By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Sometimes we tend to get so caught up in statistics and numbers that we occasionally forget what the players on the field are actually doing.

They’re playing a game.

And the purpose of every game — whether it’s a high-scoring shootout or a defensive-heavy struggle — is to win. That’s the whole point of the entire existence of the sport: Winning.

And as we all await the Patriots’ third Super Bowl appearance in four years (or their fifth in 11 years, or their eighth in 17 years, depending on how far back you’d like to go), we’re all going to spend some time reflecting upon just how much winning Tom Brady has done during his Hall of Fame career.

Now of course, a quarterback never wins a game by himself. We certainly oversimplify the sport of football when we break things down to a level of solely referring to win-loss records when analyzing and comparing quarterbacks.

At the same time, there’s no single player on the field more in control of the fate of his team than the quarterback. A dreadful performance from the quarterback can sink his team’s chances entirely. A bad mistake at the wrong time can turn a win into a loss. Conversely, a series of perfect passes and smart decisions in the fourth quarter can provide the necessary lift to give a team a victory.

So while yes, wins and losses are team statistics, we can reasonably discern some conclusions based on quarterback’s wins and losses over the course of a long sample size.

And considering that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal of every NFL player, postseason records become all the more important.

With that preamble now having concluded, here’s a look at how Brady compares to all quarterbacks in postseason history (active players in bold):

ALL-TIME POSTSEASON RECORDS

  1. Tom Brady: 27-9
  2. Joe Montana: 16-7
  3. Terry Bradshaw: 14-5
  4. John Elway: 14-7
  5. Peyton Manning: 14-13
  6. Ben Roethlisberger: 13-8
  7. Brett Favre: 13-11
  8. Troy Aikman: 11-4
  9. Roger Staubach: 11-6
  10. Joe Flacco: 10-5
  11. Aaron Rodgers: 9-7
  12. Bart Starr: 9-1
  13. Kurt Warner: 9-4
  14. Donovan McNabb: 9-7
  15. Jim Kelly: 9-8
  16. Jim Plunkett: 8-2
  17. Eli Manning: 8-4
  18. Russell Wilson: 8-4
  19. Steve Young: 8-6
  20. Dan Marino: 8-10
  21. Ken Stabler: 7-5
  22. Drew Brees: 7-6
  23. Johnny Unitas: 6-2
  24. Joe Theismann: 6-2
  25. Phil Simms: 6-4

While the near-flawless record of Bart Starr is impressive, the sheer volume of victories for Brady looks utterly ridiculous when compared with all of history’s quarterbacks.

It’s worth reiterating: No player has more impact on a football team than the quarterback, and Brady is now set to start his eighth Super Bowl in his 16th season as a full-time NFL starter. That rather simple math comes out to 50 percent.

If we consider seasons in which a quarterback started at least eight games (except for Bob Griese, whose five starts for the 1972 Dolphins championship season will count for the purpose of this list), you can see how staggeringly difficult it is for quarterbacks to reach the Super Bowl with great frequency over the course of a long career.

PERCENTAGE OF SEASONS MAKING SUPER BOWL (Min. 3 Super Bowl appearances)

  1. Tom Brady: 50%
  2. Roger Staubach: 50%
  3. Kurt Warner: 38%
  4. Jim Kelly: 36%
  5. Joe Montana: 33%
  6. John Elway: 31%
  7. Terry Bradshaw: 29%
  8. Troy Aikman: 25%
  9. Peyton Manning: 24%
  10. Bob Griese: 23%
  11. Ben Roethlisberger: 21%
  12. Fran Tarkenton: 17%

As you can see, Roger Staubach appears to be Brady’s equal. But Staubach reached four Super Bowls in eight seasons as a starter. Brady’s reached twice as many Super Bowls in twice as many seasons. And as the rest of the list shows, the longer a quarterback lasts, the lower his percentage drops.

Kurt Warner ranks very high, but like Staubach, he only played eight seasons in the NFL in which he started eight or more games.

And to reiterate one more thing: Winning is the only thing that matters. Ask Jim Kelly about that. (Sorry, Jim.) Brady has won the Super Bowl five times in 15 seasons as a starter, with the chance to make it six in 16. Here’s where he currently stands:

PERCENTAGE OF SEASONS ENDING WITH SUPER BOWL WIN

  1. Joe Montana: 33%
  2. Tom Brady: 31%
  3. Terry Bradshaw: 29%
  4. Troy Aikman: 25%
  5. Roger Staubach: 25%
  6. Jim Plunkett: 20%
  7. Bob Griese: 15%
  8. Bart Starr: 15%
  9. Eli Manning: 15%
  10. Ben Roethlisberger: 14%
  11. John Elway: 13%
  12. Kurt Warner: 13%
  13. Peyton Manning: 12%

If Brady and the Patriots can beat the Eagles next week in Super Bowl LII, Brady will jump to 38 percent with six wins in 16 seasons.

As it stands now, Montana has the edge over Brady, but that’s only because Brady has managed to stay healthier and perform at a higher level through his late 30s than Montana, who only lasted 12 seasons as an NFL starter and went 3-3 with nine touchdowns and five interceptions in his six postseason games after the age of 33. Brady is 13-4 with 38 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his 17 postseason games after the age of 33.

And looking at Brady’s contemporaries, it just does not appear at all possible for any quarterback from this current era to make up the necessary ground to ever get into the conversation with Brady as the greatest of all time.

Aaron Rodgers figures to be the next best thing, but he’s already 34 years old. He’ll have to lead his team to an 18-2 record in the playoffs over the next six or seven years in order to get to where Brady currently sits.

Roethlisberger is five years younger than Brady but may be closer to retirement, so the Pittsburgh quarterback is unlikely to string together a 14-1 postseason run over the next four or five years.

Russell Wilson had a chance to start his career with a near-Brady-esque 7-1 record in the postseason, but he threw a goal-line interception to Malcolm Butler and dropped to 6-2. He’s now 8-4, and he’s 29 years old. Can he go 19-5 in the playoffs and win at least four more Super Bowls over the next decade? It’s possible, though not exactly a likely scenario.

And stacked up among the two statistical greats who have competed against Brady for the bulk of his career, Brady still has proven far superior to Peyton Manning and Drew Brees when it matters most. Brady’s 27-9 postseason record is far better than the combined record of Manning and Brees, which is 21-19.

Brady’s career did overlap with Hall of Famer Brett Favre, who was just 13-11 as a starter in the playoffs.

gettyimages 908492076 A Deep Look Into Just How Incredible Tom Brady Is At Winning Playoff Football Games

Tom Brady holds the Lamar Hunt trophy. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

As with anything in sports, there will always be folks who argue against anything. The defense won that game, or he got lucky to win this game, or he’d be nothing without Adam Vinatieri, etc., etc., etc.

But at a certain point, just about everybody has to look at the facts and recognize that all those wins don’t happen by chance, or luck, or a call by the officials. Winning at the highest level for the better part of two decades is something that nobody else has ever done, and nobody else will likely ever do again.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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