Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had their fair share of battles in their illustrious careers, and provided many of the NFL’s classic games from their first meeting in September of 2001 in Tom Brady’s first career NFL start, to January of 2016 in one of Peyton Manning’s final games. The debate has raged on for which quarterback reigns supreme, even after Peyton Manning’s retirement, and there are fair amounts of debate defending both of these future Hall Of Famers. I’ll be taking a deeper dive into the statistics of all categories and notable points in both of their careers, and hopefully bring some clarity to who should be declared superior of the two legends.
First Point: Career Regular Season Statistics
Peyton Manning is often regarded as the greatest regular season QB of all time. I would have to agree, as Manning’s statistics are unmatched in the regular season. In total, Manning has posted 64,601 passing yards, 499 TDs and 226 INTs, with a completion percentage of 65.3% in the regular season. Manning is most impressive in the games leading up to the postseason, and that is where he really shines compared to other NFL legends.
Tom Brady in the regular season isn’t as spectacular as Manning, but his statistics aren’t poor by any means; he has passed for 55,933 yards, 417 TDs to just 129 INTs with a completion percentage of 63.35% in the regular season. Brady isn’t a slouch in these statistics, but he just isn’t up to par with Manning in this aspect. While Drew Brees is certainly on the rise, it’s doubtful to think anyone in the league today will match Manning’s regular season statistic totals for yards or TDs.
In this comparison, Manning absolutely crushes Brady for this category, but the asterisk is that Brady has thrown nearly 100 less interceptions than Manning. This could speak to the aggressiveness of Manning throughout his career, as he has posted nine seasons with 15 INTs or more. On the other hand, Brady doesn’t have a single season with more than 14 INTs, which he’s posted only twice in his career. I would still give the regular season nod to Manning, but the INT rate is definitely worth having a future debate over.
Second Point: Career Playoff Statistics
Peyton Manning in the playoffs is not as impressive as other quarterbacks. His playoff stats are as follows: 7,339 passing yards, 40 TDs and 25 INTs with a completion percentage of 63.2% in 27 total playoff games. Manning has been regarded as a weak playoff QB by fans and writers alike, but statistically, these stats are about even with his regular season stats with the games he’s played. Strictly looking at the statistics at hand, they seem right on par with a scary TD to INT ratio, with a solid amount of yards and a decent completion percentage.
A statement most fans would agree about Tom Brady; he lives for January. Brady truly comes alive when it comes to the postseason. Statistically, Brady has a playoff resume of 10,226 passing yards, 71 TDs, 31 INTs and a completion percentage of 62.8% to go along with it in a total of 37 playoff games. Brady has an amazing playoff statline and is unmatched by any QB in NFL history, much like Manning in the regular season. Nobody compares to Brady in the month of January.
I think it’s safe to say Brady has the playoff debate on lock. The statistics of Manning just don’t match, and again, the TD to INT ratio for Manning is more concerning than it is for Brady. The passing yards and TDs are both NFL records for Brady, so this truly does lock him in as the better playoff QB.
Third Point: Wins & Rings
Peyton Manning has always been known for his statistics more than his wins and Super Bowls. Manning over the course of his career has a record of 186-79, including a 14-13 playoff record and a 2-2 record in the Super Bowl. As stated previously, Manning is the king of the regular season, and only Tom Brady has more wins. In the playoffs though, he’s just not that spectacular. Manning has a NFL record of nine one-and-done’s in the playoffs, which is unfathomable. As far as winning goes, Manning’s record in the regular season is much more pretty than the postseason.
Tom Brady has only missed the playoffs and lost the AFC East title once in his NFL career when he started a full season. By locking up the division for sixteen years straight, that speaks volume. Brady has a career record of 196-55, with a 27-10 playoff record and a 5-3 record in the Super Bowl. It’s not up for debate that Brady is the most successful QB of all time when it comes to winning.
In this comparison, it’s hard to make a case that Manning is better than Brady in a category where Brady has 24 less losses overall, as well as 10 more playoff wins, including being ahead three Super Bowls. They are both extremely successful in the win column in the regular season, but I’d say Brady definitely has the edge as far as playoffs and Super Bowls go.
Fourth Point: Supporting Cast
Throughout Peyton Manning’s career, it seems as if he has been spoiled with offensive weapons. In the duration of his career, Manning has played with the likes of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker at the WR position. Additionally, he has been blessed with great running backs such as Marshall Faulk (even if for a brief period) and Edgerrin James. Not to mention that Manning was able to produce three 1,000-yard receivers in the 2004 season with the trio of Wayne, Harrison and Brandon Stokley. When given elite level talent, Peyton Manning produces.
On the defensive side of the ball, Manning has not been as fortunate. In his eighteen-year career, Manning has had seven defenses ranked in the top-ten (2002, 05, 07-09, 12, 15). Manning certainly has a little bit of room to complain about the lack of defensive help in his career. The only time Manning has been able to win the Super Bowl is when his defenses were in the top two (2005,the Colts were ranked #2, 2015, the Broncos were ranked #1). When he has the supporting cast, Manning is able to produce in some respects.
Tom Brady has not been so fortunate on the offensive side of the ball, as I would say he has only worked with a few high end wide receivers and tight ends such as Randy Moss (for a brief period), Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. The offenses Brady has worked around have usually been built from the ground up. Although, when you work with great football minds like Bill Belichick, Charlie Weiss, and Josh McDaniels, it’s fairly easy to create serviceable weapons with what other teams might consider scrap. The Patriots are famous for making low-name players into what looks like top-end talent.
On the defensive side of the ball, Brady has been spoiled with some of the most consistent defenses in the league. In the duration of his career, Brady has had a total of thirteen defenses in the top ten, including two first-ranked defenses. It certainly does help that Coach Belichick is considered one of the greatest defensive minds in all of football, and is able to produce defensive superstars like Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty and many others.
Brady has been able to rely on his defense for most of his career, but if you look at the statistics, he certainly wasn’t “carried” by any means. Brady does his part to match his defense’s efficiency, and has been able to produce numerous Super Bowls because of it.
Final Point: Head-to-Head Record
The most important part of a rivalry between anybody is what they did against each other, and I would say that at least in this department, the results are lopsided. Peyton Manning may have finished his career with a win against Tom Brady, but they were the last of few victories in head-to-head battles. The final record between the two was 11-6 in favor of Brady.
This point is fairly straight forward. Brady had Manning’s number early on in the rivalry where he started off with a 6-0 record before he suffered his first loss against Manning in 2005. The rivalry finished off with a 6-5 record in Manning’s favor, but when you add it all up, Brady was dominant with the early success.
In conclusion, this was one of the greatest, if not the greatest rivalry in NFL history. When looking at all of these points and statistics, this rivalry could easily be viewed both ways, and is often hotly debated among the NFL community. However, I would have to say this rivalry sways to the side of Tom Brady. The wins are just too lopsided to the side of Brady to the point where it’s tough for me to say that Manning is the superior quarterback.
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