Peyton Manning Versus Wade Phillips: Who Has the Advantage?

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Peyton Manning Versus Wade Phillips: Who Has the Advantage?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Manning and Reggie Wayne celebrate a big overtime catch in a win over Wade Phillips and the Chargers in 2004.

Welcome to the AFC South Truth Detector where we evaluate reader claims.

This week, we take on regular commenter DD who says:

We have a very clear claim here. "Historically, Peyton Manning has struggled against Wade Phillips' defenses."

Is there any truth to it?

Everyone knows that today's Peyton Manning isn't the same player who dominated the NFL for a decade. In fact, Manning hasn't squared off against a Phillips-coached team since 2005, before his final stage of development as a quarterback.

Phillips left San Diego in 2006 and was fired in Dallas before the Colts and Cowboys played in 2010. By the time Phillips landed in Houston in 2011, Manning was already sidelined for the season in Indianapolis.

Manning played a defense coached or coordinated by Phillips nine times in his career. His teams finished 5-4 in those games, and he posted a passer rating of 83.7. He had 15 touchdowns and 10 picks.

Those aren't terrible numbers, but well below his career norms.

However, two of those nine games came during Manning's rookie year.

After 1998, the numbers tilt decidedly in Manning's favor. From 1999 on, Manning's teams won five of seven games against Phillips while Manning posted a passer rating of 91.8 with 12 touchdowns, six picks and a YPA of 7.4.

One of Manning's signature games game against a Phillips' defense.

One thing that you might find interesting is that in two of Phillips' most recent games against Manning, his defenses picked up eight total sacks. Of course, Manning threw for 719 yards to offset those sacks.

Given the changes in both men over the past seven years, it's probably foolish to read anything into the numbers one way or the other.

However, to develop a "Manning struggles against Phillips" narrative requires giving a lot of weight to his rookie season. A quick look at Manning's career will tell anyone that a sample depending on 22 percent of games from the 1998 season will be skewed.

It's possible the concept was birthed from the erroneous "Manning struggles against 3-4 defenses" meme or from a misunderstanding of when Phillips was in Dallas and San Diego. Manning's infamous performances in 2007 and 2010 against those teams came when Phillips was no longer present.

Given the way Manning handled Phillips after 1998, the truth detector rates this claim as false.

Phillips and the Texans' defense may well harass Manning and come up with a big win in Denver in Week 3, but history is no reason for Texans' fans to feel confident.

The present is cause enough for that.

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