It seemed as though Tom Brady ended the G.O.A.T. discussion last February. As he overcame a 28-3 deficit to win his fifth Super Bowl ring, Brady had solidified his position as football’s Michael Jordan. He outlasted Peyton Manning, has more rings than Joe Montana, and looks better at 40 than most quarterbacks do at 25. His case for G.O.A.T. has been stated many times, and has convinced mostly everyone around football.

One of Brady’s contemporaries, however, might have something else to say about that. And it’s not Manning.

Chances are, you’ve never heard Drew Brees’ be called the Greatest Quarterback of All Time. But a quick glance at his career stats would show that he is more than worthy of being in this conversation, at the very least. And a very strong case could be made that he is the greatest in NFL history.

Here are the numbers:  

Brees currently has 67,763 career passing yards is within striking distance of Manning’s all-time record of 71,940. His 476 passing touchdowns and 5,988 completions are each third-most in NFL history, and he would need 312 more completions and 63 more passing touchdowns to have the records to himself. If Brees opts to play next season—he’s 38 and in the last of year of his contract with the Saints—there’s a good chance he can retire as the greatest statistical quarterback in NFL history.

If Brady had to play on the Saints under the same circumstances that Brees has dealt with, it’s hard to imagine him winning five Super Bowls. Likewise, had Brees been given the chance to play his entire career under Bill Belichick, it’s hard to imagine him making only six playoff appearances. Heck, Matt Cassel won 10 games under Belichick.

All of Brees’ aforementioned stats are higher than Brady’s, by the way. Both players have similar sample sizes as well, Brady has 242 starts, Brees has 237. So based only on regular-season numbers, Brees is clearly the better quarterback.

Brees’ statistical accumulation has come by way of some of the best single seasons of all time. There have been only nine instances in NFL history where a quarterback has passed for more than 5,000 yards. Brees has five of them. This means that he has five of the eight highest-passing seasons in NFL history. By contrast, Brady has just one 5,000-yard season.

Since signing with the Saints in 2006, he has led the league in passing yards seven times. Brady has led the league in passing yards just twice in his entire career. Manning led the league in passing just three times in his 17 seasons of play. Joe Montana, who was often considered the greatest before Manning and Brady, never led the league in passing—comparatively making Brees’ stats even more impressive.  

The one area where Brees is obviously at a deficit to Brady, Manning, Montana, and most other quarterbacks in the G.O.A.T. conversation is wins. Brees has just one Super Bowl, and only 11 career playoff appearances.

But keep in mind that Brees has played much of his career on Saints teams that played little to no defense, and much of his early career on lackluster Chargers teams that had few weapons in the passing game. While Saints coach Sean Payton is considered one of the better coaches in the NFL, nobody would argue that he’s one of the best ever. And the Saints’ personnel over th past few seasons would definitely be considered far from elite.

New Orleans has gone through five defensive coordinators in Brees’ tenure there, and the Saints have finished outside of the bottom 10 in total defense just three times while Brees has been in black & gold. Brees has, in many ways, been the only thing keeping the Saints from complete organizational collapse.

This has been especially apparent since 2012. During this timeframe, Brees has gone just 43-42 as a starter, and has made the playoffs just once. This would appear to be a disqualify Brees from the G.O.A.T. conversation.

But these lackluster results are not due at all to Brees, who has averaged 5,074.8 yards passing, 36.8 touchdowns, and 14.8 interceptions a season during that timeframe. It’s hard to do much better than that. Had it not been for Brees, these Saints teams wouldn’t be winning more than five games a season.

Drew Brees Tom Brady Saints Patriots 2015
Image via USA Today Sports/Derick E. Hingle

This kind of greatness—carrying an awful team to a mediocre record—is much harder to appreciate than the Brady-esque greatness that ends in championships. But it’s still greatness nonetheless. If Brees had a “Taking My Talents To South Beach” attitude, he could have easily won rings elsewhere.

If Brady had to play on the Saints under the same circumstances that Brees has dealt with, it’s hard to imagine him winning five Super Bowls. Likewise, had Brees been given the chance to play his entire career under Bill Belichick, it’s hard to imagine him making only six playoff appearances. Heck, Matt Cassel won 10 games under Belichick.

Others at Complex have gone so far as to argue that Brady is nothing more than a system quarterback. I personally would not go that far, but Brady has obviously benefited greatly from playing under the greatest coach in NFL history. And Brees has clearly been shorted by bad defenses. This should be taken into consideration during the G.O.A.T. conversation.

Rings matter, but context matters too. Nobody would argue that Brees and Trent Dilfer are on equal footing because they both have a Super Bowl ring.

Manning had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne to throw to. Montana had Jerry Rice. Tom Brady has had the privilege of playing for the greatest coach in NFL history. Brees, on the other hand, has gotten far less organizational help than any of those three quarterbacks. And despite that, he will probably end up retiring as the greatest statistical quarterback in NFL history. This says a lot about the greatness of Brees—perhaps more than rings or wins ever could.

Now is Drew Brees the G.O.A.T.? That’s probably in the eye of the beholder—the debate is far from settled, contrary to what some might say. But now you know his case. And you know that he belongs in the conversation.