What do the statistics tell us?
To compare the careers of Brady and Montana, let’s look at their first 12 seasons. Montana finished the 1990 season at 34 years old, the same age at which Brady finished last season. By that time, Montana had played 166 regular-season games in 12 seasons. Brady has played 161 games in 12 seasons.
Tom Brady vs Joe Montana
Through 1st 12 Seasons of NFL Career
Comparing Montana through 1990 to Brady side-by-side, Brady has the statistical advantage in every category. Brady has more passing touchdowns, passing yards and completions, a higher completion percentage and fewer interceptions. He also has more wins and fewer losses than Montana.
In some of the categories, it’s not even close. Brady has 24 more wins and four fewer losses than Montana. Brady has 58 more passing touchdowns and eight fewer interceptions in over 700 more pass attempts.
NFL Team Averages by Era
But it’s unfair to compare Brady and Montana without taking their eras into account. The current NFL is a more pass-heavy league than it was during Montana’s career – teams average 11 more passing yards and two more pass attempts per game.
From 1979-1990, Montana led the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns (only Dan Marino was even within 40 of him), completions (nobody was within 400 of him) and completion percentage (minimum 100 attempts).
By comparison, Brady is fourth in passing yards, second in passing touchdowns, fourth in completions and ninth in completion percentage (minimum 100 attempts) during his career.
So while Brady has better raw statistics, Montana was better when ranked against his peers in the era he played.
Super Bowl Career
The postseason is where Montana truly distinguished himself. He was undefeated in four Super Bowls, while Brady is 3-2 in Super Bowls, losing each of his last two.
Montana has a career Super Bowl-record 11 passing touchdowns and no interceptions for a 127.8 Super Bowl Passer Rating, also a record. Brady holds the Super Bowl record for career completions (127) and passing yards (1,279) and has nine touchdowns with one interception.
From 1979 to 1990, Montana had more than twice as many postseason passing touchdowns (39 to Marino's 18) and over 2,000 more postseason passing yards (4,758) than anyone else.
Since 2000, Brady leads the NFL with 38 passing touchdowns and 5,285 passing yards in the postseason, but his lead margins aren't anywhere near Montana’s.
Comparing their stats side-by-side, it looks clear that Brady has the upper hand. But by taking a deeper look at how they compared to their peers in their own eras, Montana fares better. Brady can’t compare to Montana’s perfect 4-0 Super Bowl record and 11-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If Super Bowls are your ultimate measuring stick, Montana is your guy.