All sports have great rivalries. Currently in the NFL, two elite quarterbacks and two of the best men to ever play the game are best friends and yet worst enemies. They play each other nearly every year and it wasn’t until many years that Manning’s Colts were able to come out on top over Brady’s Patriots. The rivalry between the two has helped them become better players. Because of this, some wonder if they would be as elite had it not been for one another.
Peyton Manning’s story starts with his father and then the University of Tennessee. Archie Manning was drafted by the Saints in 1971 and stuck around for ten years. At this time, however, the Saints’ fans wore paper bags on their heads and referred to their team as “the Aints”. Peyton and Cooper would attend the games with their mother until it became too much of a strain for her while pregnant with Eli.
Peyton eventually became heavily interested in the sport. He and older brother Cooper played in the yard with their dad. Soon, the Manning brothers owned their high school. During Cooper’s senior year as a wide receiver, Peyton became starting quarterback. Just as Cooper is getting ready to go to Ole Miss, he’s diagnosed with spinal stenosis and his football career is over. To this day Peyton honors him by wearing his number: 18.
In the 1997 Rose Bowl against the UCLA Bruins it was Manning’s first time going into a huddle as the Tennessee QB. They were down by 21 so he tries to pump up his teammates with a pep talk. Peyton was a freshman while the rest of the team were mostly seniors. 330 lb Left Tackle grabs him and says:
“Hey, freshman, shut the **** up and call the ****ing play.”
From then on Peyton Manning started every game until eleven years into his NFL career. He was eventually drafted in 1998 by the Indianapolis Colts and played his first professional game against his biggest idol, Dan Marino. The Miami Dolphins came out on top defeating The Colts 24–15 with Marino passing for 135 yards and Karim Abdul-Jabbar rushing for 108.
Tom Brady struggled at Michigan. Head coach, Lloyd Carr, didn’t make it easy for him to play QB. Game after game went on until he decided to do something about it and confront his coach. He told Carr he may transfer because he doesn’t see himself being able to get on the field and feels it’s unfair. Carr, ready to release Brady as he doesn’t want a pouter on his team, tells Tom something we can see has stuck with him to this day:
“Look, you want to be the best, you’ve got to stick it out and try to beat out the best.”
Since this, Brady walked in to practice every day with his A-game, got up early to train, and did his best to be the best — just like he still does walking into practice on the Patriots. Carr said Brady enjoyed the struggle. It changed him and helped him be the competitive player he is today.
To toy with his players even more, Carr eventually had a plan to decide who would be the starting quarterback. He’d put Brady in one quarter, Henson in the second quarter, and decided from there who gets the play the second half. Tom won some and lost some. Tom’s father was upset at the lack of play-time his son had at Michigan.
Brady got his start in the NFL once the Pats lost both games opening the season to both the Bengles and the Jets. Drew Bledsoe was out due to injury and Brady was in. Tom was a sixth-round pick and already knew what it was like not being on the field from Michigan. With what he learned there, he eventually came out on top and started on the Patriots under Bill Belichick.
Ryan Leaf was one of the most impressive quarterbacks coming out of college in time for the 1998 draft. He nearly won the Heisman Trophy coming third behind Peyton and Charles Woodson who won it. Meanwhile, the Colts were deciding between Leaf and Manning for their QB. Both were good — Leaf was probably better. But Manning was a safer choice and more of a franchise quarterback. Bill Polian decides on Manning while Leaf is picked up by the San Diego Chargers. Leaf soon shows bad behavior, he’s not performing well, and after an injury he’s history. Leaf is widely referred to as the biggest draft bust in NFL history.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I got to be a senior in college. It’s not a year you can ever get back. There was no guarantee the Jets were even going to draft me.”
Only a short while before this and before Manning really finished college, the NY Jets showed interest in drafting him while he was still at Tennessee. The NFL doesn’t like these types of deals and discourages it, but nothing about it was against the rules. He did graduate, but with a year of eligibility left to play. Manning had a decision to make, he could’ve played with the Jets for the next fifteen years but he also wanted to play as a senior.
Only a select few players get invited to attend the draft. If you’re guaranteed a spot, you have to be there for pictures and such. Manning was at his draft. Brady was sitting on his couch watching it on TV with his family. Rounds went by and Brady wasn’t mentioned once. Finally in the sixth round, the Patriots selected Brady with the 199th overall pick. This was also the draft where Sebastian Janikowski became the first placekicker since 1966 to be selected in the first round.
The Jets had a better chance picking up a future elite QB in 2000 when Bill Parcells was told Brady would be a wise decision for their sixth round pick. Tony Scott, North Carolina safety, ended up being drafted and played for only 23 games.
Stats and Rings
Playing the numbers game is difficult with these two and some would argue it’s not even fair. The best quarterback can mean different things to different people. In 2004, Manning broke Dan Marino’s record of most touchdown passes in a single season at 49. Come the final game of the 2007 season against the Giants, Brady connected with Randy Moss twice to beat Peyton’s record at 50 while Moss broke Jerry Rice’s record of most receiving touchdowns in a season at 23.
Peyton had called Eli before this game asking, if possible, to keep Brady from passing any TDs so he can hold his record for more than just a few years. His gift to the Giant’s defense would have been a night out at the famous New York City steakhouse, Del Frisco’s. In 2013, now on the Broncos, Manning was able to beat Brady’s record and be sure he kept it with 55 touchdowns in a single season. Recently, Manning also took the lead for most career touchdowns. Keep in mind, he has two years in the NFL more than Brady.
Brady has taken the Patriots to the Super Bowl six times, winning four and being named the MVP three times. This is impressive, especially compared to Manning, who has only been to the Super Bowl three times winning just once.
Had Brady been picked up by the Jets or any other team he would not be the Tom Brady we know today. Belichick plus Brady is simply one of the greatest duos in NFL history. The Patriots have also had great teams each time they went to the Super Bowl, but one thing to keep in mind is this is an elite quarterback. The idea that Brady and Belichick with any other team winning is not far fetched.
Manning is one of three quarterbacks to take two teams to the Super Bowl. An example of his best game and one of the greatest comebacks ever is the 2006 season AFC championship against the Patriots, of course. Down 18 points at 21–3, Manning would have to lead the biggest comeback in conference championship history. They managed to tie it multiple times until finally taking the lead with seconds left on the clock. Indianapolis went on to beat the Bears in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
Brady vs. Manning was an enjoyable read. Gary Myers does a great job keeping you on the edge of your seat reading about a game that happened nearly a decade ago and that you know the outcome of. There is a lot to be learned about the sport of football and the politics of the NFL. I think it was all laid out in such a way that was coherent enough for even someone who doesn’t know much about the sport to enjoy.
There’re a lot of details to every story. Some things are more relevant than others and the lives of Brady & Manning had a lot of fun facts. For example:
- Brady and Gisele sold their house to Dr. Dre for $40 million in 2014 at 4x their original investment.
- Mark Sanchez was the first QB to beat Manning and Brady back-to-back in the playoffs in 2010.
- Brady has 11 wins while Manning has 5 against each other. Brady has 32 TDs and 14 INTs against Manning while he has 33 TDs and 22 INTs. They’re tied at two playoff wins each as of January 23 2016.
There is a lot more to the Brady-Manning rivalry. The text gives some deep insights into what makes each player better and worse. One thing that deserves its own post is Spygate and Deflategate. Though the scandals accusing the Patriots of cheating might be more of an internal problem, it changes the outcome of a lot and some of it might surprise you.