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Sunday, March 20, 2005 

Golden Boy

This is the last part of a four part look at the quarterbacks behind the modern NFL dynasties. Today we examine Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Their relationship parallels Joe Montana and Dan Marino. Montana and Brady were late-round picks from legendary schools (3rd Notre Dame, 6th Michigan), while Marino and Manning were first-round picks from good, but lesser known, schools (Pittsburgh, Tennessee). Marino and Manning both set TD records (Marino 48 in 1984, Manning 49 this season), and then lost to Montana and Brady, respectively, in the playoffs that year.

Brady and Manning also share some characteristics, such as their durability: neither has missed a start since winning the starting job. And neither of them will remind you of Michael Vick in the pocket.

But that's where the similarities end. Let's start with their regular season statistics so far:


Tom Brady
Year G Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
2000 1 1 3 33.3 6 0 0
2001 15 264 413 63.9 2843 18 12
2002 16 373 601 62.1 3764 28 14
2003 16 317 527 60.2 3620 23 12
2004 16 288 474 60.8 3692 28 14
Tot 64 1243 2018 61.6 13925 97 52
Avg* 16 311 505 61.6 3480 24 13
*not including 2000 season


Peyton Manning
Year G Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
1998 16 326 575 56.7 3739 26 28
1999 16 331 533 62.1 4135 26 15
2000 16 357 571 62.5 4413 33 15
2001 16 343 547 62.7 4131 26 23
2002 16 392 591 66.3 4200 27 19
2003 16 379 566 67.0 4267 29 10
2004 16 336 497 67.6 4557 49 10
Tot 112 2464 3880 63.5 29442 216 120
Avg 16 352 554 63.5 4206 31 17


Two things stood out when I looked at these numbers:

1. Brady made more big plays this year, without losing efficiency. With the addition of Corey Dillon, the Patriots ran the ball more, resulting in 53 less passing attempts this season. But Brady still completed over 60 percent of his passes, and passed for slightly more yards than in 2003. His TD-INT ratio remained at about 2:1, which is consistent with the rest of his career.

2. Manning is becoming more accurate as he gets older. I was surprised that his completion percentage numbers jumped from approximately 62 percent from 1999-2001 to about 67 percent from 2002-2004. Manning's big INT numbers as a rookie and in 2001 offset his spectacular 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio last year, but there is no denying his numbers are phenomenal.

Unless Manning's career is cut short, he will break every major passing record. He is certainly one of the top QBs of all-time, and you would have to rank him ahead of Brady. But when you compare their playoff statistics, it is a different story:

W-L Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT
Brady 9-0 190 304 62.5 1951 11 3
Manning 3-5 171 284 60.2 2171 14 8
in 5 losses 100 195 51.3 1033 2 7

Note that four of Manning's INTs came in the 2003 AFC Championship game against the Patriots, which skews the data a bit. Also, Brady's "perfect" postseason record is somewhat overrated, since if the 2002 Patriots had won a tie-breaker and made the playoffs, I have a tough time imagining them winning the Super Bowl that year.

But that does not change how different their post-season records are. Peyton Manning's three wins included two at home against Denver, and one at Kansas City. Only the Chiefs game was close (38-31). By comparison, Brady has won two AFC Championship games on the road in Pittsburgh. He also engineered several clutch drives, beginning in the snow against Oakland in 2001, and culminating in two Super Bowl winning drives against St. Louis and Carolina. Manning has lost 3 playoff games by 10 points or less, and it's not because of the Indy defense - if you throw out the 41-0 blowout against the Jets in 2002, Indy gave up an average of 21.5 points in the other four losses.

No one knows the future, but until Manning wins a Super Bowl or two, he'll continue to remind everyone of Dan Marino. On the other hand, even if Brady starts to struggle, he'll be linked forever with Joe Montana. Not bad company in either case.


QB Super Bowls Won (or Lost)
Brady 36, 38, 39
Manning None
Note: MVP in bold


Note on References: All statistics taken from Pro Football Reference. Play-by-Play taken from the nfl.com website.

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