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What is Tom Brady's place among the 5 greatest QBs in NFL history?

Defining the greatest quarterback ever isn't as easy as it should be.

Some will point to John Elway's physical gifts and say he'd have been the greatest in a better situation. Many will cite Dan Marino and say he was the best pure passer ever. Aaron Rodgers gets mentioned as the most talented anyone has seen.

But at some point, results have to be the main driver of the argument. That's the one tangible thing to judge any quarterback on. And when a quarterback's resume is the criteria, there's not much doubt about who the greatest ever is.

Here's one top-five all-time quarterbacks list, upon Tom Brady officially announcing his retirement on Wednesday morning:

5. Drew Brees

Brees might be behind Dan Marino, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Steve Young, John Elway, Brett Favre or others on similar lists, but what box doesn't Brees check? He won a Super Bowl with a New Orleans Saints franchise that had done nothing before he got there. If you say Brees' stats were solely because of the era he played in, it's hard to explain then how he led the NFL in passing yards seven times, which is a record. Brees has five of the 14 5,000-yard seasons in NFL history, and Tom Brady is the only other quarterback on that list multiple times. Brees set records for career passing yards and touchdowns, though Brady passed him in both categories. If accomplishments matter most, Brees is a top-five quarterback.

4. Joe Montana

Montana benefitted greatly from playing on great 49ers teams, with an all-time legend in Bill Walsh coaching him. His legend is built on his 4-0 record in Super Bowls, though that ignores that he failed (sometimes in spectacular fashion) in other playoff games. But he was great in those Super Bowls and was the master of being calm in pressure situations, leading to a generation that will still proclaim him as the best ever. He won MVPs in 1989 and 1990 and for a long stretch his accuracy and deadly precision running the West Coast Offense set the standard of playing quarterback in the NFL.

3. Peyton Manning

Manning won five MVPs and it could have been more; he was the first-team All-Pro quarterback seven times. He finished second in MVP voting three times and third another. Winning a championship with the Indianapolis Colts put to rest the worry that he'd be in that group of great players without a ring. Then he became the first quarterback to win a title starting for two different franchises when he got one with the Denver Broncos. He was a shell of himself on that 2015 title team, but it was karmic payback for 2012-14, when the Broncos had some great teams and couldn't win it all. Manning's 2013 season, when he set single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns, might be the single greatest season in NFL history.

2. Aaron Rodgers

Many will ding Rodgers for winning only one Super Bowl, though it's not exactly easy to win even one. Ask Dan Marino. Rodgers has done everything, including multiple MVPs and some of the best individual seasons ever. His arm talent and accuracy, especially from impossible angles, is simply astonishing. That he is still winning MVPs in his late 30s is a testament to his greatness, and the lack of another championship can't be pinned solely on him.

1. Tom Brady

Nobody can match Brady's accomplishments. Brady played in an astonishing 14 conference championships, won 10 of them and won seven of the 10 Super Bowl he played in. No other quarterback won more than four Super Bowls. No other player at any position has more than five. Only Peyton Manning and Brady won Super Bowls with two different franchise, which dispelled any notion Brady was just a product of the Patriots' system. Brady's longevity is unmatched — it has been said often if you cut his career in half, the first half of his career and the second half of his career would each be Hall of Fame worthy. He also was spectacular and not a compiler, proven by his three MVPs. He's first all-time in passing yards and passing touchdowns, and in the top 10 all-time in passer rating.

It's not like you can't make an argument for Manning or Rodgers or someone else as the best ever. But the argument would come up short.

Tom Brady is the only player in NFL history with seven Super Bowl rings. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Tom Brady is the only player in NFL history with seven Super Bowl rings. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)