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The Only Brady vs Manning Question That Matters

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With another week of Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning talk upon us, I could do what I did last year at this time, use their career Tale of the Tape numbers to make the case that what they’ve done in head-to-head games is no more a “rivalry” than the Death Star had a rivalry with Alderaan. But this year the pro-Manning, Heavy Peyton zealots keep pointing to the AFC Championship Game as proof positive their guy is the better quarterback. And I will concede that Manning pitched a Madison Bumgarner-caliber gem last year. Which is to say, once Wes Welker carried out his Code Red on Aqib Talib, Manning did a better job of hitting his receivers against a depleted Pats defense (missing Talib, Mayo, Wilfork, Spikes, Kelley, et al) than Brady did throwing to Mathew Mulligan and Austin Collie against a healthy Denver defense in Spring-like conditions at Mile High. And the Lamar Hunt Trophy Manning won looks just like every other team’s Lamar Hunt Trophy, so good for him.

But making the case that one game validates the Manning-over-Brady argument or citing passing records to make the case he’s been a better quarterback overall is missing the way more valid question. The whole “debate” boils down to this:

Who’s career would you rather have?

Try something right now. Walk down a staircase in reverse saying The Lord’s Prayer backwards. And if what they told me on sleepovers in 6th grade is true, when you get to the bottom of the stairs, Satan should be standing there. (WARNING: Do NOT attempt this.) Now let’s say Lucifer asks for your soul and in exchange he’ll make you an NFL quarterbacking legend. And he offers you two options: You could have Manning’s career, or you could have Brady’s. By that standard, it’s not even close.

Consider the standards by which we really value QBs. Not cumulative stats or touchdown totals, but the numbers that separate the good ones from the greats and the greats from the GOATs. For example:

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Quarterbacks should be winners:

Manning: 184-86 .681 +98

Brady: 172-53 .764 +119

By comparison, only five other QBs in history have more than 119 wins total. And Brady is that many wins over .500. Joe Montana used to be considered the greatest winner of all time. He won 39 fewer regular season games than Brady does right now with one more loss.

Quarterbacks should put points on the board:

Manning over his career: 27.2 PPG

Brady over his career: 28.0 PPG

And before your “but Brady’s teams had better defense and Special Teams” Acid Reflux kicks in, the Patriots‘ non-offensive TDs have averaged 1.4 per season more than Manning’s Indy/Denver teams. So the difference is negligible.

Quarterbacks need to be good Late & Clutch:

Passer ratings when trailing with under 4:00 to go:

Manning: 76.7

Brady: 83.4

Passer ratings when trailing with under 2:00 to go:

Manning: 60.7

Brady: 80.3

Overtime:

Manning: 45.0

Brady: 97.8

Quarterbacks should be Late & Clutch in the postseason:

Game-winning drives in the playoffs (since 1960):

Manning: 1. Tied for 29th most all time

Brady: 7. The most all time

Note: Mark Sanchez has 2.

Quarterbacks should play well in the Super Bowl:

Manning: 3 Super Bowls, 3 TDs, 4 INTs, 81.0 Passer Rating

Brady: 5 Super Bowls, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 93.8 Passer Rating

Brady’s lowest Super Bowl Passer Rating was 82.5 with 1 TD and no picks against the Giants in ’07.  Manning has been lower than that 2-out of-3 times. So for all the Brady haters clinging to this notion he only won Super Bowls on the backs of his defense and played like garbage in the two losses, everything you know and believe is wrong. And while you’re buying your special Peyton 510 Touchdowns commemorative gold coins from Franklin Mint, realize at his current pace, he’ll have to play another 34 years to tie Brady in Super Bowl TDs.

I could go on, but every schoolkid know the rest. Brady’s record 18 postseason wins. Manning’s record 12 postseason losses. The EIGHT times Peyton’s been one & done in the playoffs, four times when his team had a bye as the #1 or # 2 seed. People love to compare this “rivalry” to Bird-Magic, but it’s much more accurate to call it Russell-Chamberlain. Or to keep it even more local, David Ortiz-Ted Williams. One has all the great moments and huge production in the clutch while winning rings, the other has all the records. If you’d choose a career of putting up numbers over being one of the great winners of all time, as far as I’m concerned, you’re already in Hell. @JerryThornton1

[h/t to @footballfacts and @PatriotsSB49]

PS.  Seriously, don’t try that Lord’s Prayer trick.  The idea freaks me out.