A long time ago, Peyton Manning got tagged a “choker” who didn’t perform well in the playoffs. Around the same time, Tom Brady was cementing his legacy as a “clutch” player who rose to the occasion. Over the years each time Manning threw a fourth quarter interception – and Brady a fourth quarter touchdown – it affirmed these preconceived notions, ignoring the countless times in which their roles were reversed.
We got pretty close this year to permanently reversing the Manning tag this season, as his Colts won seven come-from-behind games during the regular season and looked dominant in two postseason games. Even Bill Simmons begrudgingly anointed him in a mailbag this weekend, saying decisively, in the way only he can, that you just can’t bet against the Manning. It felt like Manning would finally erase any doubt about his abilities.
The morning after people are flocking in droves back to the comfy confines of a band wagon that long ago concluded Peyton Manning was not a “big game” quarterback. All because of a single play.
The greatest of all time? Nope. Not even close now. The GOAT doesn’t throw that kind of awful interception. Joe Montana didn’t throw those in the Super Bowl. Has Tom Brady? Manning has one ring and a bushel of stats and records. He deserves accolades and praise, but the GOAT talk must stop now.
Manning and the Colts are the Atlanta Braves. The Colts, under Manning, have won at least 12 games seven years in a row. Yet all Manning has to show for it is one title. He’s now 9-9 in the playoffs, which is about as far away from GOAT material as the Middle East is from the Colts’ practice facility.
But Manning and Brady, the player around whom all postseason performances are measured in this era, are in many ways the same quarterback in the playoffs. After last night’s game, they’ve now both played 18 postseason games each and their statistical comparison is astonishingly close:
|G||Yards||TD||INT||Completion %||QB Rating|
[CORRECTION: Names were initially incorrectly associated to the wrong stat line.]
Overall record was left off of this comparison for a reason. (Manning is 9-9 in the playoffs, Brady 14-4.) While it’s true that the quarterback position plays a significant role in a game’s outcome, it’s a slippery slope to conclude team record is a decisive indicator of a quarterback’s ability, especially in this case. The factors that also played a part in the Patriots Super Bowl wins are wide-ranging. Brady’s Patriots were more balanced offensively and relied less on the passing game. It’s also no secret that they were always the most well-prepared and well-coached in any game.
Additionally, New England boasted a dominant defense to accompany Brady in his earliest playoff runs, a luxury Manning rarely had. In Super Bowl-winning years, the Patriots finished in 6th, 1st and 2nd, respectively, in team defense. In 2007, their undefeated season, they finished 4th. In years they missed the playoffs or lost early, they finished 17th twice. This year, they finished 5th.
Unfortunately, sports media culture favors reaction and discourages reflection. Moreover, people hate it when their conventions are challenged so whether he wins more Super Bowls or not, Manning will have trouble living down the reputation bestowed upon him a long time ago, unfair or not.