Tom Brady is the best… and the discussion stops now


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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It’s over.

Stop the comparison and conversation and argument and debate right now… because if you don’t support Tom Brady, you’re embarrassing yourself.

And, for all intents and purposes, the debate ended last night as the final seconds were ticking off the clock.

Let’s go to the stats…

Winning Quarterback
Losing Quarterback
Passing (Completion Percentage)
34/40 (68%)
19/36 (52.7%)
Passing Yards
Yards Per (Attempt -- Completion)
6.88 -- 10.11
4.16 -- 7.89

And before we even consider those statistics, one more thing, the running game…

Winning Quarterback
Losing Quarterback
Total Team Rushing Yards
Yards For Top Running Back

Ok… those details in place… here we go…

There are people that like to debate whether Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of the modern day. There are some that will even take that debate as the solution to the ultimate debate, going so far as to place these two alone into competition for the title of greatest of all time.

And all of that is well and good… you know, except for the fact that there isn’t a debate.

In order for there to be a debate, there has to be room for opposing viewpoints. And in this situation, there’s not.

Tom Brady is clearly the better quarterback.

(And…frankly… it’s not even close.)

(Stop… stop… you’re just embarrassing yourself by even trying.)

Let’s get something straight right out of the gate. Heck… let’s get three things straight…

First -- Peyton Manning is incredible.

Everything I have ever seen, heard or watched of the man exhibits nothing short of a true class act. I don’t just like him… I respect him.

Second -- This article makes the story seem one-sided, which I believe it is. But…

In virtually any listing of greatness, Brady and Manning are two of the five best quarterbacks of all time. I think if you said to anyone that knows football: “Make a list of the best five quarterbacks to ever play, in any order, and I’m just going write Brady and Manning down to start things off before you say anything”… yeah, they wouldn’t stop you. While any number of others might create the rest of the list, Brady and Manning would be part of their five.

After that we get into all sorts of thoughts based on the demands of their playing days, leadership, and so on… which brings names like Montana, Starr, Unitas, Elway, and others into the conversation to round out the five.

But placing Brady and Manning in the top five? Pretty much automatic. Done. No arguments there.

You probably could even hold a conversation with the same people about the top three of all time, make the same Brady and Manning are there statement, and the majority of those you approach would still let you get away with that.

In other words… we aren’t talking about two great quarterbacks… we aren’t talking about two legendary quarterbacks… we aren’t talking about two all-time quarterbacks. We are talking about the unquestioned very best of the very best, with hushed tones and rarified air. Superlatives don’t count any more. These are guys that provide the definitions of performance… the measuring sticks… by which all levels of accomplishment for others are defined.

Third -- Yeah… the end of the game.

Before I go into the separation of Brady and Manning… before I place the crown on Brady’s head and ask him to sit on the throne… let’s expand on the first two items and keep this in mind.

The Broncos were losing the game in regulation play, and scored a touchdown that would force overtime.

When the chips were down… trailing by 7, only just clear of 70-yards passing in the game to that point, and 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter… Manning drove the Broncos 80-yards in four and a half minutes for a touchdown. The drive included over 50-yards of passing from Manning, at his most efficient level of play in the entire game.

Remember up above I gave the numbers for Manning as the losing quarterback. Check this out…

Final Scoring Drive
Entire Game
Passing (Completion Percentage)
5/7 (71%)
19/36 (52.7%)
Passing Yards
Yards Per (Attempt -- Completion)
7.57 -- 10.6
4.16 -- 7.89

Take section three, compare to section two… the definition of performance by which others are measured.

Here’s the thing though… I’ve gone on for more than 750 words, and the reality is I promised you a simple answer.

I did.

After all, I said: It’s over.

That’s how I opened this essay. I have repeatedly pointed out that it shouldn’t be a debate. And, so far in the process, I’ve basically tried to show why saying he’s not Tom Brady doesn’t mean Peyton Manning isn’t phenomenal or any of several other superlative adjectives.

But there is a reason why I’ve been avoiding the obvious so far, beyond just stating it outright. And that’s because it is so obvious.

Let’s consider for a moment the frameworks and ideas that so often might use to compare Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.


On every level that goes to Brady. Five Super Bowls… three titles… a fairly routine presence in AFC Championship games.

Most Valueable Player Awards?

Look at that… both of them have MVP awards… but Manning collects them in ways that find many already have him getting their votes for next season, and he hasn’t finished winning the award again this season yet.

We could even go back and forth and try to match up different statistics, and we would find some that favor Manning.

The trouble is, almost every figure or statistic or thought you might want to utilize has problems. As an example, Manning played indoors for most of his career… Brady has been outside for the majority of his games.

So honestly, you need to get rid of the traditional frameworks. And when you try to strip back the thoughts to the most basic essentials, there are two ways to look at these quarterbacks, and neither one supports selecting Manning.

The first way is by judging their career and won-loss records.

Regular Season
148-43 -- 0.775 Winning %
18-8 -- 0.692 Winning %
166-51 -- 0.765 Winning %
Regular Season
167-73 -- 0.696 Winning %
11-12 -- 0.478 Winning %
178-85 -- 0.677 Winning %

Two things really stand out from this comparison. (1) Brady is the only quarterback to be more than 100 victories over .500 for his career. And while Manning is likely to join that club if he plays just two more seasons (and could do it in one more), the number of games it took Brady to accomplish the feat compared to how long it will take Manning is staggering. It’s about 60 more games… almost four seasons. (2) Look at the playoffs. Peyton Manning has a losing record in the playoffs. Not just fewer Super Bowl titles or Super Bowl appearances… he has a losing record for his career in the playoffs.

(Editor’s note: These records were double-checked after the completion of the season that this article involved. Nothing else in the article was adjusted.)

The second way is the most simple of all. See… we can debate whether or not it’s fair to judge statistics and MVPs and Super Bowls in a team sport. That is open to debate.

When Brady is playing in New England… when Manning plays most of his career in a dome… can you fairly debate numbers? Even if both teams were playoff-level for most of those years?

But what if we simplified things? What if there was a way to compare the two when they played in similar conditions?

And guess what? There is!

And thanks to the NFL for scheduling procedures that attempt to balance things out by taking division rankings of one season to determine the random games for the next… and thanks to Brady and Manning leading the Patriots and the Colts (and the Broncos it would appear, as this battle between the two continues) to multiple division titles… we have a really great sample size of similar conditions.

They’ve played against each other 14 times now.

Up above I shared the stats for Brady (Winning quarterback) and Manning (Losing quarterback) from yesterday’s matchup between New England and Denver. And, as you can see, it’s not even close. Brady was better for completion accuracy, total yards, averages, and all while not throwing an interception.

But get this… forget looking at just the 34-31 New England victory… if my research is correct, here are some overall numbers from 14 contests between Brady and Manning.

Won loss record… Brady is now 10-4 against Manning. (And, he has a winning record against Manning on the road as well as at home… he is currently 3-2 on the road. He is also 2-1 in the playoffs.)

Points per game… Pats are at 30 per contest, and Manning with the Colts and the Broncos is just under 25.

Completion percentage… Brady 67% and Manning 62%.

Touchdowns with interceptions… Brady 26/12 and Manning 29/20.

About the only thing Manning wins at is passing yards per contest.

(And, when on average you are 5-points down in each game, you are going to be throwing a bit more. Right? But, oh yeah… when I started this column out, I pointed to the running game. And here’s why…)

With a 24-point lead, the Broncos were certain to pull the plug on a passing game. Let’s face it… the numbers in this contest are tremendously slanted in Brady’s favor for a reason. But the reality is, as the major part of 280-yards combined rushing for the team, Knowshon Moreno turned in a phenomenal game. It’s not like the Pats stuffed the Denver running game. And, on top of that, the Broncos knew Brady had to pass, and had pretty much dominated the New England running game.

I understand people want to assign other factors into comparing these quarterbacks.

…Brady put up most of the numbers early in his career, and hasn’t been as dominant in the playoffs over the past few seasons.

…Brady lately has been to the Super Bowl twice, once entering with an undefeated team, and come away with no titles from them.

…it wasn’t Manning playing defense when the Ravens scored on that playoff drive late in the game last season.

But the problem there is nit-picking. It’s justification. It’s trying to find supporting evidence for the argument by saying (my words): “Look! Look! They aren’t as different as you think.”

I already told you though… they aren’t as different as one might think. These are the very best of the very best we’re discussing here.

When someone tries to point out that Manning threw 3 touchdowns to Brady’s 2 in this year’s game, I am going to reply that 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and a victory is more impressive than 3 touchdowns with an interception and a loss. It is more complicated than saying 3 is a larger number than 2.

But I don’t think it has to be more complicated when you strip away certain elements and have the ability to look at longevity based, often from the same field, results.

Brady has the better career winning percentage… regardless of breakdown… overall, regular season, and playoffs.

Brady has the better head-to-head winning percentage… pretty much regardless of breakdown… in New England, in Indy, regular season, and playoffs.

And when on the same field, the statistics I’m seeing show Brady to be more accurate while making fewer mistakes.

Peyton Manning is running one of the most powerful offenses the NFL has ever seen this season. He might even break some records… and could get to another Super Bowl. If he wins another MVP… another title… and some of the late career contests between these two that are yet to come (but certain to happen)… it might be worth considering this debate again.

Might be.

But after the game that took place this week… for now… there is no debate any longer.

All hail the king… and the best is Tom Brady.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at