Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: No End in Sight for the Manning-Brady Era

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 23, 2014

1. Manning has everything, Brady has nothing...again

One of the most underrated coaches in football, Denver's John Fox, recently said something that was highly accurate. Fox explained that quarterback Peyton Manning is capable of having an even better season than the last one, in which he threw for seven cabillion yards and 80 trillion touchdowns. 

When asked by the NFL Network's NFL Total Access whether Manning can get better this season, Fox said, per Dan Hanzus:

I think so, we talk about that every day. Whether it is a football team, individual position or even an individual player. You know that's the goal, to get better every day. He has worked very hard, he is in the best shape he has ever been in, all his numbers in our weight and conditioning program are all up from a year ago, even before that. There are areas he can improve in and he knows it and he will.

I believe Fox is right. I think Manning will be better because John Elway has stacked the team with talent. I mean, lots of talent. All over the place. On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos added defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and corner Aqib Talib. Talib is one of the best pickups of the offseason. He's the best cover corner in football.

Manning still possesses the best offense in the sport. Good receivers (lost Eric Decker, signed Emmanuel Sanders), fast tight ends, an outstanding offensive line…yes, it is very possible that with an improved defense in addition to the most explosive offense in football, Manning could top his 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns.

Then there's the man to whom Manning is inexorably linked: Tom Brady.

Another training camp, another season not far after that, and two of the NFL's best—who will likely face each other again in the playoffs—start in two dramatically different places.

Manning again is the offensive equivalent of the 1 Percent. Brady again enters a season with a bunch of dudes named Roscoe playing wide receiver.

Brady does have tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Gronkowski could have another surgery by the time you finish reading this paragraph.

One of the amazing things about watching the NFL is seeing these two men use their skills and how they will in different ways. Manning uses his to manage talent, while Brady uses his to raise the talent level.

We are seeing the same quarterbacking song with two of the best ever. Manning will shatter records while Brady raises all boats. And we all watch both in amazement.

Sustained excellence: Manning and Brady by the numbers


2. Will Gronk be healthy?

I wrote in early June that Gronkowski was going to take his time returning this season. That definitely seems to be the case. All indications are that he will be ready for regular season, but he's just not going to push it now.

It's a smart move.

The real question with Gronk—the only question—is whether he can stay healthy once the regular season begins. Impossible to know, but if Gronk is seriously hurt again, you have to wonder if it would be the end of his NFL career. He's missed 14 of 64 games, and the surgeries are stacking up. The Patriots have their fingers crossed.


3. Football in Los Angeles

This is an excellent story from The Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer on the situation with football returning to Los Angeles. There are just as many people I speak to throughout the league who believe the NFL will never return to L.A. as there are who believe it will.

The fact that L.A. has basically lost three NFL teams (L.A. Chargers, Raiders and Rams) weighs heavily on some owners. That past will not be easily overcome.


4. Futility in Dallas

Longtime Cowboys beat writer Clarence E. Hill Jr., one of the best in the business, perfectly describes the futility of recent Cowboys teams in the Star-Telegram:

A whole generation of Cowboys fans has grown up knowing nothing but mediocrity. They are stuck with images of drugged-out quarterback Quincy Carter, Dave Campo in a wetsuit, Terrell Owens dancing on the star and then wearing the star, Romo dropping the snap in Seattle, Owens weeping for his quarterback, Roy Williams fumbling a victory away against the Saints, Garrett’s late-game mismanagement and the famed Doomsday Defense becoming a turnstile for yards and touchdowns.

Don’t make me go on about 136 wins and 136 losses and just one playoff win since the start of the 1997 season.

It was enough to make legendary coach Bill Parcells quit and bring on Camp Cupcake before giving way to Coach Process. Mediocrity and disappointment were the constants.

How hath thou forsaken thee, the Cowboys fan?


5. Alex Smith is right

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is scheduled to make $7.5 million this year. He is looking, via The Kansas City Star's Randy Covitz, for money that would put him in the same pay universe as Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford, who each make approximately $18 million a season.

Is Smith the same caliber as those three players? Well, yes. Hell yes. Smith doesn't have near the arm strength of those three. That is true. But he's just as accurate and has helped to revive not one but two franchises in the 49ers and Chiefs.

He told Covitz:

Certainly when you’re talking about comparables and what the marketplace is for a quarterback, certainly you’re looking at that, and I feel like my body of work of the last three, four years is right up there with a lot of those guys. No question, when you’re trying to put a value on something like that, you look at a lot of stuff.

Covitz added:

He is 30-9-1 as a starter in the last three seasons, having led San Francisco to the NFC championship game in 2011 and helping the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 before coming to Kansas City, where he established career bests with 308 completions, 508 attempts, 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.

We've consistently looked at Smith's career and said that he's won because of others. Maybe it's time we said instead that he's winning because he's just as good as a bunch of other QBs in football.


6. The sad case of Bernie Kosar

A new book, Blood Sport, alleging that Kosar slurred his speech due to oxycontin use, is going to create waves in Cleveland and elsewhere. It raises a natural question: How many other former players have dealt with similar issues?

According to The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin (h/t The Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston), "The Browns kept him on the playing field with doses of the addictive pain-killer oxycodone (trade name, oxycontin; street name, oxy, OC, O)."


7. Marcell Dareus isn't Albert Haynesworth, but...

Allegedly drives cars really, really fast. Check.

Drug arrest. Check.

Failed conditioning test. Check, check, check!

As you may remember, Haynesworth signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with Washington in 2009, with $41 million guaranteed. He only played in 20 games for the team and has been out of the league since February 2012.

No, the Bills' Dareus isn't Haynesworth. Yet.


8. DeSean Jackson

Here's a photo of DeSean Jackson with Kardashian half-sisters Kylie and Kendall Jenner, posted on his Instagram account:

Can't explain why it made me chuckle. It just did.

That is all. Moving along now.


9. Giant rebound

Giants co-owner John Mara on Eli Manning, via The New York Post's Steve Serby: "He probably wouldn’t admit this, but I think he was probably stung by all the criticism last year, and he’s got a lot of pride, has had too much success in the past, and I think you’re going to see him have a big year."

I can tell you there are more than a few personnel men around the NFL who feel the same. They believe Manning's pride, combined with better offensive line play, will help him rebound. The division is also not particularly strong. It's sometimes easy to forget that Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP.


10. Rex Ryan talking smack once more

I realize fully what I'm about to say is somewhat hypocritical. In the media, we love it when people say interesting things. It's totally phony to then chastise them for yakking too much when we like when athletes and coaches yak. So I get that. I'm a hypocrite with what I'm about to say.

Rex Ryan's act is getting old. He's guaranteed Super Bowls and not come close. He talks and talks and, while I got into a nice argument with a Jets fan who says Ryan has pulled back on the trash-talking, that just isn't accurate. Because once again Ryan is doing just that.

This time he says, via The New York Post's Brian Costello, that the Patriots should be worried about the Jets. I think he may have said similar before, but I lose track.

"Somebody asked me if we focus on New England. Bullsh–," Ryan said. "We're focused on us. We're focused on us and how are we going to be better. I have to be honest, I don't worry about them. They need to worry about us. I think that's really where we're at now."

What's amusing about this is that the Patriots have won the last five division titles and 10 of 11 since 2003. The only one they didn't was 2008, when Brady missed 15 games and they still went 11-5. Ryan hasn't won a division title. He's finished second four times and third once. I'm not exactly sure what the Patriots are supposed to fear.

Ryan is a fantastic coach. One of the best. Maybe he can actually, you know, beat the Patriots for a division title instead of talking about it.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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