This weekend’s AFC Championship game pitted the Denver Broncos against the New England Patriots. The two squads are led by NFL icons Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, respectively. Although the Broncos defeated the Patriots and are headed to the Super Bowl, the question of who will leave a stronger legacy is still up for debate. This week, two contributors weigh in on the debate between the two future Hall-of-Famers.
Though it needs no reminder, the current season Peyton Manning is coming off of has been nothing short of astonishing considering his advanced age and his supposed fragility, having undergone four neck surgeries. The four-time (soon to be five-time) MVP anchored what was statistically the greatest offence in the history of the NFL. The Broncos recorded a whopping 606 points which topped the amount put up by the Tom Brady and Randy Moss-led New England Patriots (589) that went undefeated in 2007. On top of that, Manning surpassed Drew Brees’ mark for most passing yards in a single season (5,477), and Tom Brady’s mark for most touchdown passes thrown in a single season (55). Manning also became one of only six players to throw seven touchdown passes in a single football game.
This season included, Manning now sits at 64,964 career passing yards and 491 career passing touchdowns. Presuming he sticks around the NFL for a few more seasons, it’s only a matter of time before he surpasses Brett Favre’s illustrious records. Favre took 302 career games just to achieve those records. Manning is on the verge of breaking them with only 240 career games under his belt. It’s worth noting that the greatest passer rating Tom Brady ever recorded was 117.2 in the aforementioned undefeated season with superstar receiver Randy Moss. Peyton Manning owns two of the five greatest passer ratings ever recorded in the NFL, one of which was higher than Brady’s best.
Of course, we could talk about Manning’s lack of Super Bowl wins and relatively mediocre post-season playoff record compared to that of Brady’s, but the reality is that football is a team sport, one in which the quarterback has to rely on his defence to come out on top and win the big one. Brady would probably be the first person to tell you that it takes help, and even a bit of luck to get the job done. Needless to say, he won three Super Bowls playing alongside elite defences and the golden foot of some guy by the name of Adam Vinatieri. Brady does have a significantly better head-to-head record, but that doesn’t change the fact that Manning has more fourth quarter comebacks, more game-winning drives, and has the more recent Super Bowl victory between the two. Brady is clutch, but he hasn’t quite delivered the goods when it’s mattered most, coming up short in five playoff games despite being favoured for the past 11 he’s played in.
While neither quarterbacks have performed their best on the big stage these last few years, the clock is slowly running out on both of their careers. Without a doubt, Brady is spectacular in his own right, but with that being said, I’d be hard pressed to find a better all-around player under centre than Peyton Manning.
— Dan Gilbert
When it’s all said and done, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will likely go down as the two greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. The debate will never cease as to which of the two has the rightful claim to be deemed the greatest of all time; however, when it comes to a lasting legacy on the game of football, Brady’s is one that Manning will never be able to surpass.
Resorting to a numbers debate in this matter would be futile, with both quarterbacks tallying up staggering career statistics. While Manning will undoubtedly finish with higher totals in most categories, passing yards and touchdowns don’t determine legacy. Records are made to be broken, and it is only a matter of time before another quarterback throws for more touchdowns, or more yards in a season. Peyton Manning is arguably the greatest regular season quarterback of all time; but unfortunately for Manning’s legacy, the regular season isn’t what matters.
Ask any player, any coach, or any team owner, and they will tell you that their one and only goal is to win. As Herm Edwards once famously said, “You play to win the game!” Ultimately, the lasting legacy left by these two living legends will boil down to winning.
With three Super Bowl victories and five AFC Championships, Tom Brady’s legacy will go down as one of the—if not the single—greatest of all time. After all, when you are a die-hard fan of a team, you don’t remember the year when they went 13-3 in the regular season, but lost in the divisional round; you’ll remember the season when your team went to the biggest stage in sports and took home the Lombardi trophy. It’s that moment that lives on in your memory; it’s that moment that you’ll tell your kids about.
Throughout his career, Brady has time and time again performed better than Manning when it has mattered the most. With a .720 winning percentage in the playoffs compared to Manning’s .426, as well as a .775 regular season winning percentage vs. Manning’s .696, Brady comes out on top.
For 14 years in the league, Brady has consistently led his team to championship games and Super Bowl appearances. With that being said, if you had to choose one quarterback to build a team around, or one quarterback to be the face of your franchise and lead the team to the promised land, Brady is your man.
As the 199th overall pick, Brady has defined his career as one of the most clutch performers in NFL history. While Brady’s numbers speak for themselves, his lasting legacy—the legacy that will overshadow that of Manning’s—is that of the greatest winner in all of football.
— Drew Allen
Editors’ pick: Manning
Although Tom Brady has more Super Bowl titles under his belt, Peyton Manning’s continued dominance in the record books cannot be matched. The notion of Brady being unflappable when it matters most has waned. While both players will go down as two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, it is Manning who will likely leave the greater legacy.