Last weekend we all witnessed what just might be the final matchup of the rivalry between arguably two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. With Manning’s age and ailing injuries as of late, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him walk away after the Super Bowl next Sunday, hopefully with a win to end his historic career with another championship – and to maintain some dignity against his younger brother Eli at the family dinner table.
Both quarterbacks had quite enduring years, as Tom Brady started nearly every day during the offseason in the spotlight for his Deflategate scandal ending last season, and Manning dealing with lingering quad and plantar fasciitis injuries in addition to recent HGH allegations. Despite this, both players ended up facing off in the AFC Championship game for the fourth time in their careers, with Manning taking the victory and holding the commanding three-to-one career lead.
The trajectory of their careers that led to these memorable matchups certainly makes it all the more interesting, considering the very different nature of their start in the NFL. While Manning was drafted Number 1 overall in 1998 by the Colts, Brady is forever the poster-child of the underdog story, as he was overlooked by everyone before finally being drafted 199th in the 1999 NFL draft, just one year after Manning. Over the next sixteen years, the dynamic duo of Brady and Belichick would own the NFL, besting Manning with four Super Bowl titles, while Manning has bounced from coach to coach and thrived more on personal accolades, recently surpassing Brett Favre for first on several NFL records. This begs the question, who did it better? What exactly is the true barometer of success for an NFL quarterback, and how much does literally being the best ever mean if you can’t win titles? Beyond the legendary head-to-head matchups of these two greats, the true fascination in their careers is really how differently they defined success.
The future certainly promises a great debate of Brady or Manning as best quarterback of our generation and will truly be one of intrigue as the dichotomy of success in their careers divides a line amongst fans’ definition of the greatest to ever do it – sound familiar, basketball fans? Surely once Manning and Brady are both retired Hall of Famers, you can expect to see this SportsCenter segment more than your fair share of times, and who knows how crazy the Skip Bayless vs. Stephen A. Smith arguments will be? In the meantime, we can only wait, and just appreciate the greatness we all got to witness in the golden age of the quarterback. For my money, I’ll take Manning, but I guess I should note: I’m a Jets fan.