By: Eric Dowdall
Sport fans love to argue sports, plain and simple. Whether its LeBron versus Jordan, Federer versus Nadal, or any other debate among athletes, it’s tough to find universal agreement on any major sports debate. Nowhere is this more evident than in the National Football League’s (NFL) greatest debate: Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning.
On one side, you have the statistical juggernaut and four-time (soon to be five-time) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. On the other hand, you have one of the greatest winners in NFL history, three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. It’s the classic debate between statistical dominance and proven winning.
Each player’s credentials, however, are not limited to what they are best known for. Manning has reached two Super Bowls in his career, winning Super Bowl XLI. Conversely, Brady has won two MVP awards during his career, while putting up impressive individual numbers during the second half of his career.
Therein lies the debate. Those who argue for Brady being the greatest quarterback of this generation point to Manning’s inability to win in the playoffs, seemingly ignoring his two Super Bowl appearances and his Super Bowl ring. Those who support Manning as the greatest quarterback point out his statistical dominance over Brady, forgetting the MVP awards and numerous records Brady has accumulated during his tenure in the NFL.
It’s easy to make a case for and against both players. For Manning, critics can point to his below-average career playoff record of 9-11, which includes being eliminated eight times in their first game. However, many of those losses came in the early years of Manning’s career when he was often backed by a poor defense. Brady, on the other hand, won all three of his Super Bowl championships in this first four years of his career, when New England boasted one of the leagues elite defenses. However, Brady cannot be faulted for taking advantage of these strong teams, as he made the most of his chances and etched his place in history with those three victories.
The personal comparisons run thick as well. Brady holds the head-to-head advantage over Manning, wintning nine of their 13 career meetings, including one this season. Manning holds the statistical edge against Brady, as he holds the single season record for both yards passing in a season and touchdowns in a season, both achieved this year. The touchdown record is especially interesting as Manning surpassed Brady’s record from 2007 (a year in which Brady beat Manning’s 2004 record by one touchdown).
This year’s post-season could go a long way in settling this debate. Should Manning and the Broncos win the Super Bowl, Manning would be just one Super Bowl ring behind Brady, with the records and MVP awards advantage. However, if Brady and the Patriots win, his four Super Bowl rings to Manning’s one would make any debate tough to argue. One thing that is not up for debate is that this year’s playoffs, and a possible AFC Championship matchup between the two, could be one for the ages.