At 3:00 pm ET on January 19, 2014, the New England Patriots visit the Denver Broncos to decide which team will represent the American Football Conference (AFC) in the Super Bowl. The game is important for both teams, but there is more at stake than an AFC championship. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, arguably two of the best players ever at their position, are taking the field against each other for the fifteenth time. Pundits far and wide are presenting detailed statistical evidence in favor of their "Best Quarterback" predictions. While statistics are important, this article relies on more than numbers to reach its conclusion. Will everyone agree with the outcome? Honestly, some readers will be happy, others will be angry, and the rest will be asking, "Huh?" The proof, though, will be indisputable.
In football, numbers matter. Every game has an official scorekeeper, the league has official statisticians and every media source examines and interprets those statistics ad nauseam. In head-to-head match-ups, Brady has won 10 out of the 14 meetings. Manning throws for more yards per game (270.7) compared to Brady (254.7) Longevity favors Manning as well. Manning has played in 92% of his teams' games during his sixteen years in the league, while Brady has played in only 85% of his team's games for the past 14 years. Manning holds a four-game edge with his 13 Pro Bowl appearances. He also earned a record 4 NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards. Other statistics favor Tom Brady, though. Brady wins 71% of his games while Manning wins 65% of his games. Brady throws fewer interceptions (2% to Manning's 2.6%) and wins more playoff games (72% to Manning's 48%). In a league that gives the greatest weight to its biggest game, the Super Bowl, Brady has three wins in five appearances and overshadows Manning, who has only one win in two appearances. Statistically speaking, Brady holds a significant advantage over Manning. Brady 1, Manning 0
While statistics are important, they are not the only factor determining a player's value. Genetics determine a player's height, weight, arm strength, durability and innate ability to play the game. Obviously, Brady's and Manning's genes give them the right size and arm strength for NFL quarterbacks. While Brady's parents are almost unknown, they produced three daughters and Tom. Brady's genes give him the good looks of a male model, but they did not give him a football legacy. Peyton Manning's family members are his father Archie (college standout and NFL quarterback), his brother Eli (two-time Super Bowl winning NFL quarterback) and his other brother Cooper (all-state high school wide receiver). Clearly, Peyton has a genetic predisposition for football. So, genetically, Manning holds a football edge over Brady. Brady 1, Manning 1
Football games are complex, and quarterbacks have the most cerebral job in those games. Relationships require mental energy. If they suddenly deteriorate, relationships can distract a player. Brady dated actress Bridget Moynahan for a couple of years and had a son with her. Later, he married supermodel Gisele Bundchen, after producing a son and a daughter with her. Meanwhile, Peyton married the friend of a neighbor, producing twins. Brady's confidence to date actresses and marry a supermodel is admirable, but he also has a "baby mama" and paparazzi as potential distractions. Manning's non-celebrity wife and conventional parenthood give him a home life that enhances his state of mind with a reduced threat of distraction. The relationship edge goes to Manning, though most guys pray for Brady's dating resume. Brady 1, Manning 2
Unlike the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB), the NFL insists that players attend college before joining a team. If the NFL values college so much, this article will include it in the discussion. Tom Brady attended the University of Michigan, while Peyton Manning attended the University of Tennessee. Brady started two years, won a share of the Big 10 Championship once and won two bowl games. Manning started all four years at Tennessee and led them to four bowl games, but he never won an SEC Championship. Over the years, Michigan produced several big-name NFL players and quarterbacks (Jim Harbaugh, Brian Griese, Chad Henne, etc.). Tennessee produced Peyton Manning. It is no wonder that Tennessee retired Manning's number and named streets after him. Tennessee's mascot is the Volunteer, a throwback to the frontier days, while Michigan's mascot is the Wolverine, an aggressive and ferocious animal. The Red Dawn movies immortalized the war cry "Wolverines!" as the locals fought off foreign invaders. The movie Volunteers follows the antics of a spoiled rich kid who joins the Peace Corps. Michigan's school colors are azure (blue) and maize (yellow), a more popular color scheme than the pale orange of Tennessee. Based upon Michigan's cool points and Brady's share of a Big 10 Championship, the College Years battle goes to Brady. Brady 2, Manning 2
The Man Upstairs
An offensive coordinator is important, but he is not THE Man Upstairs. The final arbiter of goodness, God Almighty knows who is better between Manning and Brady. Manning and Brady are both Christians; Peyton is Presbyterian and Brady is Catholic. Worldwide, Catholics have superior numbers, but America, home of the NFL, is predominantly Protestant. Both men give time and money to charity. However, Brady fathered his three children out-of-wedlock with two women, while Manning married before fathering his children. Peyton reportedly prays before every game, but Tom's own father criticized Brady's adherence to the tenets of Catholicism. While their ultimate fate is God's decision, Manning sticks closer to the straight and narrow. The Man Upstairs likes that behavior. Brady 2, Manning 3
Eschewing shallow discussions based solely on numbers, this examination digs deeper than ever into who is better, Brady or Manning. One day, the Hall of Fame will add both men to its selective membership. However, based upon the empirical evidence, Peyton Manning's genes, relationships and favor with The Man Upstairs supersede Tom Brady's statistics and college years. Manning is better than Brady.