Tom Brady was left without a nearly equal adversary Monday.
One of the NFL’s greatest rivalries came to a close, when Peyton Manning officially announced his retirement.
Brady began his feud with Peyton Manning way back on Sept. 30, 2001, when the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 44-13 at Foxboro Stadium and finished it off with a Jan. 24 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. There will be no Brady-Manning 18, which “sucks,” as the New England Patriots quarterback appropriately put it to TheMMQB.com’s Peter King.
The rivalry’s hype grew a bit absurd at times. The matchup between the quarterbacks overshadowed their great teams, even though Brady and Manning never actually shared the field. Reciting their stats before each matchup became a chore, but the games usually lived up to the ballyhoo.
Manning always was the perfect foil to Brady and Patriots fans. New Englanders love Brady for his postseason heroics, while Manning typically put up better regular-season stats. There was a case for either as “The GOAT” until Brady won his fourth Super Bowl and it became clear Manning’s career was trending on a steep decline in the last two years.
Brady “won” the rivalry with an 11-6 career record, but Manning surprisingly held a 3-2 postseason edge over the Patriots quarterback, giving Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts fans just enough of an argument to keep the competition alive.
The most gratifying aspect of the rivalry was their shared respect. And while that might sound corny, it always was easy to tell it was genuine.
That obviously doesn’t mean both quarterbacks failed to take the rivalry personally. The public gained some intel into how Brady viewed his competition when emails were leaked after the Deflategate scandal.
“I’ve got another 7 or 8 years. He has 2,” Brady wrote to a friend about Manning. “That’s the final chapter. Game on.”
Manning undoubtedly said similar things about his rival in private. They’re both human, after all. But Brady texted Manning after the email leaked to clear the air.
That shows, as King tweeted early Monday morning, that Brady and Manning’s relationship was different from many rivals. King said Brady and Manning “hang out.” Brady even got a special shoutout from Manning during his retirement speech.
“I’ll miss that handshake with Tom Brady,” Manning said.
Brady was one of the first people Manning called about his retirement, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said Monday on “NFL Insiders.”
Now Manning’s retirement leaves Brady on a bit of an island without an obvious rival. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, both of whom were drafted four years after Brady and have two Super Bowl victories, are next in line as Brady’s greatest active adversary, but it’s just not quite the same. While Roethlisberger and Eli are good players and likely Hall of Famers, neither will ever be confused for the greatest of all time.
It will be bizarre going into a season without a Brady-Manning matchup to circle on the schedule, and Brady’s next four years won’t be quite as much fun as his first 16.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images