Tom Brady is the best quarterback of his generation. Whether he’s the best of all time is a debate for another time, but Brady is definitely the greatest signal caller of his era, and nothing that happens Sunday can or will change that.
Even if we dream up our wildest fantasies and imagine Peyton Manning throws for 400 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers, single-handedly helping his Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, Brady will still have the better career. Like most quarterback debates, this doesn’t so much come down to concrete stats and facts as it does perception. Manning is in his fourth Super Bowl, going for his second championship; Brady has four Super Bowl titles and six AFC titles with with the New England Patriots. Brady is perceived as a winner. Manning is thought to struggle on the greatest stage.
Manning supporters certainly have their arguments, which is what makes the debate so fun. He’s the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He has a higher career completion percentage (65.3 vs. 63.6) and passer rating (96.5 vs. 96.4) than Brady. He’s 3-2 against Brady in the playoffs and 3-1 in AFC Championship Games. He’s the most productive quarterback of all time. The Broncos’ win over the Patriots in the AFC title game was a feather in the cap of “Manning guys.”
But it’s still a second-place hat.
Super Bowl wins, right or not, set quarterbacks apart. They’re why Joe Montana is considered a better quarterback than Dan Marino, why Joe Namath is in the Hall of Fame, why Eli Manning likely is headed there. And before we get into the “quarterback wins” debate, the QB is clearly the most important player on the field. Let’s say a quarterback’s success accounts for 30 percent of an offenses’s success. That’s still about 12.5 percent of a team’s success in a given game, which is much higher than any other position. And there’s certainly more pressure and a higher degree of difficulty in Super Bowls.
Let’s compare Brady and Manning’s stats in Super Bowls:
Brady: 66.4 completion percentage, 267.5 yards per game, 6.5 yards per attempt, 2.3 touchdowns per game, .67 interceptions per game, .33 fumbles lost per game, 95.3 passer rating
Manning: 68.2 completion percentage, 286.7 yards per game, 6.5 yards per attempt, 1 touchdown per game, 1.3 interceptions per game, .67 fumbles lost per game, 81 passer rating
Brady arguably is even better in Super Bowl games than he’s been throughout his regular season career. Manning is significantly worse in an admittedly smaller sample size.
Brady was magnificent just last year in the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks. He completed 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the Super Bowl XLIX victory, capped by a fourth quarter game-winning drive. Manning, the year before, was completely outmatched, going 34 of 49 for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Seahawks in the Broncos’ loss.
Here’s the dagger in the argument for Brady: He’s still at the top of his game and showed few signs of slowing down in 2015. Manning could hang up the cleats after a mostly embarrassing regular season with a brief and notched-down playoff resurgence. The dream of catching Brady would be dead, but with another ring Sunday, he could at least make family reunions a little less awkward.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
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