In the 94 years that the NFL has existed, there has never quite been a quarterback rivalry as great as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady‘s. The two have been in the same conference their entire careers and played for nearly the same length of time — Manning at 16 seasons (with one season sat out due to injury) and Brady at 14 (with one season only playing one game due to injury).
The head-to-head matchups have now totaled 15 between the regular and postseason, with four coming in playoff games and three of those four for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Manning has now won two of those AFC Championship Games after today’s 26-16 victory, but Brady still owns the series lead with a 10-5 record.
So, yes, it’s true that Brady’s New England Patriots have had the better overall group of players over Manning’s Indianapolis Colts or Denver Broncos throughout the years, but after all is said and done and these two men are first-ballot Hall of Famers, they will be viewed as equals. There’s no doubt about it: Manning and Brady are the two greatest quarterbacks of this era, and arguably the top two to ever play in the National Football League.
Between the two of them, they hold a 29-18 playoff record (Brady at 18-8, Manning at 11-11), eight Super Bowl berths, four championships (with a chance for a fifth to be added by Manning on Feb. 2), six MVP awards (with a seventh likely being added by Manning this year), 926 touchdowns combined in the regular season and playoffs, 126,169 yards combined in the regular season and playoffs and a regular season passer rating above 95 for their careers. It’s simply amazing. And don’t forget about their regular season winning percentages; Manning has won 69.6 percent of his games while Brady has won 77.5, and they are No. 2 and 3, respectively, on the list of total wins for an NFL QB. Not to mention that they hold perhaps the greatest two seasons ever by a quarterback: this past year for Manning where he threw for 54 touchdowns, 5,477 yards — both NFL records — and a passer rating of 115.1, and 2007 for Brady where he threw for 50 touchdowns — the record until Manning just broke it — 4,806 yards and a rating of 117.2.
That list of accomplishments isn’t matched by any other duo of quarterbacks anywhere in the history of the game. Really, it’s kind of ridiculous when you add all of that up. I mean, nearly 1,000 touchdowns between the two in only 481 games. What’s even more crazy is that with that many TDs, they only have a combined 397 interceptions. That kind of efficiency and ball security while throwing the amount of times they do is simply amazing.
The only sad thing about all this is that we’re now in 2014. Manning is 37 years old and Brady is 36; they’re at the tail end of their careers. How many seasons do they have left in them? One? Two? Maybe three at the most? Who knows what the future holds? Today could have been the last Brady-Manning postseason game, and it came at a time when really, the Broncos did have a much better team than the Patriots. It wasn’t a surprise that Manning got the best of him earlier today. For it to go down with so little drama was kind of a disappointment, but at least we have our memories if indeed it is their last postseason game against each other.
And even though there have been a decent amount of Brady-Manning games that have been decided by double-digit points, there have also been a handful of epic clashes both in the regular season and playoffs that went down to the wire. Most notably: Indy’s win over the Pats 38-34 in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, a Week 13 game in 2003 where the Pats stopped the Colts who had a first-and-goal at the NE two-yard-line to win 38-34, the controversial fourth-and-two call by Bill Belichick with his team up six at their own 28-yard-line that failed and gave Manning the opportunity to get the go-ahead touchdown and win 35-24 in Week 10 of 2009, and who can forget their game only a couple months ago where the Patriots completed one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history down 24-0 at halftime and ended up winning 34-31 in OT.
Their history is rich and goes back nearly a decade and a half. Over those 15 or so years, we’ve witnessed two legends become what they are today. And when they finally decided to retire, the debate may continue about who the more valuable or talented quarterback was, but in reality, they’ll be on equal ground: the best two quarterbacks to ever touch a football.