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Friday, September 9, 2011

Is Peyton Manning The Greatest QB of All Time?

After Manning's third neck surgery, it looks as if his season may be over before it began.  What the Colts fear worse is that his career may be over.  This prompted me to tackle the long debated question of who is better; Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?

To be fair, you really can't justify who the better quarterback is.  You can't justify who the greatest of all time is, because QB's have played in different era's with different levels of talent.  Since Manning and Brady both play in the same era, we can dig a little deeper to dissect what these guys do well. 

Let's start with Peyton Manning.  When he came into the league, the Colts were awful.  He broke the record for most interceptions thrown by a rookie QB in a season with 28, and the team finished 3-13.  This is usually what happens to a young QB that's drafted first overall.  The team gets the first pick because they are pretty bad, so he didn't have much around him to work with.  But when Tom Brady had to take the field in 2001 (his second year in the league), he came in for an injured Drew Bledsoe on a well coached team that had a great nucleus.  He started off playing very poorly, but got better as he adjusted to the system and players.  So if we combine the start of the two QB's careers, it's not a fair comparison because the Patriots obviously had a much better team than the Colts.  Therefore, we cannot compare Manning and Brady in this aspect.
Now let's look at how these teams would perform without their star quarterbacks.  Manning has played every game since he's came into the league, so we won't really know how the Colts will respond until Sunday when Kerry Collins leads the Colts onto the field.  When Manning broke the TD record with 49 in a season, he was out of the game in many 4th quarters, giving way to Jim Sorgi.  The Colts could not move the football without Manning in the game.  This team still has the same personality.  They struggle to run the football, and it's based on a heavy dose of timing routes.  Manning makes it work, where Sorgi and Painter couldn't.  In 2008, when Brady went down in week 1, the Patriots regrouped with Matt Cassell and went 11-5.  Just look at Hoyer and Mallet who are the 2nd and 3rd quarterbacks currently on the roster.  They played amazing throughout the preseason and look to be viable replacements if Brady goes down again.  How is this possible?  It's not because Brian Hoyer or Matt Cassell are outstanding quarterbacks.  It's because of the system.  Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and has a very credible system in place that is proven to be successful.   

Now let's look at the talent around these guys.  Personally, all I've heard is how much better Peyton Manning's surrounding cast has been than Tom Brady's.  I don't buy this at all!  Both had good offensive lines, but the Patriots have had the Cowboys line of the 90's.  Brady doesn't get touched!  The last few years the Colts have been shuffling lineman so Manning hasn't been as safe as he has in the past.  As far as receivers, it depends on the year we're talking about.  When Manning threw 49 TD's, he had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley.  What has Stokley done on any of the teams he's played for since he left the Colts?  I'm just saying, he was a system player.  When Brady threw 50 TD's, he had Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth.  Now we can say the same thing about Stallworth as we said about Stokley.  One important aspect to note on these record breaking seasons is Peyton Manning went out early in 6 games during the regular season, sitting out most of the 4th quarters of these games.  Brady played every game in full, throwing TD's in the 4th quarter of games they were already winning by 20.  The last five seasons, Tom Brady has definitely had a more consistent running game in New England than Manning has had in Indianapolis.  Overall, I think both teams had great players that fit their schemes, so it's hard to say who has had the best surrounding cast.

Ultimately, I don't think you can ever compare any two elite quarterbacks and say one is better than the other, because there are simply too many variables that come in to play.  Surrounding cast, coaches, the system they are playing in,  and what era they played in are all factors that need to be considered.  The question is going to be "Does Manning mean more to the Colts than Brady means to the Patriots?"  We already know the Pats can win without Brady.  On Sunday, we're going to see if the Colts can win without number 18. 

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