Eli vs. Peyton: Who Really Holds Claim as Best Manning Brother?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 19, 2013

In the National Football League, the Manning family is royalty. Brothers Eli and Peyton are two of the league's biggest stars, with three Super Bowl rings between them. The matchup between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants in Week 2 will be one of the most talked-about games of the 2013 regular season.

The two are similar to the world's most famous royal siblings in some respects. On the football field, Peyton is very much Prince William, the picture of seriousness and dignity. Eli, on the other hand, is Prince Harry, the gunslinger who sometimes flies by the seat of his pants.

Their styles may be different, but it's hard to argue with the results. Both have won the NFL's biggest game, and their careers will all but certainly end with both enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One can't help, at this point in their respective careers, but do a bit of comparing. It's only natural. Believe me, the brothers themselves likely do it. It's just something that brothers do.

So, which one is it? William or Harry? Which brother is the Man(ning)?

According to a former teammate of Eli Manning, that answer is simple. As John Breech of CBS Sports reports, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber believes that Eli has supplanted Peyton at the top of the Manning food chain:

The expectation was that he was never going to be Peyton. I remember having these conversations with people who watched Eli in college, saying, "He's good, but he's never going to be Peyton, he's not Peyton." Guess what? I think he's better than Peyton. Because of clutch. What matters in sports? It's winning and losing. You get to the stage and what do you do? Eli's gotten there and he's won.

On some level, Barber has a point. Eli has experienced quite a bit more postseason success than his older brother, with an 8-3 record in the playoffs versus Peyton's 9-11 mark.

However, that comparison comes with caveats of its own. For starters, there's the simple fact that Peyton has played in nearly twice as many playoff games as his younger brother. Eli may have had more success once he gets there, but Peyton gets there like clockwork.

Then there's the fact that football is very much a team sport. Yes, Eli has led fourth-quarter comebacks in both of his Super Bowl victories, but New York's upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII was spurred by a dominant performance by Big Blue's defensive front.

If Asante Samuel doesn't drop a game-clinching interception, and David Tyree doesn't make one of the most remarkable catches in NFL history, then the Giants don't win that game. They did, but to make a blanket statement that "Eli is better because he has more rings" is just nonsense.

Ben Roethlisberger has two rings too, but as good as Roethlisberger is, no one outside of the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback's mother thinks he's better than Peyton Manning.

We'll give the postseason success points to Eli though. He wins that battle, but that doesn't mean he's won the war.

A look at the regular-season numbers for each player, for example, sends the momentum back in Peyton's direction.

Even with Peyton's lost 2011 season thrown into the equation, his numbers are significantly superior to Eli's. He's thrown for more yardage and touchdowns per season, with fewer interceptions and a higher passer rating. Peyton has far more 4,000-yard seasons and years with 30 or more touchdown passes.

With that said, here come those caveats again. For many years the Colts were very much a passing team, while Eli's Giants have been more focused on defense and running the ball. It's not exactly surprising that Peyton's raw stats are better.

A look at the stat behind the stats sends Peyton into the lead.

According to the inverted rankings (i.e. higher is better) from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), only once has Eli outranked Peyton among NFL quarterbacks in the last five years. That was in 2011, when Peyton didn't play. In two of the last five years PFF ranked Peyton as the NFL's top quarterback, including last year.

To both players' credit, only once over that stretch has each Manning ranked outside the NFL's top 10 signal-callers.

What about the most important stat of all? Wins and losses?

Peyton has a significant edge in that regard as well. His .688 winning percentage is over 10 points higher than Eli's. The weighted winning percentage used by Pro Football Reference results in a narrower gap, but the gap still exists.

It's also worth noting that, according to that metric, devised back in 2009, Peyton is the winningest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.

Peyton also wins the battle for individual accolades. Eli may have more rings and two Super Bowl MVP awards to Peyton's one, but Peyton has 12 Pro Bowl trips to Eli's three. Peyton has also been named the NFL's Most Valuable Player a record four times and has a Comeback Player of the Year award on his mantle after last year.

It's starting to look like Eli is going to need one of those clutch comebacks to pull this one out.

Oh yeah, about that.

According to Pro Football Reference, Peyton has led 49 game-winning drives in 15 seasons, or 3.27 per year. Eli, on the other hand, has 28 such drives in nine seasons, or 3.11 per season.

Eli, however, does enjoy a slight edge in fourth-quarter comebacks. In nine NFL seasons, Eli has engineered 24 such comebacks, or 2.67 per year. Peyton's 38 fourth-quarter comebacks in 15 years checks in slightly lower (2.53 per season).

Neither stat is a huge surprise. Peyton has led plenty of comeback wins, and Eli holds the record for most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a season with 15 in 2011.

In other words, Barber's assertion that Eli is more "clutch" is a myth, bolstered by the fact that two of Eli's comebacks came in the Super Bowl.

In fact, had Tracy Porter of the New Orleans Saints dropped the ball in Super Bowl XLIV like Samuel did in Super Bowl XLII, Barber would have even less of a leg to stand on, but he didn't.

Frankly, the whole debate over which Manning is "better" is rather silly. Both players are Super Bowl champions and future Hall of Famers.

It's like debating the '68 Chevelle vs. the '69 Mustang. They're both very nice cars.

With that said, sports fans love to make comparisons, and the fact that the two players involved in this comparison are brothers just makes it all the more compelling.

Once you do compare the two, however, just about every objective criteria outside of gaudy jewelry leads to one conclusion.

Prince William wins.

That's OK, Eli. Just rub some dirt on it and you'll be fine.


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