Tomorrow, is Super Bowl day , finally, and an end to all the news stories, prognostications and analysis of the Big Game. I have stayed away from them as much but I can’t but escape the discussions about Peyton Manning and his place in the pantheon of great quarterbacks. One statistic that is repeated ad nausem is that he has only appeared in the Super Bowl twice , winning once, and this is seized upon as the flaw in his resume’. Tom Brady, it is pointed out, has appeared in the Super Bowl five times , winning three times, and this in the opinion of many makes him superior to Peyton Manning. The ” experts” think this puts him just behind Joe Montana ( four rings). What a crock !! Using the number of Super Bowl rings as a measure of greatness is one of the biggest stupidities perpetrated by sportswriters on a gullible public.
To begin with,football is a team sport. There are eleven players on the field at any time,twenty two starters in all. Yes, quarterback is the most important position on the team but, without proper support from the other players, he can’t win. Peyton’s own father, Archie Manning , was a star QB who played on inferior teams in New Orleans and never came close to winning a ring. A quarterback needs a good offensive line to protect him and receivers to throw to. We all saw what happened this year to the Giants when the offensive line broke down and Hakeem Nicks, the speedy deep threat WR got injured. Eli threw more interceptions than TD’s and the Giants didn’t even make the playoffs. Even with a stellar OL and great WRs, a quarterback can’t get too far without a good defense to shut down opposing offenses. Drew Brees, a great QB in his own right, won a ring a few years ago with a great defense to back him up. This year, well as he played , his Saints had a so-so defense and couldn’t get past the Seahawks who have a pretty good offense and a great defense.
Those who claim that Tom Brady is superior to Peyton Manning , based on their head-to-head record don’t know what they are talking about. There are so many things wrong with this argument that I don’t know if I can list them all here, but I’m going to try.
To begin with, Manning’s Indy Colt teams were not as well-rounded as Brady’s Patriots teams; the Colt offense was great but the defense, except for Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, was ordinary. The Colts usually did not do as well in the regular season and conceded home field advantage in the playoffs to the Patriots. This is a big handicap in the playoffs as the home team usually wins. It is worth noting that the only time the Colts beat the Patriots in the playoffs was when the game was played in Indy.( Manning also beat Brady when the game was played in Denver this year). Another huge advantage for Brady : he had Bill Belichick behind him. Whether one likes Belichick or not , one has to admit that he is the best coach in the business. Having him on your side is no less an advantage than Seattle’s 12th man. And, finally, for most of his career Brady had the services of Adam Vinateri , the best kicker in the NFL and one who could be relied on to ice the game in the closing seconds.
Between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady I know who I feel is the better QB. ( It isn’t Tom Brady.) As to the greatest of all time, it is foolish to compare players from different eras. Individual records are no yardstick because they are not really ” individual”. The number of TD passes thrown or yards gained passing is, in addition to the QB’s accuracy, a function of how good one’s receivers are, how good the OL is. If the team has a good rushing attack, it will also impact on these stats. The totals are also affected by rule changes as for example how closely WRs can be guarded, how much contact will be allowed. There is simply no way to objectively and precisely assess the excellence of an individual player in a team game.
So why this grading of quarterbacks based on the number of their Super Bowl rings? Well, it has to do with the human obsession with comparisons and the need for a numerical ” yardstick”, which is supposedly objective. Except that , as we have just seen, there is no such thing. A combination of individual career stats is perhaps the best criterion but the weights attached to the different stats will give rise to criticism, that the assessment is biased.
Based on his single season and career passing records, on his MVP awards, his Super Bowl and Pro Bowl performances I could make a strong case for Peyton Manning as the best quarterback of all time , better than Joe Montana, better than Terry Bradshaw, better than Troy Aikman, and definitely , definitely batter than Tom Brady. But that would lead to cries of favoritism. Better to just say that he is one of the best of all time and leave it at that.