Bradshaw, Montana or Brady: Who's the best QB in Super Bowl history?

Tom Brady and Joe Montana have both made convincing cases to be the best QBs in Super Bowl history. Getty Images

Three quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have won four Super Bowls: Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady.

All three were integral to their team's success and Brady will undoubtedly be joining Bradshaw and Montana in Canton, Ohio, when his career is over. Brady may even add another Super Bowl appearance (or title) before all is said and done.

But if you had to choose one -- the best of the best -- who would get the nod?

Now that ESPN Stats & Information has charted all 49 Super Bowls, we have access to a bunch of advanced QB stats that help us answer this question better than ever before. Here are the cases for each QB, before making a pick.

The case for Bradshaw

Bradshaw played in an era when running was more prevalent, but he also helped usher in more prolific passing offenses. He was the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a Super Bowl and in fact, had the first two 300-yard passing games in Super Bowl history (XIII and XIV).

Bradshaw completed only 58 percent of his Super Bowl passes, a slightly below average mark, but there's also a good reason for it: His average pass traveled 13.6 yards past the line of scrimmage. That's four yards deeper than Montana and five and a half yards deeper than Brady in Super Bowl play.

Bradshaw and the Steelers not only embraced throwing deep, they thrived on it. Bradshaw's last Super Bowl was XIV, and by the end of that game, he had completed deep passes (20-plus yards) at twice the rate of every other quarterback in Super Bowl play.

As a result of the Steelers' deep passing attack, Bradshaw averaged 19.0 yards per completion in the Super Bowl, highest of the 35 quarterbacks with 20 completions in the game and nearly seven yards higher than average.

The case for Montana

Using conventional statistics, there might not be an argument for Brady or Bradshaw against Montana. Montana completed more passes, averaged more yards and rushed more effectively. Perhaps most impressive: He threw zero interceptions in 122 Super Bowl passes.

Montana is one of two quarterbacks to start multiple Super Bowls and not throw a pick (Jim Plunkett is the other). Brady and Bradshaw combined to throw eight.

Beyond the interceptions, Montana accomplished something unique in each game played.

In Super Bowl XVI, Montana became the first player to throw and rush for a touchdown in the same game in Super Bowl history (Ken Anderson would do it later in the game).

In Super Bowl XIX, Montana rushed for 59 yards (and a touchdown), which at the time was the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl. He also became the second quarterback to throw three touchdowns with no interceptions in the game.

In Super Bowl XXIII, Montana threw for a then-Super Bowl record 357 yards and finished off a game-winning drive in the final minute of play.

In Super Bowl XXIV, Montana became the first quarterback to throw five touchdowns in a Super Bowl, as the 49ers scored a Super Bowl-record 55 points.

The case for Brady

Brady is the only one of the trio to lose a Super Bowl, but his volume of appearances shouldn't work as a negative against him, especially considering the Patriots had the lead late in the fourth quarter of both his losses.

All six of Brady's Super Bowl appearances were decided by four or fewer points, and Brady's play late in games has been the hallmark of his success. All four of Brady's wins featured a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

When trailing or tied in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, Brady has completed 66.1 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady had 62 passes in those situations in the Super Bowl, while Montana and Bradshaw combined for 18.

Brady may have even saved his best performance for last (or most recent). In Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots entered the fourth quarter trailing the Seahawks by 10 points. But Brady closed out the game going 13-of-15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns against the league's No. 1 defense to help secure New England's victory and the largest fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl history.

Who's the best?

Montana has the efficiency, Brady has the clutch factor and Bradshaw has the big plays. But how do you compare one skill set to the other? One of the best ways to do this is with a stat called win probability added.

Win probability is calculated on every play using factors such as clock, score, field position, timeouts and other situational factors and is based off historical precedence. This stat shows which quarterback contributed to their team's chances to win the most, and it factors in everything from efficiency to late-game performance to chunk-yardage throws.

And of the four-time Super Bowl champion quarterbacks, Joe Montana added more to his team's chances to win.

Montana increased the 49ers' chances to win by 1.40 percent on a per-play basis (which include passes, sacks, scrambles, designed quarterback runs or penalties). Terry Bradshaw was second in the group, increasing the Steelers' win probability by 1.27 percent on a per-play basis, with Tom Brady not far behind (1.22 percent).

Brady is an interesting case because he has the highest gross win probability added in Super Bowl play, but he has also been involved in more plays than any other quarterback.

Even if you just looked at Brady's wins, his 1.32 percent win probability added per play was still lower than Montana's, but better than Bradshaw's.

It's important to note: There's really no wrong answer when debating the best of the best Super Bowl champions. All three quarterbacks had the skill to get there and win. But looking at it through an analytical lens, Montana gave his team the best chance to win.