There has been a major trend in sports media over the last 10-15 years to give quarterbacks singular credit for team success. The signal caller that is probably the most debated in this fashion is Tom Brady of the Patriots. Some people believe he is an all-time great, while others believe that New England’s three Super Bowl titles were much more due to Bill Belichick’s scheming and a nasty defense than QB play. New York quarterback Eli Manning has always been in the shadow of his all-universe older brother, but that seemed to change a little when the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The G-Men and Pats will meet again this Sunday, and many around football are wondering which team actually has the edge at the media’s “hero” position.
Which quarterback would you want in this Super Bowl?
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think this question breaks down two different ways. As far as just quarterback play, I would take Eli Manning. His numbers on third down and in the fourth quarter this season have been staggering. Manning’s play was clutch in Green Bay and San Francisco as the Giants earned another Super Bowl trip the hard way. As far as the team around the quarterback, coaching and good playoff fortune, I’d take Tom Brady. The Patriots’ point guard has Bill Belichick and staff on his side, which usually means the best-prepared team in the NFL. The New England defense ranked 15th in points allowed this season, while the Giants ranked 25th. I think Brady has better components around him, who pulled out an AFC title win over the Ravens when their QB had zero touchdown passes, two interceptions and a passer rating of 57.5. This Super Bowl should be another close game in the 20s with one or two key plays determining the outcome. While I like Manning’s game better, recent history says Brady and the Patriots are much more likely to be the benefactor of an opponent’s mistake, a blown call or a fortunate big play.
I have no problems siding with Eli here, although I'm probably in the minority. Everyone knows about Tom Brady's playoff results (16-5, three Super Bowl rings), but his counterpart on Sunday is no slouch when it comes to the postseason. The younger Manning is 7-3 in the postseason and his completion percentage (59.8), touchdown-interception ratio (16-8) and passer rating (87.5) all compare favorably to Brady's playoff numbers. What's more, Eli comes into Sunday playing his best football of the season. Going back to the regular-season finale against Dallas, Manning has completed 100 of 156 passes (64 percent) for 1,269 yards (317.3 per game) and 11 touchdowns with just one interception in his past four games. Remember, this is a New England team that had the second-to-worst pass defense (294 yards per game) in the regular season. Besides, the game's in Indianapolis, so you have to take a Manning, right?
Let's see — if I had one postseason game to win, what quarterback would I want leading my team? How about the winningest postseason quarterback in history? Tom Brady is 16–5 as a starting quarterback in the NFL playoffs, tying him with Joe Montana for most postseason wins but a few ticks ahead of him in postseason winning percentage (.762 to .696). Brady is 3–1 in Super Bowls, and the one loss in Super Bowl XLII was a fluke. Yep, I said it. Eli's been excellent, but remember: His seven career postseason wins have been compressed into two bursts — the 4–0 run culminating in the aforementioned fluke, and this year's 3–0. In other words, in six of Eli's eight seasons in the league, his teams either failed to make the playoffs (2004, 2009, 2010) or were one and done when they did (2005, 2006, 2008). Eli's the flavor of the moment, but I'll stick with the greatest postseason quarterback of this generation.
I'd take today's Tom Brady over a healthy Peyton Manning in his prime. But this year, Eli Manning is playing better than Peyton ever did in the playoffs. So this is a legitimate debate as far as I'm concerned — especially because I think Elite Eli will beat Tom Terrific (again) on Super Sunday. Eli has thrown for 923 yards, eight TDs and one INT for a 103.1 passer rating in victories over the Falcons, Packers and 49ers. But Brady has three Super Bowl rings and has established himself as this generation's Joe Montana. I'm going with Brady, no doubt; but Eli is closing fast.