A Battle of Olympus: Manning vs. Brady

Corey Muller `14

The debate has raged on for years: Who is the better quarterback, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? For me, the numbers speak in favor of Manning, despite the Super Bowl successes of Brady.  Before I get too much into my analysis of these two guys, I must preface it by saying these are two of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, and by saying Peyton is better is in no way saying Brady isn’t an elite, or an all-time great, QB.

To start, we have to look at the regular season stats between the two.  Peyton, in 15 seasons, has had 64,964 passing yards and 491 TDs, while Brady, in 13 seasons, has 49,149 passing yards and only 359 TDs.  If Manning retires after this year, this means Brady needs to average 7,907.5 yards and 61 touchdowns per year for the next two years to have the same stats as Manning in the same amount of time.  Brady would have to break two records, both held by Manning, by 2,430 yards and 6 touchdowns per year.  I know Brady, who turns 37 this year, is extremely talented, but breaking the record by that amount for two years in a row is next to impossible.  Manning also has a higher career completion percentage, career passer rating as well as single season passer rating, and more career wins (167 W’s versus Brady’s 148).  Manning has also been named the NFL MVP four times, while Brady has been named MVP twice. Brady does have a few things on Manning though, namely interceptions and win percentage.  Brady has only thrown 134 interceptions to Manning’s 219, and winning 77.5% of his games over Manning’s 69.6% win percentage. I’ll talk a little bit later why Brady has won more games though, and how this has to be attributed to the team around the quarterback as well.  Overall, though, Peyton Manning by far has better regular season stats.

The postseason is always seen as a different story.  The short-sighted “who has more rings” argument always shows its face in this debate, and then somehow one side comes to the conclusion that Eli is better than Peyton, solely because Eli has two rings (both against none other than Tom Brady, but that’s a different argument for a different day).  Tom Brady does have the most postseason wins in history at 18, over Peyton’s 10, and 4 less losses, as well as 3 Super Bowl wins to Peyton’s single win.  Brady still has lost in the Super Bowl twice at the hand of the youngest Manning, which is something that cannot be overlooked.  Brady also isn’t outstandingly better than Manning statistically in the postseason.  Brady’s stats for the postseason are as follows: 247.875 yards per game, 1.75 touchdowns per game, 62.3% completion percentage and a passer rating of 87.3.  Manning, however, posts similar stats: 283.95 yards per game, 1.6 touchdowns, 61% completion percentage and a passer rating of 86.2.  To say Manning “always chokes” in the playoffs is unfair to his historical performances, seeing that they are, on average, comparable to Tom Brady.  Saying that Manning doesn’t perform well in the playoffs is blatantly false, seeing that he is only decimals behind Brady’s performances.

Yes, Brady is 9-4 against Manning, but football isn’t a one on one sport.  Over the years, the coaches and teammates that Brady has had are more notable than Peyton’s former Colts.  Brady’s had Bill Belichick for his entire career, while Manning struggled with Jim “Playoffs???” Mora at head coach, then moved on to have Tony Dungy from ’02 until ’08, and then Jim Caldwell for his remaining days in Indianapolis.  Dungy is the only one of those three that can even be mentioned in the same sentence as Belichick, and even then he still doesn’t compare to Belichick.  Head coaching is important in this league, and Belichick and Brady pair up to have the most wins for a head coach/quarterback combination in history.  The rest of team is also important in this argument, and Brady undoubtedly has had an immense amount of help.

My list of notable Patriots offensive help is as follows: Deion Branch (’02-’05 &’10-’12), Randy Moss (’07-’10), Wes Welker (’07-’12), Corey Dillon (’04-’06), Troy Brown (’93-’07), Rob Gronkowski (’10- ) Aaron Hernandez (’10- ), Adam Vinatieri [#2 All time kicker BleacherReport] (’96-05), Kevin Faulk (all time kick return leader for Pats) (99-11).

My list of notable Colts offense-men are as follows: Edgerrin James (‘99-‘05), Marvin Harrison (‘96-‘08), Brandon Stokely (‘03-‘06), Marcus Pollard *Undrafted (‘94-‘05), Dallas Clark (‘03-‘11), Reggie Wayne (‘01- ), Joseph Addai (‘06-‘11).

The list is pretty one-sided in the Pats favor, but the Colts have had some studs that can’t be overlooked.  The offensive side is pretty evenly matched, but in ’08 when Tom Brady was injured and 26-year-old Matt Cassel was the starting QB, the Patriots managed to still pull out an 11-5 record, which is no easy feat.  When Manning was hurt in ’11, the Colts went 2-14 after going 10-6 the year before with Manning at the helm.  This should be a pretty huge indication of the strength of the Pats as a team without Brady and the incredible impact Manning has on his team.  The defense has a huge role in this, and the Patriots have had way more notable players on that side of the field.  Tedy Bruschi (‘96-‘08), Asante Samuel (‘03-‘07), Willie McGinest (‘94-05), Rodney Harrison (‘03-‘08), and Ty Law (‘95-‘04) are the big name Patriot defenders, but the only notable Colts defensemen are the duo of Robert Mathis (’03- ) and Dwight Freeney (’02-’12). To sum this up, Brady has had way better teams behind him than Manning, and Manning has had a way bigger impact on his team.

Both guys are great at controlling the team from the line, but Manning is incredible at calling audibles and reading the defense in the pocket.  All “Omaha” jokes aside, Peyton Manning does control and intelligently adjust his team, but Tom Brady will do anything to help his team as well.  The main difference between Manning and Brady, though, is that Manning will try to make his team win through his own efforts, but Brady will allow the run to help him out if he sees it fit (cue LaGarrett Blount’s 4 TD’s last week ).  This could hurt Manning in the long run because he ends up trying to do too much, while Brady lets the rest of his team help out. It’ll be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out this weekend.

Manning does have some trouble when the weather gets too cold, but the forecast for Denver this Sunday calls for a high of 64º with a 0% chance of rain. These two teams matched up in week 12 at Mile High Stadium, and we’ve seen what Denver can do against the Pats’ defense, running the score up 24-0 at half. We’ve also seen the Pats make a monumental comeback in the same game (that tricky Brady guy always finds a way to win, but I’d thank the Denver run defense and a botched punt by the Broncos for that OT win).  This will most definitely be a hard fought game, no doubt, but I have to give the edge to the Broncos.  Healthy Peyton plus his receiving core, especially Wes Welker and his 2001: A Space Odyssey helmet, will pull out the W over the Pats.  The Broncos are going to the Super Bowl, getting past Big Bad Belichick and the Brady Bunch this weekend.

Bold Prediction: Denver 35 – Patriots 27.

Manning: 330 Yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int.

Brady: 280 Yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int.

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