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BOSTON (CBS) — The debate is over.
Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Peyton Manning.
What has been a fait accompli in the Curtis household since Peyton completed a touchdown pass with the Saints’ Tracy Porter in Super Bowl XLVI is now a fact.
Peyton has been a regular-season MVP four times and will likely get his fifth in the coming weeks. Tom Brady has two such awards. In those seven seasons, neither won the ultimate prize of a Lombardi trophy. But in lieu of going back over their entire bodies of regular-season work, I will say this: Peyton Manning will go down in history as the greatest non-playoff quarterback of all time. However, that is not what this debate is about.
The purpose of having a good regular season, its only significance, is to position yourself best for postseason success. (Think Matt Cassell tanking the Pats’ final regular-season game by throwing a pass to the McDonalds stand at the end of the ’05 season at Gillette so the Pats would get the Jaguars in the wild card round).
We do not hand out Green Jackets for the lowest career net under par after three rounds at Augusta National. Nobody cares. It is what you do on the final Sunday that matters in golf because that is the day when they hand out the trophy.
The same goes for the National Football League. Eli Manning has a career passer rating of 82.7, nearly 14 points beneath his big brother’s of 96. But we will always remember how he took less innate talent and a lesser supporting cast to two improbable Super Bowl runs. Eli lost to the RG3-less Redskins twice last year, but that is a mere footnote in what would become his second Super Bowl season.
In the (expected) five regular seasons in which Peyton Manning was the NFL’s most valuable player, he went 5-5 in the games that mattered, the playoffs. Consider that. He was the NFL’s best player at the most important position in major professional sports and went .500 in 10 postseason games.
Saturday night in Denver, Peyton Manning had his eighth one-and-done in 11 playoff appearances, double the amount of the next highest quarterback in the Super Bowl era. Eight times Peyton Manning entered the postseason for his playoff opener and left the stadium with golf clubs and a tee time (don’t forget he also took a picture with Ray Lewis). Tom Brady has been to the playoffs 11 times as well and has been one-and-done twice, or four times fewer than Saint Peyton.
With Sunday’s win against the Texans, Tom Brady surpassed Joe Montana to become the all-time winningest playoff QB in NFL history with 17 victories. In Brady’s 11 healthy seasons, all but four have included an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. Tom will now have played in two fewer AFC Championship games (7) than Peyton Manning has career playoff wins (9).
In Brady’s 23 playoff games he has a plus-21 touchdown-to-interception ratio, more than double Peyton’s plus-9 TD-to-INT count.
These two men will forever be linked in their Hall of Fame careers, but there should no longer be any doubt as to who is the greatest quarterback of this generation. It is the man who is at his best when the games meant the most. It is Tom Brady.