Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: A Look Inside the Numbers

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIJanuary 2, 2009

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have often become the subjects of limitless comparisons. As they are usually viewed as the top two quarterbacks of their generation, it's only natural that people often want to compare the two of them.

Beyond being two of the best at their position this decade, the two men also happen to be budding rivals who have together gone on to create one of the most intense rivalries in the history of the National Football League.

For argument's sake, I'm going to take an in-depth look at both the regular season and postseason statistics posted by both these two quarterbacks. In doing so, I will attempt to cover everything from yards and touchdowns to quarterback rating and Super Bowl rings.

Lets first begin by stating the obvious fact that Peyton Manning has played longer than Tom Brady. Essentially, Manning has played about four more seasons than Brady. Brady was in college for Peyton's first two pro seasons and road the bench during 2000. A devastating knee injury sidelined Brady again for essentially, the entire 2008 season.

That now aside, lets take a look at the statistics posted by both quarterbacks in their first seven active seasons...

Peyton Manning: 2,464-of-3,880 (63.5%) for 29,460 yards; 216 TD passes, 120 INT's, 213 rushing attempts for 620 rushing yards, 9 rushing TD's, 38 fumbles (13 lost).

Tom Brady: 2,293-of-3,639 (63.0%) for 26,364 yards; 197 TD passes, 86 INT's, 267 rushing attempts for 533 yards, 5 rushing TD's, 65 fumbles (29 lost).

The Verdict: Peyton Manning had a slightly higher completion percentage. He threw for 3,096 more yards and 19 more touchdowns. Manning also threw 34 more interceptions. Brady on the other hand fumbled 27 more times than Manning, losing 16 more fumbles than Manning did.

The statistics presented above in the regular season are actually not as close as you'd think. I'll compare 2001-2007 to give you a more in-depth analysis.

In five out of those seven seasons, Manning had the higher completion percentage.

In five of the seven seasons, Manning passed for more yards.

In five of the seven seasons, Manning threw more touchdowns.

In four out of the seven seasons, Manning threw less interceptions.

In five out of the seven seasons, Manning fumbled less (once they were tied).

In five out of the seven seasons, Manning had the higher quarterback rating.

But if you want to look at the career numbers...

Manning has passed for over 4,000 yards nine times, Brady has only done so twice.

Manning has thrown over 30 touchdown passes four times, Brady has only done so once.

Manning has completed over 65 percent of his passes seven times, Brady has only done so once.

Manning has posted a quarterback rating over 90.0 eight times, Brady has only done so three times.

Those are the numbers. In my opinion, Brady had a fair amount of catching up to do after competing with Manning's first seven seasons. When you factor in an additional four Pro Bowl seasons, all with a quarterback rating higher than 95.0, then it puts Manning's numbers far out of reach.

To make things even more difficult, Brady barley played during his rookie season. Many might not consider this fair to be entered into the comparison, but Peyton played at a much higher level in college than Brady. Thus, he earned the right to play as a rookie. Your efforts in the college ranks do have a factor in your NFL career, and as a result Manning got to play an extra season.

Brady's knee injury this year was something he could not help. There is no fault to be had, but it did take what could have been a good year for him, away.

Brady is only one year younger than Manning so if you look at the comparison logically, he's very far behind. I'm not saying it's all fair, but that's how it is.

In my opinion, Peyton is the clear winner here.

The only argument you have against him is the turnover area, but if your counting both interceptions and fumbles, Manning turned the ball over 18 more times but scored 19 more times while accumulating many more yards through the air. As bad as any turnover can be, the worst it does is give your opponent the chance to score some points. Touchdowns guarantee your team six points right there on the spot. 

Also worthy of consideration is the fact that Manning was forced to take over his 3-13 team from day one. He carried all of the pressure of a No. 1 overall selection and had far greater expectations than that of Brady (only a sixth-round selection).

Also working against Manning was the fact that he started playing on a team who's defense ranked 29th in 1998 where as the Patriots defense ranked sixth in 2001. Bottom line, Peyton did not get the same backing as Brady did coming into his career and despite that, he was more productive.

But the story does not end there.

I realize that there are many people out there who feel it is unfair to compare players who have played longer with players who have played less. I'm judging this comparison on who is the greater quarterback as of today.

I think a good example would be that I feel LaDainian Tomlinson to be "greater" than Adrian Peterson. Tomlinson has been far more productive for so many more years. Peterson would have to play another six seasons at his pace to be in the same discussion as Tomlinson. However, if your talking about who has played better this season, the winner would be Peterson.

Same is the case here with Manning and Brady. Peyton has played longer, but in doing so he has already left his mark of production, where as Brady still needs to do so. Something has to be said for being productive over a long period of time.

By that same token, Tom Brady has done far more statistically than Philip Rivers. Will Rivers reach that level after another few years? Maybe. But until he does, we must recognize that Brady has done more.

So, I will now look at the career statistics of both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Peyton Manning: 3,839-of-5,960 for 45,628 yards, 333 TD passes, 165 INT's, 309 rushing attempts, 717 rushing yards, 17 rushing TD's, 52 fumbles (17 lost), and was sacked 205 times.

Tom Brady: 2,301-for-3,653 for 26,446 yards, 197 TD passes, 86 INT's, 276 rushing attempts, 533 rushing yards, 5 rushing TD's, 65 fumbles (29 lost), and was sacked 203 times.

Tom Brady is 19,182 yards, 136 passing TD's, and 12 rushing TD's behind Manning at this point in time. Since he has played about four seasons less than Manning, this is what he'd need to average over his next four seasons in order to just equal Peyton's production.

4,796 yards, 34 touchdown passes, and 3 rushing touchdowns per year.

That's 1,018 yards, 6 touchdown passes, and 2.3 rushing touchdowns more per year than his current career averages. But since his career averages are quite high, that would be a nearly impossible feat to accomplish.

He certainly is on good pace to better Peyton's interception mark, but he's already fumbled 13 more times in seven seasons, than Peyton has in 11.

So to be fair, I've decided to look at sets of circumstances both players have been playing in during their careers, to shed some light on the statistics presented above.

In Brady's favor, he has played outdoors during his career, which many consider to be more difficult than throwing from the comfy confines of a dome in at least half of the games each year. I'd argue that a team such as the Patriots has a very powerful advantage playing in such elements, but that does not mean it is as easy to throw there as in a dome.

Another thing that I always thought was in Manning's favor, has actually helped Tom Brady more than it has Manning. With running backs like Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, and Joseph Addai playing with Peyton, I always simply assumed that Peyton had a better running game in place to balance the pass. But if you take a closer look, that is not the case.

From 1998-2008, the Colts as a team have averaged 1,684 rushing yards per year.

From 2001-2007, the Patriots as a team have averaged 1,767 rushing yards per year.

How can this be? Well, the Colts have usually focused on giving their star back the majority of the carries. Rarely have they had a backup running back with considerable talent (Dominic Rhodes being the exception).

The Patriots, on the other hand, focus more on spreading their carries around. This has kept their running backs more energized and with such a plethora of talented backs, they have managed to average more rushing yards as a team than the Colts.

What this means is that Tom Brady has actually had more support on the ground than Peyton Manning, believe it or not.

The next factor to look at would have to be the backing both players got on the other side of the ball. As stated before, Peyton began his career playing with a defense ranked 29th in the league and Brady began his career playing with a defense ranked sixth in the league.

Between 1998 and 2008, the Colts defense has ranked an average of 16th overall. Only four times in 11 seasons were they ranked in the top 10. That's only playing with a top 10 defense 36 percent of the time.

Between 2001 and 2007, the Patriots defense has ranked an average of seventh overall. They had a top-10 ranked defense in five of Brady's seven seasons. That's 71 percent of the time that Brady got the top-tier backing.

I personally feel that this is something that often goes unrecognized. Defense wins championships and having a championship-caliber defense backing you up can make a profound impact on the amount of games you win.

Furthermore, when you play with a great defense, you as the quarterback do not have the same amount of pressure to win games yourself. If you can play with the comfort of not needing to win the games on your shoulders, it makes things a lot easier.

This was an advantage that Brady had much more often than Peyton. And even as a Colts fan, I can admit that our best our defense was not of the caliber of New England's. 

Since the postseason is where Brady has excelled, it's only fair to look at the post season statistics as well.

Peyton Manning: 323 of 523 (62%) for 3,897, 21 TD's, 17 INT's, and a 84.4 QB Rating

Tom Brady: 372 of 595 (62%) for 3,954, 26 TD's, 12 INT's, and a 88.0 QB Rating.

Peyton's post season record is 7-7 while winning one Super Bowl. Brady's record is 14-3 while winning three Super Bowls. Clearly, Brady has the advantage in the postseason, but he also had the aid on the other side of the ball, far more than Manning did. Does that make Peyton's post season performances more impressive than Brady's? No. But such things should be considered.

Peyton has had his success in the postseason as well. He posted a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 against Denver in 2003. He threw for just under 500 yards (most in postseason history) against Denver in 2004. He won the only punt-free playoff game in history against Kansas City in 2003. He led the Colts on an 18-point comeback over Brady's Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship game.

I, for one, am surprised that Manning and Brady's statistics are as close as they are given the perception both players have gained in the postseason. Even so, Brady does have the advantage.

Overall, these are both player's career records (postseason included)

Peyton Manning's record is 124-64.

Tom Brady's record is 99-30.

Brady does have the higher winning percentage, but the longer you play, the more difficult it usually is to keep that winning percentage up. Peyton Manning has also won more games in a single decade than any quarterback in NFL history.

I'm certain many people will chime in about Brady's Super Bowl wins, but you have to realize that this comparison is between two individual players. Teams win championships and Brady played for better teams.

So when it's all said and done, this is how I look at the situation. I feel that Brady is a very good player playing for a great team and Manning is a great player playing for a very good team.

Both are future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks. This article was not intended to bash Tom Brady. Looking at the information presented, I think everyone can see how good he is. It just so happens that in the statistical department, Peyton Manning is in a league of his own.


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