The following article was written for Funk Football by Joseph Bellear. It is fully endorsed by the website.
As this decade nears its end, there is little doubt the most controversial question to bring up to an NFL fan is this: Must win game, do you want Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? I realize this topic has been nearly beaten to death, but it seems as if the ignorant party always wins.
Ignorant Party: “ZOMG Peyton sucks, Brady has three rings and Peyton only has one, so Brady is better!”
(Much like prior to the 09 postseason, A-Rod was considered a postseason failure compared to Derek Jeter, despite A-Rod sporting a slightly higher .OPS. Prior to 09, A-Rod registered an .856 OPS compared to Jeter’s .846 OPS.)
Now, as admitted hater of all things Boston (I am a Yankee fan after all), I have an immediate preference towards Peyton. It isn’t exactly a baseless choice, if Peyton continues at his current pace for another five years while putting up his career average statistics; he’ll likely be the greatest quarterback of all-time.
However, despite a Super Bowl title in 2006 and a laundry list of records, there are many arguments against Peyton’s “clutchiness” (yes, it is a made up word). Brady after all has emerged as nearly as prolific as Manning in the regular season thanks to the 2007 acquisition of Randy Moss, he owns three Super Bowl rings and he holds a superior postseason record (14-3) to Manning’s (7-8). But do those numbers tell the whole story?
I can’t think of an interesting or creative segue into cold facts and numbers so I’m not going to bother. So here they are. If you were to ask Tom Brady what style of game he would prefer to play in the postseason, shootout or defensive battle, there’s little doubt in my mind that Brady would pick defensive battle. Why? The Patriot’s defense has held opposing offenses to 17 points or less in 10 of Brady’s 17 playoff games. Brady’s record in those games is a sparkling 9-1. In games where the Patriots allowed more than 17 points, Brady’s record is still very good, but not as immortal at 4-2. But included in that record is when the Patriots allowed 27 or more points, in which Brady is just 2-2.
On the other side of the equation, Peyton has been in 15 playoff games. In those 15 playoff games the Colts have allowed more than 17 points in 10 games, with Peyton sporting just a 2-8 record in those contents. When the Colts allowed 27 or more points, Peyton is 1-2. But when they allowed 17 or less points? Peyton has a 5-0 record.
This should come as no surprise. The cliché in football is that defense wins championships and that is because more often than not, it’s true. Both quarterbacks are basically unbeatable when their defense gives them an above average to great performance.
Another aspect that is often overlooked in this comparison is defensive and special team’s touchdowns. How incredible is it when you see your favorite team run in a pick-6? Maybe there’s a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown. The amount of joy you feel is equivalent to the deflating feeling that the opponent is experiencing at that very moment.
Peyton has enjoyed the benefit of such a momentum boosting moment just once in his postseason career when Kelvin Hayden took a Rex Grossman pass to the end zone in the Super Bowl. By contrast, Brady has seen a combination of seven touchdowns from his defense and special teams.
Does this make Brady any less “clutchy”? Of course not, that would be ludicrous. You can’t hold those touchdowns against Brady, but the fact that Brady has gotten 49 free points from his the rest of team shouldn’t go unrecognized when it comes down to the amount of playoff games and championships that he’s won compared to Peyton who rarely gets that type of support from the rest of his team.
To put those 49 points in perspective, Brady teams average 24 points a game in the postseason offensively, while Manning teams average 23 points a game. But when you subtract the 49 points from Brady’s point total, Brady teams average 21 points a game. Three points, a field goal. It doesn’t sound like much, but consider the fact that six of Brady’s playoff victories have come by three points and you begin to realize how much those extra touchdowns have helped solidify Brady’s place as a postseason icon.
Finally, there’s the cold hard statistics that both quarterbacks have put up in the postseason. Brady has the advantage in some ways with those numbers, buts it’s not as clear cut in favor of Brady as the average Bostonian (or ESPN anchor) would have you believe.
Brady’s postseason numbers read like this, 372 completions, 595 attempts for a 62.5% completion rate. He has thrown for 3954 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 INTs. His yards per attempt are 6.65 and he has averaged 232.6 yards a game. Those numbers are good for an 88 quarterback rating, which is an archaic but still mainstream accepted way of judging quarterbacks.
Manning stat line lies out like this, 348 completions, 564 attempts for a 61.7% completion rate. He has thrown for 4208 yards, 22 touchdowns, 17 INTs. His yards per attempt are 7.46 and he has thrown for an average of 280.5 yards a game. His numbers are good for an 85 quarterback rating.
Manning’s only sin is that he appears to be more careless with the ball than Brady. But there is a reason for that. As mentioned earlier in this passage, Manning often found himself playing in games where his defense was less than stellar. The result? The Colts have had to chuck the ball around more in games than the Patriots which leads to more chances for interceptions. The YPA difference also highlights the fact that Peyton has had to play a riskier brand of football, throwing a little deeper and taking more chances downfield, whereas Brady has been able to play a little safer due to his more favorable circumstances.
If the Patriots were to somehow miss the playoffs and the Colts played in two playoff games this year, would there any doubt that Manning would have around 40 to 50 more pass attempts than Brady, despite playing the same amount of games? With the way the Colts defense and running game has looked this year that might be a low end estimate on my part.
Simply put, Brady has been able to rely on much better defenses and special teams play than Manning ever has. And when Manning did get the type of defensive support that Brady had enjoyed, is it any surprise that he finally won his Super Bowl? Still, that didn’t stop Manning’s extreme haters from criticizing him for relying on his defense to win games for him. Sound like anyone else we know?
At the end of the day, nothing will convince Manning supporters from choosing Peyton in these arguments and nothing will convince Brady supporters from choosing Peyton in these arguments. It is important to realize football fans, that this argument isn’t nearly as lopsided as you may think.