Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: Why the Latter Has Not Done "More with Less"

Posted on July 4, 2014 at 1:50 PM

NFL Network "expert analysts" Jamie Dukes and Willie McGinest seem to believe they have the answer.

It's important to remember that when discussing the ranking of quarterbacks, one's criteria is just as important as their conclusion. Assigning an inordinate amount of value to "end results" without possessing a thorough understanding of context, while disregarding the individual contributions provided to arrive at said results is akin to crediting George Foreman with creation of the Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.

"Tom Brady has done more with less." -Mindset of the masses

The dictionary be damned on this one, catchphrases are as popular as ever—even when they're factually incorrect.

Merriam-Webster defines "more" as:

: greater in amount, number, or size

: extra or additional

Brady's resumé does not match this description. By virtue of traditional statistics, advanced statistics, career QBS totals, career QBP and QBD—Manning is ages ahead of Brady, especially during the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2013 seasons in which Brady has been the benificiary of the falsely bestowed "more with less" label.

To have done "more" with less, Brady would have had to have been more productive, more accurate and more efficient than Manning—and that simply wasn't the case. Brady was the opposite: less productive, less accurate and less efficient than Manning. The Patriots (e.g. credit given to Brady) won without big name, star wide receivers. That doesn't mean Brady made those receivers remarkably productive, because he didn't. Randy Moss was a future Hall of Famer before joining the Patriots. Wes Welker showed flashes of solid potential on a horrible Dolphins team prior to joining the Patriots, produced at a comparable rate to his 2007 season when playing with Matt Cassel in 2008, and matched his career-high touchdown reception toal in only half a season with Manning. Below are Patriots "no-name" receivers' best seasons with Brady.


  • David Givens (2004): 32nd in receiving yards and 70th in touchdown receptions.
  • David Patten (2004): 39th in receiving yards and 21st in touchdown receptions.
  • Julian Edleman (2013): 21st in receiving yards and 30th in touchdown receptions.


That's not elite production by even the most lenient of standards. Conversely, Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker immediately delivered HOF-caliber production in their first season with Manning. It didn't matter that he moved to a new city, to play for a new team, under a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, in a new system, in a new outdoor stadium, after having four neck surgeries and after missing a full season of football. Now, the same receivers who had never been productive in their entire careers prior to playing with Manning, suddenly morphed into the kind of dangerous "weapons" that Brady doesn't have.

The irony: Brady failed to turn previously unproductive players into brand names, but because his team won a lot of games with the elite support on defense, on the offensive line and in coaching—Brady did "more with less" no matter how unproductive, inaccurate or inefficient he was. When Manning turns previously unproductive players into brand names with HOF-caliber production, it's then used as a point against him—saying he has "weapons" to work with that Brady doesn't.

Generally speaking, the "more with less" myth was born from the Patriots winning three Super Bowls without a cast of name-brand receivers. If those three seasons (2001, 2003, 2004) account for the "more with less" phenomena, while defying Merriam-Webster's actual definition of the word "more"—implying that Brady was better during those three seasons than Manning was—it would then be fair to apply the same absense of logic to Brady's later seasons. Because if Brady of 2001, 2003 and 2004 was better than Manning was during those seasons, he would also be better than the Brady of 2007, 2010 and 2011.

"Old Brady" and "New Brady" are fantastic foils. Brady, the champion, was unremarkable during the regular season without brand-name receivers to throw to, but then improved his play during the postseason while winning Super Bowls. The new Brady has been dominant during the regular season, winning two league MVP awards, but regularly folding in the postseason—losing home games and Super Bowls, getting out-dueled by inferior quarterbacks with his team's season hanging in the balance.

QBS Comparison: Manning vs. Brady (The "More with Less" Years)


  • 2001: Manning (21.5) -- Brady (7.0)
  • 2003: Manning (38.0) -- Brady (8.0)
  • 2004: Manning (36.0) -- Brady (9.0)
  • 2006: Manning (37.0) -- Brady (12.0)
  • 2013: Manning (37.0) -- Brady (5.0)

To no surpise, Brady's "more with less" seasons stand out as some of the worst of his professional career. Backed by elite scoring defenses in four of the five above-listed seasons, Brady cruised to victories secured within the traditionally weak AFC East division, in spite of his subpar performance on the field. Regardless of context, Brady's received the lion's share of the credit. Elite defensive support, weak division, strong offensive line, future Hall of Fame head coach—no, Brady "willed" them to victories.

Rankings: Patriots Scoring Defense

  • 2001: 6th
  • 2003: 1st
  • 2004: 2nd
  • 2006: 2nd
  • 2013: 10th

In reality, Brady's three finest seasons came in 2007, 2010 and 2011. Despite elite performance at the quarterback position and two league MVP awards, the conclusions to those seasons came when Brady was twice out-dueled by an inferior quarterback, Eli Manning, on the game's grandest stage—and when Mark Sanchez and the Jets toppled the 14-2 Patriots in their home stadium, out-performing Brady (the "regular season MVP") with the season on the line.

Brady, who carries the perception of being the better "clutch" quarterback, actually has a lower postseason passer rating (87.5) than Manning (89.2).

It doesn't matter that Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl since Johnny Manziel was in the 7th grade. It doesn't matter that since that time, he has closed every season out on a low note, losing postseason games to 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).

Reality check: Brady won rings while failing to perform at an elite level, then went on a decade-long ringless run, regardless of his improvement as an individual player. Many try to sandwich these two career-halves together, but they're really just combining peanut butter and turkey, and attempting to sell their sandwich as a perfect sub.

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