Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III? How about Colin Kaepernick and Matthew Stafford? Or maybe Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill? With the upcoming crop of young and talented quarterbacks, the NFL has to offer, it may seem like another rivalry equivalent to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will happen soon enough.. I am here to warn you to not get your hopes up.
For over a decade now, Brady and Manning have come into their own together, dazzling the world with their passing skills and epic matchups. These two have built resumes that, at the very least, put them in the top five all-time greats at their position, yet you can always find disagreements as to which quarterback is better. Will you take the man with the better stats but worst postseason history in Manning? Or will you take the man with three Super Bowl titles in Brady? The debate can be endless. In turn, that argument makes you more excited for the actual game because that is where your side of the argument can be proven, disproved or swayed. Thus far in 13 meetings, Brady’s New England Patriots have had held a 9-4 advantage of Manning’s Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. It might not seem like Brady has that large of an advantage, but that is because Manning has won four of the last seven.
In this day and age, with an extraordinary amount of television to watch, America pauses to really watch two things during the course of a calendar year: the Super Bowl in the winter, and Brady vs. Manning in the fall, and that’s across all genres of television.
Think of the variables that had to happen to make sure Manning and Brady met only once a year for over a decade. They had to come up in the NFL together. They had to play in the same conference. They had to be in separate divisions. They had to win those divisions year in and year out to make sure they played each other the next year. The fact that Brady and Manning only meet once a year (exception: 2001 when the Patriots and Colts were in the AFC East) is not to be disregarded. If they stayed in the same division and met twice a year, this rivalry would be too much of a good thing (imagine 20+ Brady vs. Manning matchups).
Ensuring that Brady and Manning met twice a year is one thing, but the games themselves have been memorable beyond belief. There has been the “fourth and two” game and the 2003 AFC title game when Manning threw four picks in a 24-14 loss. There has been the 2004 opening night matchup when Mike Vanderjagt missed what would have been a game-tying field goal. And, of course, there was the come-from behind 2006 AFC title game when Manning came from 21-3 down and finally beat the Patriots.
Now, on the eve of their 14th meeting, the football world has been swept off of their feet once again into Brady vs. Manning. They have only met three times in the playoffs over the course of their careers, with Brady holding the 2-1 edge. A Joe Flacco heave in last year’s divisional round kept football fans from a fourth meeting in the postseason, however, I believe it’s fair to ask for just one more Brady vs. Manning matchup in the postseason. But despite who would win that potential January game, the debate would still hover: who is the better quarterback? Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?
It almost like Magic and Bird. Their individual NFL careers cannot be mentioned without the other. Brady vs. Manning will never be duplicated.