By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is prepping to play in a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning is preparing himself to get the call that tells him he’s a Hall of Famer.

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These two quarterbacking titans once stood toe-to-toe as the best the league had to offer. Yet Manning, who is 16 months older than Brady, ended his career five years ago. And Brady, the NFL’s version of the Energizer Bunny, just kept on going.

On Wednesday, Brady was asked about Manning, and the impact that Manning had on his own career. Brady answered. It was nice.

“Well Peyton was someone that I always just admired as a quarterback, as a leader of a team,” Brady said during his Zoom call with Super Bowl reporters. “I always looked up to him because he was a little older than me and he was always doing things the right way. His team was always in it. I know our teams had a rivalry against one another, but when you went against a Peyton Manning-led team, you were going against the other best team in the league. And it’s no real surprise that he’d be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. An amazing player.”

Brady added: “I had a chance to know for I don’t know, a long time, 20-plus years, and nothing surprises me about him, his accomplishments. He’s a tremendous player. We always keep in touch. He’s always wishing me well wishes, and so forth. And I’m really happy for him.”

See? Told you it was nice.

Brady even meant it when he said it, too. Yet it was also a bit, shall we say … diplomatic. When you’re a psychotic competitor like Brady, you see a guy like Manning, and you want to destroy him. As politely as possible, and without malice, sure. But destroy nonetheless. That is the objective.

And with that in mind, it’s worth taking yet another look at the private email that Brady sent to a friend during the 2014 season. (Quick disclaimer: It’s wrong to read people’s private emails and gossip about them. This email came to light as part of the legal battle over air pressure in footballs several years ago. Ideally, Brady’s private communications shouldn’t have been made public, but they were, and thus they cannot just be ignored.)

This particular email came in response to a friend named Kevin Brady (no relation). In an email, KB sent TB a story that compared the two quarterbacks’ careers as they navigated their late 30s. Brady paid that story very little mind, instead assuring his buddy that by the end of things, there’d be no comparison left to make.

“Thanks popa,” Brady replied. “I’ve got another 7 or 8 years. He has 2. That’s the final chapter. Game on.”

Tom Brady’s email about Peyton Manning (From court filing)

On the surface, the email is kind of a nothing burger. A pro athlete believes he’ll play forever, plans to defeat opponents. It’s not particularly unique.

Yet looking back on it now more than six years later, it’s truly remarkable to see with hindsight just how deadly serious Brady was about that simple little message to a friend.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady greet each other after the 2003 AFC Championship Game. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

When Brady fired off that reply, he was a day away from facing Manning and the Broncos. The Patriots would win that game 43-21, with Brady throwing four touchdowns and one pick, and Manning throwing two touchdowns and two picks. Brady, as you know, went on to win the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade that season.

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Tom Brady and Peyton Manning shake hands after the Patriots beat the Broncos in 2012. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The post-email matchup proved to be the penultimate meeting between the two, as Manning was injured when the Patriots visited Denver the following regular season. They’d meet again in the postseason, when Manning and Denver’s No. 1-ranked defense eked by New England, 20-18, in the 2015 AFC Championship Game. Manning won the Super Bowl that year as well.

Had Brady’s career ended after that season, there’d still be a massive debate on the “GOAT” subject, with Manning having a statistical claim to the title while having a respectable two Super Bowls to Brady’s four. As we know, though, Brady’s career didn’t end.

He won the Super Bowl in 2016. He lost the Super Bowl in 2017, though he set a Super Bowl record for passing yards in the process. Then he went ahead and won it again in 2018. Now, seemingly just for good measure, he’s playing in another Super Bowl at the age of 43.

It’s kind of nuts. Especially when you consider that the man is just following the plan he laid out for himself six years ago, when few people would have imagined that kind of success at that age.

It’s ridiculous. Preposterous. Unfathomable. Nonsensical. Perverse. Downright silly.

And while this point isn’t particularly necessary, it must nevertheless be done: A statistical comparison of Brady and Manning since that email was sent.

Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (L-R) (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Is that egregious? A little obnoxious? PERHAPS IT IS. But as a society, we should be beholden to the facts and the truth. And statistics are facts. So here we go. Stats are regular season and playoffs combined.

PEYTON MANNING, AFTER THE POPA EMAIL
399-for-814 (49%)
5,592 passing yards, 6.9 Y/A
29 TDs, 30 INTs
13-5 regular season record, 3-1 playoff record
One Super Bowl victory, one Super Bowl appearance
68.1 passer rating

TOM BRADY, AFTER THE POPA EMAIL
2,914-for-4,516 (64.5%)
33,820 yards, 7.5 Y/A
241 TDs, 71 INTs
76-24 regular season record, 15-3 playoff record
Three Super Bowl victories, five Super Bowl appearances
98.3 passer rating

That’s, uh … staggering. And obvious. Of course it’s obvious. Everyone knows this by now.

Yet with Brady still somehow going and Manning set to receive his Hall of Fame call, it’s just a touch crazy how prescient that casual email turned out to be. Outside of Brady himself, there likely weren’t too many people who actually believed him when he said such things.

“I’ve got another 7 or 8 years,” Brady said with nonchalant confidence. He’s followed through on six of those years, and despite the work ahead of him this week, he’s already begun talking about next season.

The guy may be insane. But nobody can say he’s not a man of his word.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.