|Posted on October 28, 2014 at 10:50 PM|
As we approach Manning vs. Brady XVI, the debate continues to rage on regarding who has had the greater career: Manning or Brady?
The comparison has too often been reduced to half-factual nonsense—from generalistic "rings vs. stats" drivel to the unstudied adoption of popular myth. Manning has not been a postseason choker, nor has Brady always been supported by great defensive units. Both quarterbacks are more similar than most might care to admit, and they've both, at times, been praised for the wrong reasons. There's much more to Manning than raw numbers and there's much more to Brady than three rings.
In 2011, Brady was asked: "What is it about Peyton that makes him such a great player?"
"Everything. To me, he's the greatest of all-time. What he's accomplished and the way that he studies, the way he prepares. He's really got a killer instinct too. I've been fortunate to be around him on a lot of occasions and we always hit it off; we have a great relationship and he's a friend of mine and someone that I always watch and admire because he always wants to improve, he always wants to get better and he doesn't settle for anything less than the best. So when you watch the best and you're able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better." -Tom Brady (7/4/11)
For every idiot saying that "Manning needs to win one more ring to be considered the greatest of all-time", Brady himself begs to differ. It's easier to do ring-counts than it is to understand what makes a quarterback great to begin with. You could remove Brady's three-ring championship run from his resumé and easily be left with one of the most polished careers in NFL history. Brady's performance on the field improved significantly after 2004, even after taking into account his frequent postseason struggles.
Entire seasons ended at the hands of Jake Plummer (2005), Peyton Manning (2006), Eli Manning (2007), Joe Flacco (2009), Mark Sanchez (2010), Eli Manning (2011), Joe Flacco (2012) and Peyton Manning (2013). Since 2005, Brady has been 0-2 in Super Bowls vs. Eli and 0-2 in AFC championship games vs. Peyton. #TeamSports.
But Brady knows, as Manning knows, that you can't rely on the small sample-size of imperfect single-elimination games to evaluate the entirety of a quarterback's career.
Few know that Manning (89.2) actually has a higher postseason passer rating than Brady (87.5). But do you want to know who has a higher postseason passer rating than Manning? Mark Sanchez (94.3), who since 2010 has an undefeated, 2-0 postseason record vs. the Manning/Brady combination—defeating them as an underdog in back-to-back weeks, in their home stadiums. Manning's last game as an Indianapolis Colt was a loss to Sanchez in the postseason. The last game of Brady's remarkable 2010 MVP campaign came at the hands of Sanchez, who out-performed Brady in Gillette Stadium to topple the 14-2, top-seeded Patriots.
In a world bereft of common sense, no number of Eli Manning, Joe Flacco or Russell Wilson won championships will sway public opinion. "It's all about the rings."
Unless, again, you're Brady. In a recent interview, Brady lauded Manning's 2013-14 run.
"What can you say more about what Peyton Manning has been able to accomplish? It's been the greatest season-and-a-half stretch in the history of the NFL. Nobody has really matched what he has been able to do." -Tom Brady (10/27/14)
Montana (1988-1989) and Brady (2003-2004) himself had season-and-a-half stretches that resulted in multiple rings—but those wouldn't get Brady's vote for greatest of all time. In a press-oriented world, Brady understands the difference between crediting someone for "playing good football" and playing at the highest level in NFL history.
Peyton Manning (2013-14): 715 of 1,039 (68.8) for 8,521 yards, 82 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. 113.5 passer rating.
Brady already considered Manning the greatest of all-time prior to his return from four neck surgeries, which has since yielded, in Brady's opinion, the greatest season-and-a-half stretch in league history. Brady's assessment stands in opposition to those who have recently attempted to diminish the significance of Manning's success.
And this isn't the first time. In 2013, Brady talked Tom Curran out of voting for him for AP NFL MVP.
"I voted for Peyton Manning for MVP. Strongly considered vote for Tom Brady but was talked out of it, or into Manning, by Tom Brady." -Tom Curran
Brady's coach, Bill Belichick, recently expressed the ultimate respect for Manning.
"I mean, he's great, he's obviously a great quarterback, the best quarterback I've coached against. Not to take anything away from the Montana's, Marino's and Elway's or whoever is up there with those guys, but (Peyton) is tough." -Bill Belichick
It's ironic. Brady and Bellichick have been billed as the greatest rivals of Manning's career and yet, some of the highest respect for Manning comes from Foxborough.