Peyton Manning And Tom Brady Prove The Impossible

ManningBradyTwo all-time great quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, square off against one another today. Whenever they do, the inevitable question of who is the best comes up.

The pro Manning crowd points to:

  • All of the records Manning has broken.
  • All of the records he is projected to break.
  • Manning’s five regular season MVP awards.

The pro Brady crowd counters with:

  • The three Superbowl wins.
  • That Brady never had the offensive weapons that Manning had.
  • In the one year Brady had Randy Moss still in his prime, Brady put up incredible numbers and won one of his two regular season MVP awards.

But then the pro manning crowd would counter that Brady had the benefit of playing for arguably the best coach of all-time in Bill Belichick (and never had to play against him). And Brady played on teams with much better defenses.  They could also argue that defense and the field goal kicking of Adam Vinatieri played huge roles in the Superbowl wins.

Finally the Brady peeps would counter, Brady is clearly the better cold weather quarterback and better clutch player…

The thing about all of these points are; they are kind of true. But to say which one is better still comes down to a guess or an opinion. Empirically speaking, from a scientific perspective, the only way to definitively say who is better would have been to have cloned both players, all of their teammates, coaches, and stadiums they played in, and have the duplicates play with the same assets, liabilities, and conditions, at the same time, and see who performed better.

About the closest we may get to that is in a J.J. Abrams TV show. Barring that, have fun with this topic but don’t take it too seriously. Same goes with other QB comparisons. For those that bang the table and swear Joe Montana was the best ever, they’re saying that definitively if Peyton Manning or Tom Brady were QBing those 49er teams they would not have won those Superbowls. I’m not comfortable with that. Who knows, maybe they each would have won 4, 3, or 5? Remember, Montana had as many or more offensive weapons as Manning, had arguably the greatest offensive coach off all-time in Bill Walsh, father of the west coast offense, and played on teams with much better defenses than Manning and arguably as good or better than Brady’s.

Back to Manning V. Brady. So it is true that Manning has had more offensive weapons, but he always needed them, especially in Indianapolis. His defenses were not as good and some of his great teams also lacked the clutch kicking that Brady had in Vinatieri (until Vinatieri later signed with Indie). Mike Vanderjagt missed a huge 46 yard kick in the playoffs against Pittsburgh that Vinatieri doesn’t.  Conversely, in the infamous “tuck rule” playoff game Vinatieri made a 45 yard field goal in a blizzard.  Does that make Brady better than Manning?

So Manning had to score more and had to take more chances which inevitably leads to more mistakes because he could not trust his defense to make the stop or have his field goal kicker make the clutch kick like Brady could.

And for all of the talk we here about how much better the Patriots are when they have the injury prone tight end Rob Gronkowski in the lineup… The same could be said about the Indianapolis defense in the Manning days about Safety Bob Sanders, and how much better they were when the oft-injured player was on the field.  Better defense = would have meant more offensive possessions for Manning = less pressure to score on every possession.
None of that means I am decided in Manning over Brady. Brady is the consummate team player. Never complains and has been given less weapons than any “great” quarterback I have ever seen. Back in the day, those 80’s & 90’s 49er teams were hiring “capologists” to circumvent the cap. They would keep all of their great players and add others. It seems like the Patriots let go a key player or two every season and don’t always spend to the cap.  If the Patriots had the 49ers mentality of keeping and acquiring talent might Brady’s teams have won 5 Superbowls?  Inconceivably 6 or 7? This could have meant more regular season and SB MVPs for Brady and perhaps even another run at a perfect season.

Defense has been the priority for the Patriots and aside from the Moss year in 2007 when the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season, you can argue Brady has had the least weapons of any of the great quarterbacks, but has still put up impressive numbers of his own, and oh by the way 2 Superbowl MVPs and 3 wins overall.

I do think if Manning played for either Bill Walsh’s 49ers or Bill Belichik’s Patriots, those teams would have at least won the same amount of Superbowls. Conversely, if Brady played for Manning’s team’s I think his stats would closely resemble Manning’s.

So who would I pick? Well their stories aren’t done being written yet. Will Manning become the first QB to lead two different teams to SB wins? Will Brady get a fourth ring?

Don’t know. Not sure I care… I’d be doing back flips if I started a franchise and either was my starting QB in their prime. But not to cop-out on the question, if you put a gun to my head, if Manning wins a second Superbowl I would lean in his direction, if he doesn’t, depending on how it goes down, I would lean towards Brady.


Want some stats (some serious, some fun) for the comparison?  Click here