After months of second-guessing players' rationales and wondering why even the league's athletes were prone to media suggestion, I grinned like a Cheshire cat when I saw that Peyton Manning was listed as the second-best player in the NFL. New England's predatory Patriots finally got just credit as the finest at his position in today's game.
Franchises live and die by the man they line up under center, and the New England Patriots may be the prototypical example of what NFL life is like with a fantastic signal-caller running your offense.
In my opinion, Tom's rank as the No. 1 player in the NFL is obvious. As rifles fire with every touchdown at Gillette Stadium, the popping sound and smell of cordite are like a demand to take notice that Tom Brady just put another bullet through another opponent's heart.
Reviewing the results of the countdown on the league website, I noticed that the fans feel differently.
According to fans participating in the poll, Brady is the third-best player in football, which sounds respectful. Yet, both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning rank ahead of him.
Participating fans deem Brady as the third-best quarterback in the game today.
This begs a simple question: Why? For me, it's a classic example of "Tom-foolery," the tendency to want Brady to be less great than he is despite all evidence to the contrary.
The Rodgers sentiment is merely the fickle nature of NFL fans on large display, as though Brady's playoff loss negated his three rings and 36 touchdowns in 2011.
Properly removing the Packers quarterback (for now) presents a simpler question: Peyton or Tom?
One broke Dan Marino's touchdown record. The other broke Peyton Manning's touchdown record.
One vied for the first undefeated season since the 1972 Dolphins in 2005. The other completed an undefeated regular season and drove his team to the lead in the decisive Super Bowl.
One has three rings, a winning record against the other and a 2-1 advantage in postseason contests between the two of them; yet, Manning always seems to get the public nod as the game's finest player.
I don't want to delve into a Manning vs. Brady argument, as it has been tried by various sources, every debate predicated on reason and statistics determining Brady as the champion. However, the legacy of both men is so often tried against the other that a study regarding the greatness of one will inevitably refer to the other.
Critics will argue that Brady's supporting cast has been elite, but those same critics would objectively have to make the same arguments for (or is it against?) Manning, Roethlisberger, Rodgers and every other successful quarterback in the league.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to which quarterback has the skill set to most readily succeed and delivers most consistently.
For any team leader, quarterback or otherwise, there are ups and downs in the football carousel. Sure, Brady hasn't won the Super Bowl since 2005. Manning hasn't since 2006, but they both topped the recent countdown.
Nevertheless, in keeping with the analogy, Brady is a trained canine, tactical and precise in his approach, and there is no more deadly quarterback in the modern NFL. Ever since an injury to Drew Bledsoe let him of the leash, his bite has been nasty, redefining the standard against which NFL quarterbacks are judged.
To put it simply, Tom Brady is the man. Ask yourself, honestly: Which quarterback will be the standard by which the next generation will be judged?
The wise fan realizes that this is the most pertinent question regarding the "best of the best" in any walk of life, and the answer ends with two men: Manning and Brady.
Just like the aforementioned carousel of life in the NFL, our argument has come full circle, proving that the two signal-callers will be eternally graded against each other. Sometimes, fate just has it that way.
Here is my list of the top 10 reasons that Brady should be regarded as the finest quarterback in football, eclipsing each of his peers and creating the benchmark for "The Top 100 Players of 2021." Reasons will include accomplishments, personal attributes and statistics.