift over the years to favor offense. He played in more regular-season and playoff games than any other quarterback in N.F.L. history.
No. 4: Pro Bowl selections
The only reason Brady hasn’t played in more Pro Bowls — the exhibition game in which A.F.C. and N.F.C. stars face each other after the season — is that he’s been to the Super Bowl so many times (10). Still, Brady was selected for the Pro Bowl more than any other N.F.L. quarterback (15). He’d been tied with Peyton Manning (14) before his 15th selection in the 2021 season.