- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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When Patriots quarterback Tom Brady decides to retire, debate will ensue as to where exactly he fits among the best quarterbacks in NFL history. His three Super Bowl wins puts him in rare company, and there are some who believe he isn't just the finest quarterback of his era, but perhaps of all time.
In a piece now posted on Grantland.com, NFL writer Bill Barnwell names the best quarterbacks throughout the history of the NFL by following a timeline of the league and assigning the best quarterback during respective years.
Brady, who became a starter during the 2001 regular season, makes Barnwell's list as the best quarterback in the NFL during the 2007 season, during which he threw for a league-record 50 touchdowns and helped guide the Patriots to an unblemished regular season.
"The best season by a quarterback in NFL history, bar none," Barnwell writes. "Of course, Bernard Pollard brought an end to this title run at the start of the following season."
By while the totality of Brady's career may end up stacking up to nearly any other quarterback's, 2007 is the lone year that Barnwell makes the case for him being the best player at his position during that season. Peyton Manning had two separate reigns according to Barnwell (2003-2006, 2008-2009), and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has topped his list since the 2010 season. (Note: Barnwell does allude to strong cases for Brady during the Manning era and also 2010).
It's an interesting way to think about the greatest quarterback of all-time and highlights an appreciation for longevity among top signal-callers. While there are arguments to be made that individuals had better seasons than Brady throughout the course of his career, his consistently elite play puts him in the conversation among the best of all time.
To read Barnwell's comprehensive look at quarterback play, CLICK HERE.