Finally Settling the Debate: Brady vs. Manning

David Contributor IAugust 13, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 07:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts shakes hands with Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots after the Colts defeated the Patriots 40-21 at Gillette Stadium on November 7, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images)

Quarterback: a back in football who usually lines up immediately behind the center and directs the offense of the team.

With all due respect to Dictionary.com, you failed. Everyone knows the job of a quarterback in the NFL. Call the play, say hike, and do what the play is designed for, right?

Wrong. Words cannot describe what the quarterback does for a team. Perhaps the most overrated and underrated position in all of sports, it is definitely the most important.

Throughout history, there have been a small group of men who are remembered as great quarterbacks. Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway come to mind. They will go down in the history books as some of the best to ever play the game.

So what made these men so special, you ask? What separates them from the good, or the ones better than the good? Sure they all put up huge numbers, broke records, and are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But these men have something in common that others do not have: the ability to put it all together and lead their respective teams to the ultimate goal of winning championships. 

In my mind, there are four categories that constitute a successful quarterback: supporting cast, statistics, championships, and intangibles. For those uncertain, intangibles take into account skills such as leadership, command of the huddle, performance in pressure situations, and off the field behavior. Basically, these are attributes that cannot be taught, but rather learned through experience. I would also like to include that championships alone do not make a great quarterback (ex: Trent Dilfer).

Alas, we come to the arguably two greatest quarterbacks of the last ten years. Scratch that. Definitely the two best quarterbacks of the last ten years. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Either way you put it, you have two future first ballot Hall of Famers. The age old debate of which quarterback is better will be settled here and now.

To decide which quarterback is greater, you must first put in perspective the surroundings. Football is the most dependent sport in the world of the team around you.

In that case, it is obvious that Peyton Manning had a better supporting cast his whole career. Sorry Colts fans, but it is true. In total, he had position players with a combined 15 Pro Bowl Selections and nine First Team All-Pro Selections. I would say those are some pretty good players including Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Edgerrin James. He also had an offensive line built around three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro center Jeff Saturday. All that remains now from those players are Reggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday, but players like Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, and Anthony Gonzalez all have major amounts of potential.

As for Tom Brady, he had a bunch of "average Joe" position players on offense like David Givens, Deion Branch, and recycled running backs like Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk. Now these players were all good, but not close to the likes of those on the Colts. Recently however, the Patriots decided to give Tom Brady some backup with rising stars like Wes Welker, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Sammy Morris, along with proven players such as Randy Moss, Fred Taylor, and Joey Galloway.

Although both quarterbacks now have similar levels of talent on their own team, I would have to say that Peyton Manning has had more help over time than Tom Brady. Therefore, the nod goes to Tom Brady for having a less talented supporting cast to work with, and being just as successful.

The next category would be statistics. No one in their right mind is going to argue with the numbers that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have produced through out their career. Let's start with Manning:

When Peyton Manning was drafted first overall in the 1998 NFL Draft, expectations were very high considering the Colts had passed on the hyped Ryan Leaf. Good choice. He did not disappoint by throwing for 26 touchdowns and 3,739 yards in 16 games started. Both are still standing rookie records. Through Peyton's career, he has accumulated 45,628 passing yards, posting an average of 4148 yards per season. He has also thrown for 333 TD passes which gives him an average of 30.2 TDs per year. He also boasts a career QB rating of 94.7, tops in the league. Peyton Manning is no slouch when it comes to statistics.

Tom Brady's first year in New England was as a rookie. His rookie season, unlike Manning, was spent riding the bench. He threw three passes, completing one of them. Next year, Tom Brady unseated Drew Bledsoe as the starting quarterback for the future. In his early years, Tom Brady was a very solid quarterback who you would want under center for you. The perfect game manager, making minimal mistakes, and always knowing where everyone has to be or what to do. Do not misinterpret: Brady did have all the talent in the world but he never "exploded" until he got some help. We all knew what was going to happen when the Patriots got Moss, but we had to see for ourselves. Undoubtedly the greatest statistical season by a quarterback ever, Brady but up unbelievable numbers in 2007. He threw for 50 TD passes, which is an NFL record, 4,806 yards (less than 300 yards away from an NFL record), and posted a 117.2 QB rating, tops in the league. I'm not sure if this is a record or not, but I think this is incredible: In 578 passing attempts, he only threw 8 interceptions. In other words, he only threw an interception 1.4% percent of the time. As well as Manning, Tom Brady is definitely up there when it comes to QB statistics.

We will never know if Brady would have had the same success he did when Moss and Welker were around, but we can assume they would have improved if only just a little. Unfortunately, it did not happen, so we conclude Peyton Manning is the king of stats. Chalk one up for Manning.

The third requirement is championships. There really is not much to debate here. Fans want Super Bowl victories and Tom Brady has delivered, more than Peyton. To be considered a great quarterback, among the elites, you must have a ring or two. Dan Marino once said without hesitation that he would give up all his personal accolades for one Super Bowl ring. Real players play for championships, and Brady has Manning beat there. Point for Brady.

Last, but certainly not least, are intangibles. The first step to becoming an all-time great is having the intangibles, or the untouchables. What I am trying to say is you need to have the innate skill to be a QB. Let's face it, if you cannot handle immense pressure put all on your shoulders or guiding and directing 10 or more other men when they look to you, try out for the kicking position.

Peyton Manning, thankfully, has gotten his ring. Starting out 9-0 in 2006, people were starting to believe the Colts would just choke like the season before in which they started out 13-0 and lost in the playoffs. Peyton Manning was painted a choke artist, as a man who only performed well until it came to crunch time. He proved his critics wrong and led the Colts to a 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLII against the Bears. Manning cleared his head of all the whispers in his ear. Win one or two more, and you are the greatest ever.

Getting out of fairy tale land now, Manning's career was not all success and glamour. The man could not even win a playoff game until January 2004 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Peyton's career playoff record is 7-8 which is pretty unspectacular. Manning's career statistics have a severe drop-off when compared to those of the regular season. It was if he could not handle doing it by himself, or carrying his team. He has played 15 total games in the postseason, comparable to a regular season. He has thrown 22 TD passes and had a rating of 85.0. When compared to his regular season average of 30 TD and a 94.7 rating, he did not do so well.

Tom Brady's performance in crunch time is far superior to that of Peyton Manning. Some have even knighted him the best two-minute drill quarterback of all time. He led game-winning drives in two Super Bowls against the Rams and Panthers. No doubt, that ability is a natural talent. Brady's career playoff record is an incredible 14-3. In his first four years as a full time starter, he won three Super Bowls and claimed four playoff berths. Simply, Brady knows how to win when it counts. Give Tom Terrific the edge in intangibles.

As we tally up the score, let us reflect on what we have gathered here today and how it relates to the future. Manning and Brady will always be a hot topic to discuss, and answers may change. Who knows? Tom Brady may re-injure his knee so bad that he must retire from football early. Peyton Manning may succumb to radiation poisoning after setting a new NFL record for most career commercial appearances. Both athletes still have more ahead of them, but only time will tell.

The vote is in! Our quarterback of the decade is...

Tom Brady!


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