We'll have a couple of debates after the 2012 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. If the Giants win, we'll be debating whether Eli Manning has had a better career than his brother, Peyton. And if the Patriots win, we'll be talking about whether a fourth Super Bowl title means Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever.
SB Nation's Super Bowl roundtable already addressed the Eli vs. Peyton debate so now it's time to turn our attention to Tom Brady and the Pats. If Brady wins a fourth Super Bowl title, where does that place him among the all-time greatest quarterbacks?
Our roundtable participants are SB Nation NFL bloggers Ryan Van Bibber (Turf Show Times), David Fucillo (Niners Nation) and Jason Garrison (Cincy Jungle), as well as myself, SB Nation's NFL editor (and Arrowhead Pride).
David Fucillo: If the New England Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl with Tom Brady at quarterback, it seems fair to consider him amongst the top three or four quarterbacks of all time. The Super Bowls help, obviously, but his overall stats keep him in that category of the all-time elite players. Bill Belichick and the front office deserve a lot of credit for the Patriots' success, but Brady has been the one constant alongside Belichick during this amazing run of success. Brady is in the conversation with guys like Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino and Johnny Unitas for greatest of all time.
Although Brady has benefited from the game's emphasis on passing in recent years, he's managed to keep winning with some very questionable skill position players prior to this season. The Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005 with guys like David Givens and Deion Branch operating as the number one receiver. He got a great season from Cory Dillon in 2004, but 2005 saw Dillon lead the team with 733 rushing yards. Brady has proven he can win with dominant teams like he did in 2004, and he's proven he can pull off the stunning upset like he did in 2001. He has benefited in Belichick's system to a certain extent, but he still continues to make the plays.
A fourth Super Bowl title solidifies Brady as a top four quarterback in history along with Elway, Marino and Unitas.
Jason Garrison: Tom Brady has already earned the title of an all-time great quarterback and with three Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Even if he loses his shot at a fourth Super Bowl, nothing will change that. However, if he wins that fourth ring, he will be one of three quarterbacks with four Super Bowl titles. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana are the other two.
Brady has the fifth most passing touchdowns of any quarterback in NFL history with 300 and he's ranked 14th in career passing yards with 39,979. He could find himself in the top five in passing yards and in the top three in touchdowns by the time he retires. He should already be considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league and another ring will just make that more official. That's pretty crazy considering there were 198 picks before the Patriots selected Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Brady is a Hall of Famer and one of the all-time greats right now. But if he wins a fourth title, he'll go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Ryan Van Bibber: Echoing David and Jason, it's hard not to consider Tom Brady as one the game's all-time elite quarterbacks with or without a fourth Super Bowl title. Take away the Super Bowl rings and the statistics still say he's one of the best quarterbacks ever. No hyperbole needed.
Of course, wins matter most when assessing the historical place of players, fair or not. The last 10 years in the NFL have been defined by Brady and his counterpart Peyton Manning. Both deserve to be in the conversation along with Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and so on, as historical bests.
That said, 10 years after Brady leaves the game, I think he can be slotted in at number two on the list, just below Montana.
Joel Thorman: I'm surprised not everyone said Brady would be the greatest ever with a fourth Super Bowl title. That's the way I feel at least.
In terms of number of Super Bowl wins, the comparisons would be Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Based on the type of teams they played with, Brady is clearly better than Bradshaw. And then there's Montana, who has four Super Bowl victories. If Brady ties him, you look to their numbers and notice Brady will pass Montana in career passing yards sometime early next season and he's blown past him on career passing touchdowns. Other players, like John Elway Peyton Manning, will be in the conversation but when it's all said and done Brady's numbers plus a fourth Super Bowl title would put him No. 1 on my list.