by Jim Bearor
Let’ start off this piece by playing a little round of the “The Dating Game” with quarterbacks, because I always have fun trying to guess. Here we go: Which of these guys is the better playoff quarterback:
Lucky Quarterback #1: 8-7 in last 15 playoff starts
Lucky Quarterback #2: 8-7 in last 15 playoff starts
Welp, sorry about that stat, that doesn’t help at all. But how do things change when I throw in some actual in-game statistics?
Lucky Quarterback #1: 63.49 Completion %, 281.4 YDS/GM, 7.41 YDS/ATT
Lucky Quarterback #2: 62.06 Completion %, 245.9 YDS/GM, 6.74 YDS/ATT
QB #1 might have a slight advantage here, but the difference is almost negligible. Here’s one last hint though:
Lucky Quarterback #1 thinks that Lucky Quarterback #2 has played under the greatest coach of all time for the duration of his career. Does that do it for you?
That’s right, QB #1 is Peyton Manning, and the QB#2 is Tom Brady. Of course I took certain liberties choosing which statistics to show, because if I chose something like, say, career playoff record (Peyton’s is 10-11 while Toms tops the NFL’s leaderboard at 18-7), this wouldn’t have been any fun. Brady has Manning’s number in head-to-head matchups as well, where the Brady/Belichick duo have won 9 of their 13 games against Manning, including the regular season.
But Peyton is right by the way – Belichick is the best coach in the league, and probably the smartest man to ever put on a headset (definitely the smartest man to ever wear a sleeveless hoodie). This is something he has learned from experience, as throughout much of his career in Indianapolis, he has been frustrated by less talented New England squads that seemingly always play to the best of their abilities. Time and time again in these Brady/Manning Bowls, we have seen Peyton walk off the field after an uncharacteristically bad interception, followed by Brady coming in and embarrassing the Colts defense. Series of events like this have become engraved in every football fans mind, even the Peyton Manning playoff apologists.
Tom Brady certainly deserves most of the credit whenever his legendary offense is brought up, he is the unquestioned leader of that group. You can’t however, give Brady credit for the brilliant schemes and execution of the Patriots defense, much like Manning shouldn’t be held accountable for the shortcomings of his defense in Indy for so many years – and don’t forget about Rahim Moore’s big “oops” against the Ravens last year. No, the quarterback isn’t at all responsible for whatever happens with his team’s defense, that is the property of the players on the other side of the ball, and the guy calling the plays — which, for New England, happens to be Bill Belichick.
Throughout his career with the Pats, Coach Belichick has been known for gameplanning to take away the opposing offense’s top threat, and forcing them to beat him in other ways. More often than not, this proves to be successful. Either a team is exposed for being one-dimensional, or the pressure is shifted to a group that is not used to being in the spotlight. For whatever reason though, Belichick’s schemes have worked enough to bring his team to 5 Super Bowls – and for the sake of this conversation, they’ve worked well enough to stifle the greatest statistical quarterback of all time.
While Tony Dungy will likely be a Hall of Famer very soon, and John Fox is no scrub, – although Jim Mora is – nobody is on the same level as Belichick. So when a Brady/Manning Bowl is discussed, Belichick should be the third guy that is mentioned, no question about it.
To clear things up, I don’t mean to take anything away from Brady. He is head-and-shoulders a better playoff quarterback than Manning is, and that isn’t something that can be changed this late in either’s career. Brady is better with less help around him (case in point: Troy Brown), and outside of maybe Montana, there is nobody in the history of the NFL more fit to lead a game-winning drive in a game that matters. All I ask is that the next time you compare the two – which in all likelihood, will probably be in the next hour – don’t leave Belichick out of the discussion. It’s like snubbing Darth Sidious when talking about how evil Vader was — just careless.
Other links about Brady and Manning that might tickle your fancy:
As always, thanks for reading. Feedback and sharing are always appreciated.