Much was made of last night’s Patriots – Colts matchup (a game I hope you didn’t miss—it was that good), with NBC lauding it as “the rivalry of the decade” and lots of debate as to which of the respective quarterbacks is better.
That’s an easy question to answer. Tom Brady is the quarterback of a good team. Peyton Manning IS the team. And clearly the better quarterback.
I’m not saying Tom Brady isn’t capable. He is. But put Tom Brady on another team, and he’d be mediocre. He was drafted 199th for a reason. He’s outperformed his draft position, to be sure. But Peyton Manning is an order of magnitude better than any other #1 overall pick in the game today.
One need look no further than Matt Cassel to see what I’m talking about. Cassel finished and won the first game of the season last year and went on to start the remainder of the season. He led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, with a laundry list of offensive achievements.
Does that mean Cassel is a great quarterback? Some would think so. But he never even started a game in college, and since leaving the Patriots is 2-7 with the Kansas City Chiefs. I’m sure the Chiefs are ready to choke him with that six year, $60 million contract at this point.
Clearly, it wasn’t Cassel that was so good, but the Patriots system. Likewise, Brady isn’t a great quarterback, he’s the quarterback of a great team. He has an outstanding supporting cast—Randy Moss would be a superstar with me throwing him the ball. He’s got a great offensive line, and Kevin Faulk and Lawrence Maroney make the passing game possible. Take Brady out of New England, and he’s a journeyman quarterback that would never make the Pro Bowl.
Contrast that with Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning makes decent players into superstars. I’m sure a BYU fan somewhere will put a contract on me for saying this, but Austin Collie would not be a regular on any other team, if he even made the roster. Collie has (not atypically deluded) BYU faithful calling for rookie of the year honors, which he doesn’t deserve, because Manning isn’t a rookie. The Colts have one of the worst running games in the league. Everyone knows Manning is going to throw the ball on almost every down. Yet somehow, they’re still unbeaten.
Just how good Peyton Manning is was made clear at the end of last night’s game. With 4th and 2 in their own territory and two minutes left, Belichick decided to go for it. He had absolutely no confidence that his defense could keep Manning from scoring a touchdown, regardless of where on the field he got the ball.
All Brady had to do was convert on 4th and 2. He failed. Manning seemed to take his time as he went 29 yards for the winning touchdown. That would never have been a gimme for anyone else, Tom Brady included. But when the Patriots failed to convert, everyone on both sides of the field knew the game was over.
So you tell me—who’s better?