Manning, Brady at the head of the class

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Manning, Brady at the head of the class

By Peter Bailey-Wells

Almost every NFL record for passing has been broken in the last 10 years.

Almost. 

You know why?

Because of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

See, if you know me, you thought this week’s column was going to be a big “eff-you!” to all of the Tom Brady doubters out there. Not quite.

Rather, it seems prudent to celebrate that NFL fans are watching not just Brady, but Manning as well. It might seem presumptuous to make that judgment before the two players retire, but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.

Brady and Manning are the greatest quarterbacks ever. Top two. The GOATS.

Better than Dan Marino, John Elway, Brett Favre and Joe Montana.

I just named a few quarterbacks, all Hall-of-Famers, who might be considered the greatest of all time. Is it realistic to say that Brady and Manning are definitively at the top?

Yeah, they are.

Manning just threw his 500th career touchdown pass this weekend and Brady eclipsed 50,000 career passing yards. Manning is second in both categories all-time, while Brady sits at sixth in yards and fifth in touchdowns. Brett Favre leads both categories, but also leads in interceptions.

On the all-time interceptions list, you have to go down 16 spots to find Manning’s name and you have to head down 69 spots to find Brady. Brady is second all-time in completion-to-interception ratio.

So bye-bye Favre. Your stats are the best, but that’s only because you played forever. You also threw for 49 more interceptions than anyone ever. You’re not the best.

Marino set most of those original quarterbacking records, but he never won a Super Bowl. Sorry Dan, you’re out.

What about Elway? He won multiple Super Bowls and put up impressive statistics. He led a top-flight offense in his day, but is 200 touchdowns behind Manning and 65 behind Brady. Sorry John, but you’re not the best.

Montana is a three-time Super Bowl MVP. He’s the guy Brady grew up idolizing and was the driving force behind the dominant 49ers teams of the 1980s. He’s ranked No. 4 on the NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players. On that list he is the highest-ranked quarterback. His career completion percentage is lower than Manning’s but about equal to Brady’s. Although he beats both in Super Bowl wins, Brady has made two more Super Bowl appearances than Montana.

So why isn’t Montana right up there with Brady and Manning?

What separates Brady and Manning is their ability to command a win in every game of every season they play. Only once (his rookie season) has Peyton Manning ever led a team that didn’t finish with double-digit wins. Brady has never led a team with a losing record, and only once has a team he quarterbacked missed the playoffs (2003, his second year as a starter). Montana missed the playoffs multiple times and only led his team to double digit wins in six seasons as compared to 11 seasons for both Manning and Brady. Brady also finished one of those regular seasons undefeated at 16-0.

Montana played with the greatest receiver ever (Jerry Rice) and was coached by the greatest offensive head coach of all time (Bill Walsh). He benefitted from those around him more than Brady ever has and although Peyton has also been surrounded by top-level talent, he has put up massive numbers in comparison to Montana. The bottom line is that not even Joe Cool matches up with Peyton and Tom.

Comparing Brady and Manning to each other is inevitable, but their legacies are so intertwined that it doesn’t make sense to distinguish one over the other. Together, they make for the most dominating era of quarterbacking the NFL has ever seen. Since the turn of the century, a team led by Manning or Brady has been in eight of the 15 Super Bowls. The two of them have won half of the NFL MVPs in the last decade. Brady has won three Super Bowls, and Manning’s won one, but Manning has won five MVPs to Brady’s two. Brady has played with a handful of All-Pros and Manning has played with one in almost every season, but Brady has only played under Bill Belichick and Manning has played under three different coaches.

The point is if you swapped one with the other, their results would be the same. Their parallel careers made them into the two greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Peter is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @pbaileywells22.