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The NFL is a human meat grinder of a league that leaves in its wake the detritus of shattered bodies and demented minds. It's also a league micromanaged from above in a largely failed effort to enforce parity on the playing field.

Through it all, in the face of the physical brutality and legislative headwinds of America's most popular sports league, Tom Brady and the Patriots have won and won and won for a decade in a half at a rate utterly inconceivable by the standards of greatness that came before.  

Brady’s 201st victory as an NFL starter last week set a new benchmark for quarterback success and has generated significant attention this week.

But even with all the attention, nobody quite yet grasps the magnitude of this accomplishment. The Cold, Hard Football Facts will put it all in perspective for you.

What you’re looking at, Pigskin Peeps, is quite possibly the greatest achievement in the entire history of American team sports – a quarterback who powers the most relentless victory machine the game has ever seen, in a sport in which fortunes change dramatically from game to game and year to year. See Panthers, Carolina for a notable recent example.

The great achievement for Brady’s Patriots is not just the record 201 wins total and the speed at which it happened – just 14½ seasons on the field. That's an incredible average of nearly 14 wins per year for those of you keeping score at home, in a sport with just 16 regular-season games. (All win totals in this story include postseason.)

No, the greater achievement is the way Brady’s Patriots have utterly destroyed every standard of sustained excellence and success in football that has come before it. That distance between Brady and all the other greats of the game, outlined starkly in the tables below, is breathtaking.

Brady is of course No. 1 all time on the wins list with 201 and, while still at the top of his game, has the opportunity before him to extend by a sizable margin his lead over the retired No. 2 Peyton Manning (200 wins). Nobody else is even close to challenging this record.

The nearest active quarterback, Drew Brees, is 66 wins behind Brady and, on the verge of turning 38, has zero hope of ever catching up. Perhaps the best long-term bet is Russell Wilson, who's won 61 games in his first 4½ seasons. Even then, Wilson would need to average nearly 12 wins per year from now until 2028 to match Brady's current total of 201 victories. 

But total wins is a volume stat. Just because Brady has the most wins doesn't mean he's the greatest winner. That volume number – like any volume stat – could simply be a function of playing a long, healthy career. 

So it's not just the win total that makes Brady the greatest winner or the Greatest of All Time. Instead, we find that proof in the more impressive fact that Brady is No. 1 in total wins AND No. 1 all-time in win percentage (.767), No. 1 all time in win-loss differential (+140), No. 1 all-time in postseason wins (22), No. 1 all-time in postseason win-loss differential (+13). No. 1 by any standard imaginable. 

And the mind-f*ck statistical reality is that nobody, not even among the greatest quarterbacks of all time, is close to Brady in any of those categories.

Brady is, put most simply, the most dominant winner in the history of the nation's most popular sport. Here’s a look at just how dominant Brady has been when sized up against the greatest players ever at the position.

We also explain below why wins IS in fact a true barometer of QB greatness.

 

BRADY vs. THE LOMBARDI-STARR LEGEND

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Brady, of course, has benefitted from playing for Bill Belichick, one of the great coaches of all time. Even then, there have been a lot of great coach-QB combos in history. None have come close to winning with the consistency of Brady's Patriots. 

To comprehend the rate at which Brady has won, consider the case of the great Bart Starr.

Starr is a Hall of Fame performer and arguably the greatest big-game QB in the NFL history. In fact, nearly a half century after Starr last strapped on a helmet, he still holds the record for postseason passing efficiency (104.8).

Starr is the only QB to lead his team to FIVE NFL championships and he it did while playing for the great Vince Lombardi, a coach so good and so revered that the Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor.

The brilliant, unflappable Starr went 9-1 in the postseason and was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls and played brilliantly in both of those landmark games in football history. 

Starr seemingly had it all. Great individual performances. Ice in his veins. Legendary coach. Dynastic team surrounded by Hall of Fame talent on both sides of the ball.

Now imagine Starr, building upon this brilliant Hall of Fame resume, building upon his legendary greatness, returned to football and went undefeated in six straight NFL seasons, leading the Packers to a mind-crushing 96-0 record in the process 

Imagine all that success on top of Starr’s Hall of Fame and big-game street cred.  

Even THEN, with a 96-0 record padding his resume, the great winner and five-time champ Bart Starr would still have fewer wins and a lower win percentage than Tom Brady does right now at this moment. 

 

MEET THE 100-WIN CLUB

The rate at which Brady has dominated the NFL, shattered every standard that came before, is evident when we look at the very elite and very short 100-win club. 

Brady was won more than 200 games. But believe it or not, just 21 other quarterbacks have played long enough and well enough and were successful enough to win even 100 games. Brady is essentially lapping the field.

Still, 100 wins is nothing to laugh at. In fact, winning 100 games is a rare achievement. The 100-win club is a who’s who of most of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Twelve of these 22 QBs are already in the Hall of Fame. Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees and probably even Roethlisberger will all end up in Canton someday. A case will be made for Eli Manning, too. The remaining five members of the 100-win club, McNabb, Stabler, Rivers, Krieg and Bledsoe all enjoyed long, distinguished careers.

Even among this list of all-time greats, Brady is burying all of them in his statistical dust.

 

THE 100 WIN CLUB (ranked by total wins)

Quarterback

Wins

Losses

Ties

Tom Brady

201

61

0

Peyton Manning

200

92

0

Brett Favre

199

123

0

John Elway

162

89

1

Dan Marino

155

103

0

Drew Brees

135

104

0

Joe Montana

133

54

0

Ben Roethlisberger

131

66

0

Frank Tarkenton

130

114

6

Johnny Unitas

124

65

4

Terry Bradshaw

121

56

0

Eli Manning

113

93

0

Jim Kelly

110

67

0

Donovan McNabb

107

69

1

Troy Aikman

105

75

0

Warren Moon

105

108

0

Ken Stabler

103

54

1

Bart Starr

103

58

6

Steve Young

102

55

0

Philip Rivers

101

80

0

Dave Krieg

101

83

0

Drew Bledsoe

101

98

0

 

Some of the names on the 100-win list truly jump off the chart. Consider no less a Hall of Fame legend than Johnny Unitas, who rewrote the record books for passing, won three NFL championships and orchestrated a remarkable victory in the Greatest Game Ever Played.

Unitas is widely considered one of the best quarterbacks who ever played the game and many will argue – convincingly – that he’s the best quarterback of all time. His name alone is legendary. Unitas, even in the eyes of today’s pigskin public, equals greatness.

Even then, the great and legendary Unitas is an amazing 77 wins shy of Brady’s total – and lost four more games. 

Brady’s win-loss numbers dwarf every other QB in history. To sum up the distance between Brady and a few of the legends on the list, Brady has:

  • 1 more win than Peyton Manning – and 31 fewer losses
  • 2 more wins than Brett Favre – and 62 fewer losses
  • 39 more wins than John Elway – and 28 fewer losses
  • 46 more wins than Dan Marino – and 42 fewer losses
  • 66 more wins than Drew Brees – and 43 fewer losses
  • 70 more wins than Ben Roethlisberger - and 5 fewer losses
  • 77 more wins than Johnny Unitas – and 4 fewer losses
  • 91 more wins than Jim Kelly – and 6 fewer losses

Remember, these aren't a bunch of chumps. We're talking in most cases about Brady vs. the most legendary quarterbacks in the history of the game. And it's not even close, folks.

 

THE 100-WIN CLUB, SORTED BY WIN PERCENTAGE

As we stated earlier, total wins can be considered a volume stat – a function of longevity.

Brady not only tops the wins list, he also dominates this elite list of quarterbacks when we look at win percentage. 

 

THE 100-WIN CLUB (ranked by win%) 

Quarterback

Wins

Losses

Ties

Win%

Tom Brady

201

61

0

0.767

Joe Montana

133

54

0

0.711

Peyton Manning

200

92

0

0.685

Terry Bradshaw

121

56

0

0.684

Ben Roethlisberger

131

66

0

0.663

Ken Stabler

103

54

1

0.655

Johnny Unitas

124

65

4

0.653

Steve Young

102

55

0

0.650

John Elway

162

89

1

0.645

Bart Starr

103

58

6

0.635

Jim Kelly

110

67

0

0.621

Brett Favre

199

123

0

0.618

Donovan McNabb

107

69

1

0.607

Dan Marino

155

103

0

0.601

Troy Aikman

105

75

0

0.583

Drew Brees

135

104

0

0.565

Philip Rivers

101

80

0

0.561

Eli Manning

113

93

0

0.551

Dave Krieg

101

83

0

0.549

Frank Tarkenton

130

114

6

0.532

Drew Bledsoe

101

98

0

0.508

Warren Moon

105

108

0

0.493

 

Once again, even when ranked by win percentage, Brady is distantly outpacing the greatest QBs in the history of the game.

Look at Troy Aikman, who led the dynastic 1990s Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in four years, while paired with Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin and all-time NFL rushing champion Emmitt Smith. Aikman and that legendary trio won just 58 percent of their games in Aikman’s 12 seasons. 

Brady, by comparison, wins 77 of every 100 games played. Only one other quarterback wins as many as 70 – and that guy is Joe Montana, who’s only considered by many the best ever at the position.

But even Montana, who was flawless in four Super Bowls and helped build the great 49ers dynasty and was surrounded year after year by one of the best defenses in the league – even Montana, the second best winner in history – even he is a distant second to Brady in victory percentage.  

  

THE 100-WIN CLUB, SORTED BY WIN-LOSS DIFFERENTIAL

Finally, and most impressively perhaps, is the way Brady dominates the best QBs of all-time when we look at win-loss differential – a stat we’ve been following since 2013, when Brady became the first QB to boast 100 more wins than losses. 

We knew it was a spectacular and historic number then. Brady’s dominance of this list has only grown in the years since.  

 THE 100-WIN CLUB (ranked by w-l differential)

Quarterback

Wins

Losses

Ties

Win%

W-L Differential

Tom Brady

201

61

0

0.767

+140

Peyton Manning

200

92

0

0.685

+108

Joe Montana

133

54

0

0.711

+79

Brett Favre

199

123

0

0.618

+76

John Elway

162

89

1

0.645

+73

Terry Bradshaw

121

56

0

0.684

+65

Ben Roethlisberger

131

66

0

0.663

+65

Johnny Unitas

124

65

4

0.653

+59

Dan Marino

155

103

0

0.601

+52

Ken Stabler

103

54

1

0.655

+47

Steve Young

102

55

0

0.650

+47

Bart Starr

103

58

6

0.635

+45

Jim Kelly

110

67

0

0.621

+43

Donovan McNabb

107

69

1

0.607

+38

Drew Brees

135

104

0

0.565

+31

Troy Aikman

105

75

0

0.583

+30

Philip Rivers

101

80

0

0.561

+21

Eli Manning

113

93

0

0.551

+20

Dave Krieg

101

83

0

0.549

+18

Frank Tarkenton

130

114

6

0.532

+16

Drew Bledsoe

101

98

0

0.508

+3

Warren Moon

105

108

0

0.493

-3

 

 

Brady’s +140 win-loss differential is just a total statistical mindfuck. The great Peyton Manning, the most prolific passer in history, is a distant No. 2 at +108.

Nobody else is even on the same planet. Even Montana, the brilliant Montana, No. 3 all-time in win-loss differential, is 61 games behind Brady at +79. Brady has statistically lapped the field of all the other great winning QBs in history.

Look at it this way: Brady is +140 in win-loss differential in a league in which only four other quarterbacks won 140 games.

 

HERE’S WHY QB WINS MATTER

Yes, football is a team game with 22 moving parts on any given play. But the reality is that one player is largely responsible for victory or defeat in most every game: the quarterback. 

The reality is that wins are a potent and accurate reflection of the quality of a quarterback for one very simple reason: the team with the best quarterback almost always wins. 

First, remember that about 85 percent of all NFL games are won by the team with the highest-rated quarterback that day – a number that’s been fairly consistent over time. 

Second, put most simply, wins and losses move in lockstep with the quality of QB play in any given game. The more efficient your quarterback, the more likely you are to win. Simple as that.

We last the correlation numbers between passing efficiency and rate of victory after the 2014 season (table below). But you can look at our Passer Rating Big Boards for 2015 here or 2016 here and find the same results: the better your QB plays, the more likely you are to win. For example, here in 2016, teams with a 130+ passer rating are 23-1; in 2015 they were 35-2

 

2014 Record of NFL teams based upon Passer Rating

Passer Rating

Record

Win %

130+

36-0

1.000

120-130

26-3

0.897

110-120

34-13

0.723

100-110

38-16

0.704

90-100

44-30

0.595

80-90

37-49

0.430

70-80

23-47

0.329

60-70

7-44

0.137

50-60

9-25

0.265

40-50

2-15

0.118

<40

0-12

.000

 

Wins and losses in football hinge on the success of your quarterback. It's really just as simple as that. And nobody in the history of football has won more, more often, more consistently, than the Tom Brady Patriots. And nobody wins more often because no quarterback is the best on the field more often than Brady.

The unprecedented rate of victory in a sport in which wins and losses hinge on the play of your quarterback, coupled with the fact that Brady will end his career in the top 3 or 4 in every single individual statistical category, is all the proof you need: Tom Brady is the G-O-A-T. The debate is over.