Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning: Who's the Lead Plaintiff?

John McLeanContributor IMarch 3, 2011

NEW YORK - APRIL13:  (L-R) NFL Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning attend the Ermenegildo Zegna Flagship store opening April 13, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
Peter Kramer/Getty Images

While Tom Brady and Peyton Manning decide whether they'll team up to battle NFL owners with an antitrust lawsuit, I thought it would be a good time to revisit an old debate.

Who is the better player—Brady or Manning?

With apologies to Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and any other quarterback you want to name, Brady and Manning are, without doubt or argument, the best signal-callers in the NFL.

And although many people despise both players, the two rivals are so good that no other quarterbacks in the league today can compare with them.

Their statistics and accomplishments are staggering.

In 13 seasons, Manning has been selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times, five times as a first-team All-Pro. He is a four-time league MVP, a one-time Super Bowl MVP and champion, and ranks third all-time in passing yards (54,828) and touchdowns (399).

His average of 263.6 passing yards per game is the highest in NFL history.

Brady’s achievements are equally stellar. In nine seasons (though he has been in the league for 11), Brady has been named to the Pro Bowl six times, twice as a first-team All-Pro.

He is a two-time league MVP, holds NFL records for touchdown passes in a single season (50) and consecutive passes thrown without an interception (335), and—perhaps most impressively—has won three Super Bowl titles and two Super Bowl MVP awards.

There are other numbers to consider. Manning’s career completion percentage in regular-season games is 64.9. Brady’s is a shade behind that at 63.6. 

But Brady’s ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions (2.53:1) is the best in NFL history among quarterbacks with 2,000-plus pass attempts.

Yes, the best in NFL history.

With a record of 141-67 in the regular season, Manning has won 68 percent of his games. Brady has won 78 percent of his regular-season games (he’s 111-32).

You might argue that Brady has played on teams with better defenses than Manning’s, or that Bill Belichick is a better coach than either Tony Dungy or Jim Caldwell, but those points are debatable. To say that the Patriots have not played good defense over the past few seasons is to be very kind to Mr. Belichick.

And then there are the playoffs. Brady is 14-5 in postseason play, with 30 TDs and 16 interceptions. He has seven touchdowns, only one interception, and a 3-1 record in Super Bowls.

Manning’s touchdown and interception numbers in the playoffs (29 and 19, respectively) are good, but his postseason record is an unimpressive 9-10. More critically, he choked in Super Bowl XLIV, losing the game by throwing a pick at the worst possible time. His two Super Bowl performances (2 TDs, 2 interceptions, 1-1 record) are nothing to brag about.

As for durability, Manning’s performance is difficult to match. He hasn’t missed a game in 13 years. Then again, he's been sacked only 1.1 times per game during his career, and there have been plenty of instances when he has avoided contact behind the line of scrimmage by sliding to the turf before the heat gets to him.

Brady is not known for bailing out like that. He's been pummeled many times over the years—especially in Super Bowl XLII.

After that game, in which the Giants sacked Brady five times, knocked him down repeatedly, and crushed the Patriots’ hopes of achieving a 19-0 record, Brady said this: “We all could have done things better. I could have made better reads and better throws . . . [But the loss] didn’t take away anything that we did during the season. We had a great year.”

Manning was far less gracious after his Colts lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a January 2006 divisional playoff game. In a postgame press conference, he essentially blamed his offensive line for the loss. “I’m trying to be a good teammate here,” Manning said. “Let’s just say we had some problems with protection.”

When their playing days are over, both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be in the Hall of Fame. They are two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.

Manning’s regular-season statistics are incredible—and on paper, they will probably look a bit better than Brady’s when both men have hung up their cleats. But Brady’s statistics are outstanding as well, his postseason record is superior to Manning’s, and there is evidence he’s a better teammate.

If the NFL Players Association does file a lawsuit against the league’s owners, Tom Brady should be the first name listed on the paperwork.