Read It and Weep: 5 Reasons Why Peyton Manning Is Still Greater Than Tom Brady
It's the great sport debate of our generation.
The Manning/Brady duel continues to rage on, splitting opinion all across the country. It has fuelled one of the fiercest and most entertaining rivalries in all of football between the Colts and Patriots and is a timeless discussion, as lively as ever after Brady's recent MVP season.
So what makes it so compelling?
Well, essentially it's like something out of "Blood Brothers". Manning, picked first overall in the 1998 Draft and son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, has been touted for greatness in the league ever since he was an embryo.
Brady on the other hand was found in the depths of the 2000 Draft and, despite being written off at every stage of his career, defied his underdog status to rise to the very top of the game.
There, he met a more-than-worthy adversary in Manning and ever since the two have fulfilled their destiny to be arch-rivals. (In reality the two are close friends, but let's keep that on the down low for the purposes of this article.)
There's no doubt that both are great players, slam-dunk Hall of Famers and ultra-competitive athletes. But sports fans being sports fans, of course one must be mightier than the other.
So apologies Tearful Tom, but here's five reasons why, 13 years after he was drafted, Goliath still kicks David's butt any day.
1. Pressure to Succeed
Taking into account their draft positions, naturally the expectations on the shoulders of these two guys were totally different. Let's start with Peyton.
Of course the pressure on the first pick of any NFL draft is monstrous. Especially as a quarterback. A player is given a boatload of cash in guaranteed money (leaving them open to criticism if they put a foot wrong on or off the field) and is told to be a leader and command the respect of other players, despite not having played a down of NFL football.
OK. So that's the state of play for your average number one picked quarterback.
Now add in that your dad was successful in the league at the same position and everybody expects you to be the same.
And that your decision to stay for a senior year at Tennessee was highly scrutinised and any mistake you make will likely be put down to making the wrong decision at that point.
And that you're joining categorically the worst team in the NFL, who expect you to be their saviour and win from day one.
I think it's safe to that Peyton Manning was the most under-pressure quarterback in NFL history.
Now a lot of people argue that Tom Brady was under the same sort of pressure after being drafted. They say that the pressure of being cut is the most threatening in the NFL. And they're right.
If you're Curtis Painter, that is.
Listen, when you have skills like Tom Brady there is no risk of getting cut. The fact is that whatever pressure was on him, Brady was always going to secure his place, thanks to the ridiculously low expectations that come with being a 6th round pick.
Considering that both players are among the most talented to ever play the game, Manning's task of turning around a franchise was simply light years away from Brady's of retaining his place on the roster.
2. Approach to the Game
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There's only one way to describe the way that Peyton Manning plays the game of football.
Whatever the situation and however big the game, Manning is never afraid to step up in the pocket and make a tough throw into tight coverage. He plays with fire every game for the benefit of the team (sometimes leaving himself vulnerable to criticism as a result) and is an ambitious passer, always looking for the next opportunity to connect downfield with receivers for a big gain.
Brady? Not so much.
Although his accuracy is unquestioned, he plays in a high percentage offense which is based almost solely on creating yards after the catch. Brady is required to make short to intermediate throws that are low risk, but highly productive.
Sure, he only gave away 4 interceptions in 2010. But how many times did he have to drive the ball intermediate to his receiver on a skinny post with a safety roaming in the secondary, a linebacker undercutting the route and a 280 pound defensive end up his backside?
3. Reliance on Others
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No matter how much we big-up the importance of the quarterback in the NFL, football is a team game. You need to succeed in all three facets of the game to be a championship caliber franchise.
It's been pretty obvious over the years that Manning has had very little help in this area. From porous run defenses to simply Mike Vanderjagt, Peyton has spent his whole life as a Colt making up for blunders beyond his control.
Manning has survived and succeeded under three different head coaches, transitioning seamlessly between changes in regime. He's evolved with the offense over his career and never missed a beat after losing favourite target Marvin Harrison and guardian left tackle Tarik Glenn.
Brady, meanwhile, enjoyed immediate success in the league.
But can we really say that he would have done as well without that defense that shut down "The Greatest Show on Turf" in 2001? Or without mastermind head coach Bill Belichick barking the orders from the sideline?
In a word, no.
They say that "defense wins championships." The fact is that while Brady's early successes prove this to be true, Manning's 2006 triumph was the exception to the rule.
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Being a great quarterback isn't just about how many postseason games you've won. It's not about how many single-season records you hold either. It's about going out on the field and dominating week in, week out, for extended period of time.
Now both of these guys have done that, there is no question about that. But who has been the most consistently great player over the course of their career?
Well stats-wise, Manning is the model of consistency. He has a passer rating of over 90 in all but three of his 13 seasons and has thrown for over 30 touchdowns in an impressive six of his campaigns.
Brady's career has a more lop-sided feel to it. Statistically, his Super Bowl winning years were not accompanied by great quarterback performances, accumulating passer ratings of 86.5, 85.7 and 92.6 respectively. He has only five seasons with a passer rating over 90 and just two throwing over 30 TDs.
Of course, Brady has produced two years which will go down in football history. His 50 touchdown passes in 2007 still beats out Peyton's 49 as the most in a single season and his 36 to 4 TD to interception ratio in 2010 is comfortably the best in history.
But when Brady has struggled to follow up his success with further quality seasons, Manning has stepped up to the plate and delivered MVP caliber seasons time after time (four to be precise.)
5. Importance to Franchise
It's hard to imagine the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning. He has become the face of the franchise, the face of the city of Indianapolis and, like it or not, the face of the NFL over the last decade.
His importance to his franchise is greater than any other player in the league. But why?
Well there are a number of reasons.
First off, the role he takes on the field immediately elevates him above any other signal-caller in the game. Manning is essentially an offensive co-ordinator, constantly changing plays at the line of scrimmage and playing mind games with opposing coaches. As Rex Ryan said last year "Playing against Peyton Manning is like a game of chess. And he's a heck of a chess player."
More than that though, off the field Manning takes on the responsibility of being spokesperson for the Indianapolis Colts too.
Think about it. When something fishy goes down in Indy, (great guy though he is) no one wants to know Jim Caldwell's take on it. We don't even care about Bill Polian. The first and only person anyone wants to hear from associated with the Colts is Manning, and therefore he takes on the responsibility of giving not only his, but the whole franchise's views in his meetings with the press.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Brady.
They went 11-5.