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Guest Post: Brady vs. Manning and Playoff Support

Adam Steele is back, this time throwing his hat into the never-ending Brady/Manning debate. Fortunately, this isn’t your typical Brady/Manning post, as Adam brings some new stats to the table. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.

By any statistical measure, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have performed at a nearly identical level in the postseason. Of course, many observers don’t care about passing statistics, and prefer to judge quarterback based on playoff W/L record alone. And as we all know, Brady has a significant edge over Manning in this regard. But if we’re going to judge quarterbacks by the performance of their entire team, it’s only fair to also evaluate the parts of the team the QB has no control over – defense and special teams.

Using PFR’s expected points estimations, I recorded the defensive and special teams EPA for Brady’s and Manning’s teams in each of their playoff games. The “Support” column is the total EPA contributed by defense and special teams. Brady first:

BradyRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2001DivOAKW 16-1310.85-0.6910.16
2001CCPITW 24-178.438.8317.26
2001SBSTLW 20-172.274.346.61
2003DivTENW 17-140.46-0.81-0.35
2003CCINDW 24-1413.82-0.8113.01
2003SBCARW 32-29-8.11-4.86-12.97
2004DivINDW 20-310.24-2.567.68
2004CCPITW 41-273.47-1.052.42
2004SBPHIW 24-21-
2005WCJACW 28-323.54-0.7322.81
2005DivDENL 13-275.27-12.26-6.99
2006WCNYJW 37-169.27-0.588.69
2006DivSDW 24-21-0.7510.79.95
2006CCINDL 34-38-15.346.16-9.18
2007DivJACW 31-20-13.05-2.44-15.49
2007CCSDW 21-125.374.49.77
2007SBNYGL 14-17-5.07-0.89-5.96
2009WCBALL 14-33-2.556.063.51
2010DivNYJL 21-28-10.325.3-5.02
2011DivDENW 45-1011.2-2.488.72
2011CCBALW 23-20-3.41-1.42-4.83
2011SBNYGL 17-21-13.35-1.47-14.82
2012DivHOUW 41-28-9.61-0.69-10.3
2012CCBALL 13-28-12.89-1.67-14.56
2013DivINDW 43-227.19-4.922.27
2013CCDENL 16-26-23.41.34-22.06
2014DivBALW 35-31-15.9-1.99-17.89
2014CCINDW 45-79.46312.46
2014SBSEAW 28-24-10.4-2.16-12.56
2015DivKCW 27-20-6.751.22-5.53
2015CCDENL 18-2011.11-3.997.12

And now Manning:

ManningRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
1999DivTENL 16-195.44-10.27-4.83
2000WCMIAL 17-23-0.97-3.14-4.11
2002WCNYJL 0-41-21.86-4.41-26.27
2003WCDENW 41-102.07-1.011.06
2003DivKCW 38-31-21.73-3.11-24.84
2003CCNEL 14-242.50.813.31
2004WCDENW 49-24-10.65-3.13-13.78
2004DivNEL 3-20-8.472.56-5.91
2005DivPITL 18-212.34-5.19-2.85
2006WCKCW 23-817.66-2.2715.39
2006DivBALW 15-618.87-0.0918.78
2006CCNEW 38-34-3.73-6.16-9.89
2006SBCHIW 29-1723.57-11.5112.06
2007DivSDL 24-28-18.173.85-14.32
2008WCSDL 17-23-2.79-7.97-10.76
2009DivBALW 20-312.05-1.9110.14
2009CCNYJW 30-17-5.091.12-3.97
2009SBNOL 17-31-10.15-8.82-18.97
2010WCNYJL 16-17-6.99-0.15-7.14
2012DivBALL 35-38-9.896.13-3.76
2013DivSDW 24-17-5.930.28-5.65
2013CCNEW 26-16-9.06-1.34-10.4
2013SBSEAL 8-43-7.18-9.66-16.84
2014DivINDL 13-24-8.868.12-0.74
2015DivPITW 23-163.719.913.61
2015CCNEW 20-1811.953.9915.94

An overall comparison:

CareerW/LAY/ASupp/GSupp/WSupp/LSupp +Supp -

To my surprise, Brady has had slightly negative support over his entire playoff career. Not surprisingly, Manning’s support has been even worse, saddling him with roughly a one field goal disadvantage per game compared to Brady. This becomes even more stark when we look at games with positive support vs. games with negative support. In 31 playoff games, Brady has enjoyed positive support 16 times (52%). Meanwhile, Manning has benefitted from positive support in only eight of his 26 playoff appearances (31%). These numbers alone explain most of the difference in their W/L records.

Given the relatively equal performances of Brady and Manning in the playoffs, how did the narratives surrounding these two men become so drastically different? The answer: timing. Brady has been extremely fortunate to have his most help come at the beginning of his career, the time when narratives are born and cemented. Manning has suffered very unlucky timing, with his teams providing him very little support in the early years of his playoff career. Here are their numbers through 2004, when the narratives between Brady and Manning diverged the most sharply:

Thru 2004W/LAY/ASupp/GSupp/WSupp/LSupp +Supp -

Despite owning an unblemished 9-0 playoff record and three SB rings, Brady had actually been slightly outplayed by Manning in the playoffs through the 2004 season! How can that be, given that Brady was/is a clutch hero and Manning had already perfected the art of choking? Well, it turns out Brady’s teammates were clutch and Manning’s teammates were chokers. Brady’s teams gave him a healthy +4.93 EPA/G of support during his magical 9-0 playoff start, while Manning’s teams stumbled to a dreadful -9.42 EPA/G of “support.” That’s right – through 2004, Brady’s teammates provided him a two touchdown per game advantage over Manning’s in the playoffs. Brady had positive support in seven out of nine games, while Manning had positive support in only two out of eight contests. In fact, Manning actually suffered poorer support during his three wins than in his five losses! This includes his famous 2003 win over the Chiefs in which neither team punted and Dante Hall was in full human joystick mode. Of course, nobody cared about seeing the whole picture, so W/L records and ringz were all that mattered. The narratives were set in stone: Brady is clutch, Manning is a choker.

What about the rest of their playoff careers?

Since 2005W/LAY/ASupp/GSupp/WSupp/LSupp +Supp -

Beginning in 2005, the playoff records of Brady and Manning have basically evened out. Why? Their supporting casts have provided them roughly equal amounts of help. Manning has actually benefitted from slightly more support overall since 2005, and significantly more help in his wins. However, most of Manning’s help was concentrated in a handful of games, so he still suffered negative support in 12 of his last 18 playoff games. Manning’s 2006 Super Bowl run was very reminiscent of Brady’s in 2001, in that both QB’s had mediocre performances and were carried to the championship by their teammates. Unfortunately for Manning, his choker label had already been cast, so one ring (against Rex Grossman!) did little to change most peoples’ perception of him.

Meanwhile, Brady has been befallen with a run of tough luck and poor support from 2007 on, despite his play remaining steadily in line with his early years as a Super Bowl hero. Brady has legitimately been carrying the Patriots in the playoffs in recent years, most notably in his 2014 victory over Baltimore, in which he erased two 14 point deficits and overcome his own defense that couldn’t stop a nose bleed. Despite a merely good 13-9 playoff record since 2005, I’d argue that Brady has been more clutch during that span than he was from 2001-04. Fortunately for Tom, his good luck and superb teammates during his early years provided him with a bulletproof reputation that has protected his legacy during the bad luck run that followed.

In conclusion, supporting casts matter. A lot. What are your thoughts?

  • Mike

    Why didn’t you include rushing EPA in this analysis?

    • Adam

      I considered adding rushing, but there’s too much of an interaction effect with the QB. I believe the QB indirectly affects the success of his team’s running game, although I can’t prove it objectively.

      • Mike

        The QB could interact with the rushing game, but it doesn’t apply to Manning and Brady. Both are not rushing threats. Adding Rushing EPA (minus the QB’s contribution) would be helpful too.

    • Richie

      One problem is that it wouldn’t separate the part of the game where QB’s are audibling in and out of running plays. Maybe part of what makes a QB a choker is that he makes bad decisions to pass instead of run (or vice versa) in critical situations.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Yes, the supporting cast is important for deep playoff runs, but the QB is still the most crucial position on the field. And as Tony Romo has proven, a playoff QB can have a nice stat sheet, but still not convert on those timely plays which often make the difference between victory and defeat. The reality is that Manning just hasn’t been the same QB we’ve seen in the regular season, and no one knows why. It’s just one of those inexplicable aspects of sports, and can’t be explained. I don’t view Manning as a choker, since he does have a SB win, but it’s obvious his postseason has been disappointing.

    Manning’s supporting cast had nothing to do at all with the costly interception versus New Orleans, and there are plenty of other examples. Brady has also been better in colder weather, and that’s been another factor in his favor.

    • Yazan Gable

      Supporting cast has to do with getting into those situations in the first place. In 2014 the Cowboys defense was just OK while the Packers had a great offense. The Cowboys also had a good offense, but it was against a better defense. I can’t name the starting defensive linemen for the Cowboys last year and any active linebackers besides Rolando McClain (Sean Lee was hurt…again), and I happen to know the names Barry Church and Brandon Carr from Madden. That the game stayed tight until that costly catch speaks to Romo’s ability, besides also being high on the list of successful 4th quarter comebacks.

      You can find examples that speak to the opposite, such as the Ravens with Trent Dilfer in 2000, the Falcons with Chris Chandler in 1998, the Buccaneers with Brad Johnson in 2002. When the supporting cast is phenomenal, the QB’s impact can be marginalized to an extent. When the quarterback is phenomenal, he can still be dragged down by his mediocre cast, such as most of Dan Marino’s and Peyton Manning’s playoff runs.

      As for Manning throwing the interception, Pierre Garcon drop a wide open pass that could have led to not only a conversion but perhaps a touchdown. This isn’t an explanation for that interception, but it is a note of how the supporting cast had to do with not being in a better position later when that interception happened. Not to mention it also took a surprise onside kick to get the game closer in the first place. What Peyton Manning has done for most of his career is what Andrew Luck has done with that garbage Colts team for the past couple years. A team that was 2-14 instant turned into 11-5 when it got a phenomenal quarterback and when it lost him it barely limped to an 8-8 record in the easiest division in the NFL. This article didn’t dispute that the QB is the most crucial position on the field, but reminded what should be obvious, which is that football is a team sport and when most of the team is mediocre to garbage it’s very difficult to win in the playoffs.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Manning’s supporting cast with Indy was far superior to what Andrew Luck has experienced. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Edgerrin James, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Bob Sanders were among the best in the NFL. History has shown us mediocre QBs rarely reach the SB, for good reason. This topic is frustrating in the sense it can’t be explained, so other ideas are tossed around. Yes, the supporting cast plays a role, but only one player touches the ball on each offensive play. I have no idea why Romo hasn’t been more timely in the postseason either, he’s another QB where the regular season hasn’t matched up with the playoffs.

        • Yazan Gable

          A pair of pass rushers and an oft-injured safety don’t make a defense, although those two pass rushers were of course very good. As for offensive pieces, with Peyton Manning the problem was never with his offensive tools but with his defense. You can also look at the Harbaugh 49ers as an example of supporting cast propping up limited quarterback play, with Alex Smith (who was considered a massive bust until Harbaugh came in) took the 49ers to an NFC Championship game, went to the Super Bowl with a now-seemingly limited Colin Kaepernick, and was one touchdown away from tying with the eventual Super Bowl winning Seahawks in 2013’s championship game. What defined those teams wasn’t the phenomenal quarterback play, but the great offensive line and great defense. Once the line deteriorated and defensive pieces started to wear out, Kaepernick’s weaknesses became more apparent. It seems there is more evidence of good supporting casts dragging mediocre QBs to deep playoff runs than there are good QBs dragging mediocre supporting casts to deep playoff runs, but I’m probably overstating things here. Point is, a great QB is always good and important but neglecting the supporting cast on defense and special teams can drag the QB down like it did for Manning.

        • Eric Schulz

          The Center! Ah, how his impact is minimized! You genius, sacramento gold miners, I think you’ve cracked the case wide open! The center is indeed at the very heart (the center, if you will) of all playoff wins and loses.

          • WR

            Why are so many Manning advocates insufferably sarcastic, condescending, and rude?

      • Adam

        Well said, Yazan. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary.

      • Eric Schulz

        I thought his name was Knoshown Lee.

    • Can we stop saying QB is the most important position as if that means it’s more important than every other factor combined?

    • Adam

      While the QB is the most important player on the field, he’s certainly not more important than all of the other players combined. Therefore, the supporting cast will contribute more to the final result than the QB alone.

      Of course Manning deserves blame for the INT vs New Orleans, but he had no control over the infamous onside kick, or the defense’s inability to stop Brees (who completed 80% of his passes). It was a team loss, like every other playoff loss.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Manning has just too many postseason losses to put the blame on the supporting cast. So many opportunities when he hasn’t delivered the timely play, or in the case in the Super Bowl a couple years ago, was clearly rattled early in the game, and Denver lost big. Yes, the supporting cast plays a role, but the QB must take some of the blame, since his performance is so important.

        The disconnect is how a QB of Manning’s quality, and in the context of a Brady, isn’t better in the postseason. He should have a better record, the supporting cast was definitely good enough. This Sunday, I’ll be the first one to compliment Manning if he has a so-so game statistically, but delivers those key plays required for the Broncos to pull out the win.

        • Eric Schulz

          So, his supporting cast puts him in a 10-point hole every game, and because he wasn’t able to climb out of the hole consistently, you think that it doesn’t matter? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long, long time.

      • Eric Schulz

        I still think Manning wasn’t really to blame for that pick. The receiver (Wayne?) didn’t really come out of his break crisply; I thought he probably should’ve made the catch but at the very least he should’ve been able to prevent the INT. Am I wrong? Is my bias so clouding my judgement here?
        Not every INT is created equal, and on that one I thought very, very little blame should be placed on Manning. Thoughts?

        • Adam

          Given that we don’t know the play call, it’s hard to correctly assign blame. In these cases I split it 50/50.

        • WR

          I don’t think I will ever understand why Manning’s advocates are so desperate to make excuses for him. Isn’t the fact that Manning has produced so many games which require elaborate excuses, proof that he hasn’t been very good? Look at the quote from Porter after the game, which shows that Manning telegraphed the throw. He threw a pick-six to clinch the super bowl for New Orleans. That’s not a positive when assessing his career.

  • Johhny Ohrl

    “…and Manning’s teammates were chokers” (that´s the second I stopped reading the article btw).
    There it is again. Blame shifting for loses and praising the good stats & wins towards PM (I hear you guys: I said good, not great, especially not GOAT)…
    Well, what if Polian had bulit the team around PM?* And thus didn´t have enough cap space for defense? Did his D also choke in his only two SB runs? Did his D joke IND/DEN to circa 12 wins per season. Ahh, yes, I hear you it was all wins solely by PM.
    And why always comparing to Brady? The years he (Brady) had to carry the team by himself, his teams didn´t win the SBs anymore… Why not comparing PM to Aikman, Montana, Warner, heck, even compare him to The Rypper & Doug Williams (who excelled when having great O talent around them) …
    Geez this love letters are already mounting, and the SB hasn´t even been played. What if DEN indeed wins? Hope this day never comes. As I said before: For the sake of Football.

    * Can´t remember who said it, but it was like “(we) built around PM, and hope for a good D year now and then”.

    • WR

      You’re right, Johnny. For reasons I don’t understand, many in the analytics community are ready to make excuses for Manning’s failures. Scott Kacsmar and others like him like to push the narrative that Manning has been “unlucky” in the playoffs, but I don’t buy it. And Brady has had plenty of bad luck as well. He’s seen his defense fail to hold leads in SBs 42 and 46, and the 2006 afc champ loss to the colts.

  • Johhny Ohrl

    @ sacramento gold miners

    Good post.

    “The reality is that Manning just hasn’t been the same QB we’ve seen in
    the regular season”.
    Exactly, and not even a thousand love letters (some
    would say Football articles) will explain this bold fact away.

    “and no one knows why”

    But I know it. Sometimes I could see “Nervous Peyton”
    will choke today before the game. Sometimes I took only one snap to see
    where we are heading (SEA-SB). Sometimes he melted away when the going
    got though late… What was common in those games? Wobbling ducks
    off-target. The poster-pass was the one against BAL in the 2006 SB run
    (carried by the IND defense). A wide open WR near the sidelines with
    nothing in front of him… and PM throws the pass wide out of bounds.
    Disaster was looming. In the end the D bailed him out that day. Ofc,
    those facts are ignored in love letters like this article.

    “Manning’s supporting cast had nothing to do at all with the costly interception”.
    Actually the supporting cast was always great for PM. But somewhere all
    the 224 mio $ thrown towards PM had to be saved somewhere. Guess where? 😉

    If you get paid like “god”, better deliver… And he didn´t. Another fact not mentioned in those obscure love letter articles…

    • Adam

      Ever heard of confirmation bias?

      • Johhny Ohrl

        Yes ofc! And the countless love letters show it again and again… :p
        Me? I am just here for balance 🙂

  • eag97a

    It is basically a wash between the 2 for me. Their long careers basically guaranteed that most extraneous factors evened out for the both of them. I think that this measure of support as a proxy for playoff performance and results has some minor merits but specific unit and individual matchups matter more for the performance and outcome IMO. I don’t know if EPA is adjusted for opponent strength but matchups have more bearing on the outcome IMHO.

  • What blows my mind is that the 2008 game in San Diego — which I will always remember as the Mike Scifres game — was only the 5th worst playoff game for Manning w/r/t special teams support!

    — The Chicago Super Bowl featured a Hester KO return TD and a missed 36-yarder from Vinatieri to end the first half: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200702040chi.htm

    — The Seattle Super Bowl was obviously a blowout but it did feature a SEA KR TD and three of Denver’s five kickoff returns giving the Broncos the ball inside the 16 http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201402020den.htm

    — The New Orleans Super Bowl featured the big onside kick and also a Stover missed 51-yard FG while Hartley hit from 44, 46, and 47 http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201002070clt.htm

    — The Titans game doesn’t have any standout plays, but a big EPA swing on ST of 10 points http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200001160clt.htm

    Finally, we get to the Scifres game.

    — On the first drive, he punted 51 yards, no return, switching field position from the SDG 39 to the IND 10.

    — The next punt was 58 yards, 4 return, switching from SDG 27 to IND 19.

    — The third punt was a net of 50, going from the SDG 47 to the IND 3.

    — Then, the best one, a 67 yarder with a 2-yard return, switching from the SDG 28 to the IND 7.

    — In the 2nd half, he punted from the IND 47 with a 38-yarder and no return, pinning IND at the 9.

    — Oh, and with 2 minutes left, he punted from the SD 47 and pinned the Colts at the 1!!

    That’s punts that pinned the Colts at the 1, 3, 7, and 9, and three punts with nets of 65 yards (yes, this one deserves to be counted twice), 51, and 54 yards. I’m surprised this only gave SD +6 points of EP on punting.

    Anyway, that’s some bad ST help. Thanks for the post, Adam.

    • “The Titans game doesn’t have any standout plays…”

      Actually there was a special teams play that stands out for me in that game. With his team down 7, Terrence Wilkins of the Colts returned a fourth-quarter punt 87 yards inside the Titans five yard line, but the play was challenged and overturned as he stepped out of bounds at the Colts 34, negating 60+ yards of field position (the Colts subsequently lost 12 yards and punted to the Titans who took over in Colts territory).

      As I recall, it was the Titans kicker Al Del Greco who noticed Wilkins stepped out and vociferously entreated Jeff Fisher to challenge. Since Del Greco also scored 13 of the Titans 19 points (4-4 on FGs), I think this game should forever be remembered as the “Al Del Greco Game” the forerunner of the “Mike Scifres Game”.

      • Adam

        For some reason I didn’t remember any of that. Thanks for bringing it to light!

    • Richie

      I have no recollection of Matt Stover playing for the Colts. LOL

      • Adam

        I remember the Stover miss in SB44 as one of the most egregious coaching errors by Jim Caldwell. Instead of going for a fourth down conversation, he brought in the dead-legged Stover (Vinatieri was injured) for a 51 yard attempt which he missed short – Caldwell eithder didn’t know the range of his own kicker, or he knew but was so petrified to go for it that he decided kicking was the less scary option.

        • Eric Schulz

          Knowing Caldwell, the answer is somehow probably both.

    • Richie

      Don’t forget the 2000 wildcard loss to the Dolphins (the last time the Dolphins won a playoff game) http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200012300mia.htm

      The Colts took a 17-10 lead with 5 minutes left to play. The defense allowed Jay Fiedler to march down for a game-tying touchdown with 40 seconds left in the game. After holding Miami on its first possession, the Colts drove down to Miami’s 31-yard line, where Vanderjagt missed a 49-yard field goal. Then, Miami drove for the game-winning TD.

      • Adam

        People always forget about this game, and how badly the defense and kicker coughed it up in the final minutes. Very reminscent of the 2012 DEN/BAL game, just with less drama since the defense slowly failed rather than giving up a 70 yard TD.

        Hard to believe the Dolphins have gone 15 years without winning a playoff game (well, probably not so hard for you to believe).

    • Adam

      Thank you for compiling the details of the Scifres game – I figured it would be Peyton’s worst ST game, as well (only 5th worst, holy sh*t!). I too was surprised that SD’s punting only registered 6 EPA; the best explanation I can think of is that Indy’s punting was also above average, so that cancelled out some of the value from Scifres (PFR only shows net EPA for each ST category, so we don’t know how each team’s contributions break down).

      I feel like more bizarre things have happened in Manning’s playoff games than those of any other QB. Do you think that’s the case?

    • Ramos

      The one I always remember, where Manning’s defense/ST totally screwed
      him, was 2010 against the Jets I wasn’t surprised when I saw the Support
      at -7.14. Manning leads the Colts down the Field, they kick a field
      goal with less than 1 minute left in the 4th to go up 16-14. Then they
      kickoff… and Antonio Cromartie returns the kick 57 yards! Giving
      Sanchez great field position. He makes a couple throws, calls a time
      out, Folk hits the game winner. “Manning the choker!”

      there’s the Infamous Super 2009. I can’t give Peyton too big of a pass
      because he did throw the pick six. However, the defense was atrocious.
      Drew Brees got sacked once in the game in the first quarter, the famous
      Dwight Freeney jersey pull sack, and then didn’t get touched for the
      rest of the game. In fact he was so comfortable in the pocket that he
      completed over 82%(32/39) of his passes! which is unheard of. The Saints
      only punted the ball twice, both in the first quarter, and just had a
      field day.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Nobody mentions the 90% completion rate Drew Brees had over quarters 2, 3 and 4 in the Super Bowl. Wow. That’s tough to combat. And a classic Indy defense. Or lack thereof.

  • Tom

    Great post Adam; if we’re going to continue to have these Brady/Manning discussions (and I don’t mind them, I find everyone’s opinions interesting), the more data we have the better.

    Regarding “who’s better” in the playoffs, it seems to me the best way to get to the bottom of this is use Win Probability Added for every play they’ve both been a part of (which will take care of the context of the play, like field position, score, etc.), and then go further and determine how much credit (or blame) the QB in question should get for those plays (bad throw or dropped pass?).

    I know that’s insane (or awesome, depending on how you look at it), but I think you’d end up with something that’s pretty close to the “answer”.

    All that being said, I agree with others have been saying, it’s probably a wash. They’re both really, really good.

    • Adam

      Thanks, Tom. I’ve had enough of the traditional QB debates which usually involve misleading factoids and agenda-driven nonsense. In order to make an informed evaluation, we have to look at the argument from every possible angle. I wrote this because the Brady/Manning debate has always lacked sufficient nuance and depth, and I wanted to provide some informative data that’s been sorely missing for many years. Frankly, I also used the Brady/Manning backdrop as an excuse to highlight the lunacy of judging QB’s by team accomplishments without accounting for the performance of the entire team. I don’t think there’s anything in sports fandom that annoys me more than this.

      FWIW, I think Brady has slightly outperformed Manning throughout their playoff careers, but the gap between them is much smaller than popular perception would suggest. There’s a legitimate argument either way.

      • Tom

        It’s probably time to move on to another topic, but just wanted to throw this out there; it goes along with your last statement above. Per Brian Burke’s numbers at AFS, Brady’s Win Probability Added per game in the playoffs is 0.21, Manning’s is 0.19. There’s probably some wiggle room in there, etc., but in any event, more evidence that they’re probably closer in playoff performance than a lot of fans would think.

        • Richie

          Is that total careers? They have each contributed about 1/5 of a win total?

          • Tom

            That’s per game; Brady’s total WP in the playoffs is 6.11 (29 games), Manning’s is 4.45 (24 games). Also, those numbers don’t count 2015 (Burke had moved on to ESPN, no 2015 data).

      • Chris

        The best thing about the debate you’ve started is that’s it’s intelligent and thought provoking.

        The traditional Manning-Brady debate makes me feel like my brain is going to explode. I’m so sick of it. It’s asinine and on sites like NFL.com where our begins in ether comments section it almost always devolves into something more closely resembling schoolyard name calling than a true debate. The debate we have here is a breath of fresh air.

        I mean, yes we all bring our own biases (it’s human nature) but there seems to be a little more willingness from the posters here to at least try to look at this objectively and step outside of the best little box of dumbing things down to the simple narrative written by the media long ago. It’s too bad that amongst the general populace, that narrative will likely stand the test of time, and the truth (whatever that may be) won’t even matter.

        But if it’s any consolation, at least it’s just football! It’s not like this is some giant sociopolitical or ethical issue.

        • Thanks, Chris.

          • Adam

            Thanks! I write articles of this nature precisely to help people like us escape the nonsense of traditional commentary. The consideration of nuance and subtlety seems to be lost on most people from ESPN and FoxSports and their ilk.

            Psychologically speaking, sports share the same properties with politics and religion – black and white thinking, emotionally charged opinions which are conflated for facts, and extreme defensiveness when opinions are challenged. People argue about sports as if their entire identity is on the line!

  • Tom

    In any case, I thought we already decided who the best playoff QB was with this article:


    • Adam

      Do you agree with the leverage method of rating playoff QB’s? I think it’s a sound concept, but the weightings Chase used are too severe. For career ratings, I came up with these weights:

      Reg Season x 1
      Wild Card x 1.25
      Divisional x 1.5
      Conf Champ x 1.75
      Super Bowl x 2

      The playoffs deserve to be weighted extra, but not too much extra. It’s still fundmentally the same game, and differences in regular season vs. playoff peformance are likely a product of randomness more than some innate skill or character trait.

      • Richie

        ” It’s still fundmentally the same game, and differences in regular
        season vs. playoff peformance are likely a product of randomness more
        than some innate skill or character trait.”

        I mostly agree. And I definitely don’t think there are players who are capable of elevating their play for the playoffs.

        However, I do wonder if its possible for some players to play worse under pressure. I think it’s unlikely that a player is affected in the early parts of a playoff game. I don’t think the first half of a playoff game feels much more pressurized than a regular season game. But I do wonder if players might tighten up at the end of a game if elimination is possible.

        • Richie

          Just out of curiosity I went to the PFR play finder. I pulled stats from only the 4th quarter and overtime in “close” games (trailing by 7 through leading by 3).

          During the regular season, Peyton Manning has an 85 passer rating in that situation (832 attempts). In the playoffs (107 attempts) it drops to 80.
          Tom Brady has an 83 passer rating in the regular season (714 attempts), but in the playoffs (136 attempts) it drops to 82.


          • Richie

            The “clutchest” QB’s in the playoffs by the query above are:
            Kurt Warner 141 rating, 48 attempts (Delhomme and Sanchez are even better, but in fewer than 20 attempts each)
            Aaron Rodgers 122 rating, 49 attempts

            Drew Brees 112 rating, 71 attempts
            (Even Marino had a 113 rating, but only 19 attempts)

            McNair and Favre were 2 of the worst.


        • Adam

          I don’t think clutch play exists – if someone can choose to elevate their play, why don’t they do so all the time? Given human nature, I definitely think some players tighten up in very high pressure situations, like the 4th quarter of a playoff game. I believe coaches are affected by pressure even more than players, since they have no direct control over what happens but are sure to shoulder the blame if things go wrong. I’ve seen games where the whole team appeared to tighten up in unison, like some sort of negative synergy.

          Here’s the thing – even if choking is a real phenomenon, are its effects strong enough to overwhelm the myriad of other factors than determine the outcome of a game? I’m not so sure. The Brady / Manning splits you bring up further the case that choking is hard to prove in a statistical sense.

        • Tom

          I’m with you on this. The idea that some guys just somehow shine under pressure seems not as likely as guys choking under pressure. I could be wrong…but there’s no doubt our nerves affect our performance. Heck, think back to high school and how relaxed you would be talking to a buddy, and then 10 minutes later get all tongue-tied talking to a girl you like…

          So I think what I’m/we’re saying is that Montana (or Brady, or Bart Starr or Plunkett, etc.) was great not because he elevated his play in big games, but because he was steady enough, or calm enough, to be able to play the same way he would play in a normal game. Like the musician that’s always great whether he’s playing on his own in his room or at Carnegie Hall. He’s not elevating his play at the Hall, he’s just doing what he normally does and isn’t letting the fact that he’s in this huge venue shake him.

          So, uh, yeah, I think I agree with you.

          • Johhny Ohrl

            Fully agree. Burke went into this too (or was it just a link he put some years ago?)…
            While you can´t play better than 100%, choking indeed exists. Elite athlets are sorted out well before reaching the top leagues if they can´t stand pressure. But a few great ones still make it (like the RS-GOAT ;-), they are that good…
            Btw, have read your other comments (about the Barnwell love letter some days ago). I have no prob you like PM, since your posts are well thought anyway… I skiped the “debunking Barnwell” post, since you said no need. And tbh, I did not had the mood to sift trou this article again, to point out the dozen mistakes he did…

          • Adam

            Exactly. Being clutch is really the ability to avoid choking.

            Talking to a girl you like is much scarier than playing football in front of millions 🙂

      • Tom

        Well, I guess it depends on what you’re trying to show, and I think a case could be made for your weights and Chase’s. I have to say I like the simple elegance of having the subsequent playoff game being worth twice the previous one, and the explanation for that (I forget now exactly what it was) made sense to me. But yeah, playoff games use the same field and same rules as the regular season games, so I understand bringing those weights down a bit.

      • eag97a

        How do you weigh playoff byes? Just out of interest.

        • Adam

          There’s a school of thought that says we should credit QB’s with a playoff win for leading their team to a bye, but I don’t agree with assigning wins and losses to QB’s under ANY cicrumstance, so I’m against this practice. In terms of weighting the stats for each round of the playoffs, I use the weights mentioned in a previous comment, and make no adjustment for QB’s on a bye week.

      • I go back and forth on leverage for rating playoff QBs. If we’re only counting positives, then it makes sense, but I don’t think it makes sense to dock a guy extra for playing poorly in the Super Bowl versus playing poorly in the Wild Card Round. If we were using a RANY model, for example, I might multiple any positive number by whatever leverage coefficient I came up with (I’ll use 2 for the Super Bowl since that’s what you used). However, I might, in turn, divide any negative number by the same coefficient. Not saying that is really the way to go, but it’s a quick, off the cuff idea for not overpenalizing for playing worse against theoretically superior opposition.

        • Adam

          Very interesting…I’ve never thought about it from that perspective. I like your method better than all of the other alteratives I’ve seen. Perhaps it would make more sense to give negative scores a weighting of one rather than a fraction? Seems like you’re underpenalizing bad performances in big games, when really we should simply avoid ovrepenalizing them. What’s your rationale behind this?

          • I implore you not to make the mistake of thinking I put a great deal of thought or have a sound rationale for that.

  • WR

    I agree with Adam that the narratives about each QB are unfair, and were formed during the first few years of their respective careers. I also agree that Brady and Manning have similar postseason stats overall. However, I still believe Brady has outperformed Manning in the postseason. The reasons for this are:

    1. Manning gets a big boost from his performance in Wild Card games, and Brady has only played 3 WC games in his career. If you remove WC games, Brady has an 88.4 rating in 1080 attempts. Manning has an 84.0 rating in 776 attempts. Brady has also outperformed Manning in Super Bowls.

    2. Brady’s teams outscored Manning’s by more than 4 ppg in the playoffs before this season, and the Patriots have outscored the Broncos in the playoffs so far this year. If you remove points scored by the defense and special teams, Brady is still comfortably ahead.

    3. Brady turns the ball over less often than Manning in the playoffs, and Manning has produced far more costly turnovers, i.e. pick-sixes

    4. Brady has succeeded 9 times in 13 tries at postseason GWDs, Manning is just 2 for 10. Brady has had a GWD in all 4 SB wins, and produced a drive that put his team ahead late in SB 42. Brady has produced 7 4th quarter scoring drives in 6 SB appearances. Manning has never produced a scoring drive in the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl.

    Those factors, taken together, don’t suggest to me that Manning has produced the same level of value as Brady in the playoffs. When you combine that with the fact that Brady’s reg season stats are much closer to Manning’s than a lot of people realize, I believe Brady, at a minimum, deserves to rank alongside Manning on all-time lists.

    • Chris

      Completely agree with this as well. Brady has been better in the postseason than Manning, albeit by a far slimmer margin than people would like to believe. Much the same as their regular season play is more similar than people might think, with Manning holding the edge in that case.

      Both of these men have been a joy to watch. We’ve been really fortunate as fans to see this era with these two greats. Both are equally deserving of a place in any GOAT discussion. I hope people keep this in perspective.

    • Dave Harrell

      1. Another angle from which to approach the Wild Card game issue is that Manning has played on inferior teams for much of his career and has been able to drag them to WC berths. In other words: Manning started with a baseline non-playoff team and brought them to the playoffs. Brady started with more baseline playoff teams and brought them to a 1st-round bye. As Scott Kacsmar often writes, it’s unfair to punish a QB for playing in WC games – rather, it should be a testament to the team’s performance. (I know your point was about postseason games specifically, but I see no good reason to discount a big chunk of Manning’s playoff games simply because of the round they’re in.)

      2. The fact that you’re referencing team statistics means that, by definition, you aren’t just judging the QBs, but their whole supporting casts as well.

      3. Turnover rate is a fairly incomplete statistic. A more complete look at QB performance in the postseason (DVOA, ANY/A, etc) shows that Manning’s postseason performance, on the whole, is at least equal to Brady’s. Plus, a QB has no control whether an INT is returned for a TD. If you’re going to count that, you should also factor in that a few of Manning’s extra INTs were from desperation, end-of-half heaves that he was forced to make since his defense had him playing from behind. For that matter, Manning may have have a higher rate of postseason INTs because he was in many more close games, and trailing more often, forcing him to be more aggressive.

      4. This is your strongest point, though it still discounts the amount of times that Manning has had his team in good positions only for his defense to choke away a lead. Scott Kacsmar has been writing some great articles at Football Outsiders over the last few weeks about this very phenomenon.

      • WR

        It’s unfortunate that your referenced Kacsmar in your argument. I’m very familiar with his work, and he’s a Manning apologist. He shows you all the data that helps Manning’s case, and actively works to hide the stats that help Brady. I can provide examples if you like. It’s not Kacsmar’s info I take issue with, it’s his interpretation of the info.

        On the first point, I agree with you. I was being too harsh on Manning when I dismissed his wild card stats before. So this means that Manning in the playoffs is ahead of Brady in stats like ANY/A and DVOA. But it’s by small margins, and doesn’t factor in the context of each game. Lets’ take a look at some key categories that help Brady’s case.

        -Brady’s teams outperform Manning’s teams in the playoffs by both points per game and points per drive. This is undeniable, and we all agree that QBs have a lot of impact on how often their teams score points. Kacsmar has recently published some good work on this at football outsiders


        Scroll down to the 2nd chart, the one called Playoff Drive Results. It shows that Brady and Manning turn a similar percentage of their playoff drives into a chance for points, either a TD or a FG attempt. But it shows that a much higher pct of Brady’s drives have ended in TDs. Now I haven’t seen red zone splits for playoff games, but I know that Brady has thrown a lot more short TD passes than Manning in the playoffs. So there’s good reason to believe that Brady has outperformed Manning in the red zone in the playoffs, as he does in the reg season.

        -Brady has a much better TD INT ratio in the playoffs than Manning, as he does in the reg season. Brady is at 56-28, Manning 40-25. If you count rush TDs and fumbles lost, it gets Brady to 62 TDs and 31 turnovers, Manning 43 and 31. I don’t understand how you can say Manning has been better in the playoffs if Brady is ahead by such a wide margin. Putting points on the board, and avoiding turnovers, is especially crucial in the one-and-done format of the NFL playoffs.

        -Brady has hugely outperformed Manning in GWD opportunities, 9 for 13 to 2 for 10. It’s not close, and Brady’s ability to consistently win close games has had a huge impact on his W-L record. Manning’s defense has blown a couple of late leads, but Brady watched his defense give up the lead late in both of his SB losses, and the AFC champ loss to the Colts. I miscounted before. Brady has produced 11 4th quarter scoring drives in Super Bowls, Manning one, in SB 50, which covered all of four yards.

        Look, if you have two QBs who have similar stats overall, but one is winning a much higher pct of his games, I would expect that the guy with the better record would have a better TD to turnover ratio, better red zone stats, more ppd by his offense, and a better success rate in GWD opportunities. And when Brady is compared to Manning, this is exactly what we find. These are the things Brady has done to help his team win more games, and they’re the stats that the Kacsmars of the world don’t want you to see.

  • KD

    Im not surewhat the best way to measure this statistically would be but Im pretty sure its equally relevant. Brady has played his entire career under Bill Belichick. Manning under Dungy (okay), Caldwell (ha), John Fox (meh) and Kubiak (texans QB play). It might be reflected in the supporting cast nos. But not on team decisions and QB play.

    • WR

      This is one of the standard pro-Manning arguments. I’ll give you the other guys, but Dungy was a great coach. He’s probably going to be elected to the Hall of Fame this year. He was a great coach, arguably the 2nd best of his era to Belichick, and Manning had the best stretch of his career under Dungy. People want to give Manning the credit for his teams’ success, but I think Dungy is hugely unappreciated.

      • KD

        Youre saying Dungy is the same as Belichick? In a seperate argument, pro NE fans would loudly mock that as well.

        • WR

          When did I say that Dungy was as good as Belichick? Here’s what I wrote:
          “He was a great coach, arguably the 2nd best of his era to Belichick”
          How do you interpret that as me saying Dungy is the same as Belichick? That’s exactly what it DOESN’T say. This is a standard tactic by Manning’s fans. KD knows he can’t defeat my argument, so he has to misrepresent what I said, and then claim that I’m making a ridiculous claim. Your claim was the ridiculous one, when you said that Dungy was just OK.

          • KD

            It’s my opinion. Just like saying Dungy was 2nd is yours (which even if he was, says nothing about his impact on his team compared to Belichick’s on his). Hard to argue Mark Jackson was a bad coach given his record with the Warriors. Steve Kerr is noticably better. Maybe there’s a way to quantify it, using variance from optimal decision making, which is what I posed as a suggestion in the original comment. From the eye-test there is an appreciable difference between them, I’m my opinion. I could cite examples why but I’d have to write a whole coloumn like this.

            • WR

              Ok, so you’re arguing that Dungy is nowhere near Belichick. I don’t agree, but at least I understand you. So if Dungy gets elected to the HOF, will you consider that some gross injustice? You want to underrate Dungy because it reflects well on manning. But I don’t believe Dungy was a liability to the colts. Peyton won his only super bowl, and had the best stretch of his career from 03-06 under Dungy. I don’t think that’s by accident.

              And I’m tired of hearing about how Belichick has carried Brady. Belichick had a losing record as a coach before Brady showed up, and had made the playoffs once. He could build a good defense, but had never had an elite offense before Brady reached his peak in 2007. Look at Brady’s year to year ranks in anypa, and they track very closely with the performance of the NE offense in points per drive. If Belichick is an offensive genius who has turned Brady into a star, how come NE never had an elite offense before 2007? Whether you want to admit it or not, Dungy was a fantastic coach, and Peyton was lucky to have him. When Dungy is elected to the HOF, the honor will be deserved.

              • lcj1049

                Do your research. BB’s record in Cleveland got better every year until the last one when six weeks into the season Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore. He took overs mess of a team. If Modell sticks with BB. Who knows what happens. Montana lost 5 playoff games as a 49er. Two of them were to BB/Giant defenses and he was bullseyed out of both games. Super Bowls 25 and 36 were the same game. BB defensive game plans shut down high-powered offense . QB and offense keep the ball and don’t f it up. David Halberstams book, “the education of a coach” is required reading to understand just how good BB is/was. The Manning/Brady rivalry comes down to the phrase – Brady had Belichick. BB didn’t carry Brady but Brady was beyond fortunate to have played for him.

                Dungy was a high quality coach but he wasn’t Belichik

                • WR

                  I’m going to respond because I think it’s appropriate, but here’s another member of the Manning mafia coming after me for stating facts he doesn’t like. First, I agree Belichick was better than Dungy. But your argument about Belichick is silly, and doesn’t answer my points. He’s a great defensive coach, but he’s no offensive genius. Brady’s ranks in ANYPA track closely with the PPD ranking of the NE offense. Through 2006, Brady had only one season in the top 5 for ANYPA, and the Patriots had only one season where they were higher than 7th for ppd. Since the start of the 2007 season, Brady has been in the top 10 for ANYPA all but one season (2013), has been number one in the league twice, and top 5 in 3 other seasons. Over that span, the Pats have been in the top 10 for ppd every season, and top 5 seven times. Their lowest finish was 9th in ppd in 2013, Brady’s worst season since 2007. Do you really think that is a coincidence?

                  If Belichick is an offensive genius, and Brady a system guy, why didn’t NE have stronger offenses through 2006? And why does Belichick have a losing record as a coach when anyone but Brady starts for him? And I love how you arrogantly told me to do some research, when your post didn’t even address the points I made about NE’s offense. I agree Brady was lucky to get Belichick, but Manning was nearly as lucky to get Dungy, who is now officially a hall of fame coach.

                  • lcj1049

                    Do your research referred to bb having a losing record prior to Brady. His Cleveland experience is wildly misunderstood. He was a success there.

                    • WR

                      So would you agree that Manning’s gaudy stats are also the function of rules changes, ones that he and his team openly lobbied for? Or does that only apply to Brady? Brady played for some great teams early in his career, but he was a big part of their success, too. He put up great numbers in the SB against Carolina, had great numbers throughout the playoff run that ended with the win over Philly, and rescued the cause against the Rams after his defense blew a 14 point 4th quarter lead. So he benefitted from being on a great team, but NE won those super bowls because Tom Brady played well.

                      The stats I previously provided, which show that NE’s offense improved significantly post-2006, correlate with Brady’s improvement on an individual level. While the coaching staff deserves some credit for that too, it suggests that Brady has done an awful lot to help Belichick, and the Pats team as a whole.

                    • lcj1049

                      I would absolutely and with not a single qualification agree that Manning’s stats are a function of rule changes. His entire career was a function of rule changes.

                      And absolutely no one withrational intellect could or should argue that Tom Brady wasn’t an integral part of the Patriots success over the past 15 plus seasons and isn’t an all time great quarterback.

                      My entire thesis has been twofold.

                      A. The narrative of Brady vs. Manning was skewed by Brady’s initial 4 years in which his teams won three Super Bowls and 9 straight playoff games.

                      (Consider: The Patriot defense in 2003 gave up the second fewest avg
                      points per game while the 2004 defense gave up the fewest avg points per
                      game. They also led the league in interceptions and fumbles forced in 2003 and were fifth in 2004. And as I said before 2004 saw a 1600 yard bulldozer of a running back while 2003 saw two running backs combined for close to 1500 yards. His running game in those years was NOT inconsequential and combined with turnover producing defense success was highly probable.)

                      and B. He benefited from being coached by Belichick, whose career successes both as a defensive coordinator in NY and NE were highly distinctive, (just ask Joe Montana about Jim Burt and Leonard Marshall) and that Belichick’s Cleveland tenure was wildly misunderstood. He was having success before Art Modell pulled an Art Modell. Tony Dungy was an above average coach, but he was not Bill Belichick. He just wasn’t.

                      Brady has undoubtedly been a better quarterback in the past 10 years than he was in his first 6. Yet has only the single Super Bowl and has lost his share of playoff games where he did not play well.

                      Brady is

                    • WR

                      Ok, you still haven’t really addressed my point. I agree that Brady was better later in his career than in his first 3-4 years. But that doesn’t mean he was a bad QB when he won those first 3 super bowls. He wasn’t, he was very good. I also agree that Belichick is a better coach than Dungy.

                      The point I’m making that you’re not addressing is that Brady’s improvement as an individual tracks pretty closely with the improvement of the NE offense after 2006. This doesn’t suggest to me that Brady’s success is the product of playing for offensive genius Bill Belichick. I’ve never disputed that BB built some great defenses with the Giants and Patriots. But that’s not the reason Brady has been putting up historically good stats since 2007. And through 2004, Brady played well in the playoffs, particularly in Super Bowls. If you look at the details of those games, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Brady’s defense carried him to the SB wins.

                      You need to look at the 2003 Patriots numbers again. They were 30th in yards per rushing attempt. Their leading rusher was Antowain Smith, who was terrible.

                    • lcj1049

                      I never said he was a bad quarterback in those Super Bowl years, far from it. As you said, he played “well.” He was a very good quarterback playing for fully formed great teams with clutch players, who would use that experience to transition to becoming an ALL-TIME quarterback. I simply will NOT allow people to throw out the first three Super Bowls as the be all and end all argument for him being the greatest quarterback of all time. It simply doesn’t pass muster.

                      His stats since 2007 grew exponentially, but so did offense in general in the NFL. His progression was at higher angle, but it wasn’t as if the league stayed static and he ran away and hid.

                      The 2003 rushing numbers are a good point. What cannot be avoided is that in 2004 he was 20th in the league in number of completions and 11th in avg yards while in 2003 he was eighth and 12th. Again, in his best, most successful years in relation to playoffs and Super Bowls he was a very good quarterback playing with great teams being coached by a master.

  • Johhny Ohrl


    “You’re right, Johnny. For reasons I don’t understand, many in the
    analytics community are ready to make excuses for Manning’s failures.
    Scott Kacsmar and others like him like to push the narrative that
    Manning has been “unlucky” in the playoffs, but I don’t buy it…”

    True. I wonder why the stats guys (I count myself one too) have so much love for PM. But it´s not only about numbers and sample size. If a QB throws too many ducks when the going gets though, again and again, it´s not sample size. It´s melting under pressure. Anyone who played sports knows it (at least me 😉 I choked a lot).
    You are right, don´t believe the hype. PM wasn´t “unlucky”. Actually he GOT lucky. Without the D in 2006, and this year, PM has participated in one SB. For a player being a starter 17 years, the random chance for this player to get to the SB is 100%. No matter who that guy is. And now the “experts” wanna tell me PM is the GOAT? Grotesque!

  • Chris Walker

    Rather than total games versus one another, a simple measure that was not discussed is that Manning is 3-1 against Brady in AFC Championship games. Still, as yesterday’s game made clear, the game is won because of a team effort. To that point, if not for Adam Vinateri kicking three SB winning field goals and Malcolm Butler making the play that is likely the best in SB history, Brady might well be 0-6 in the SB. It is about teams.

  • Chris

    I’ve always thought it was ironic that Brady won most of his Super Bowls back when he was still a scrawny, weak-armed game manager. And by the time he’d become stronger and emerged as a legitimate threat to light up a defense, he stopped winning quite so frequently in the playoffs. Why? Because the secret hiding in plain sight starting us in the face is that teams win championships! T-E-A-M-S. Specifically teams with great defenses.

    Historically, when a top flight offense meets a stingy defense in a Super Bowl, the defense almost always wins the day. It happened in Brady’s early Super Bowl victories when he was the beneficiary. And it happened against the Giants (twice) when he was on the one getting knocked on his back. This despite the fact that he seas a vastly superior quarterback to the one who won 3 championships in his first 4 seasons.

    There are countless other examples:

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the height of the Tampa-2 defense knocking off the high flying Oakland Raiders offense. Does anyone really think Brad Johnson was better than MVP Rich Gannon? Does anyone think that Tent Dilfer was better than, well, anyone? Ray Lewis and company still dragged him kicking and screaming to a title.

    The Record setting 2013 Broncos offense lost to the Legion of Boom. Then this year, the tables turned and the very same Broncos (albeit with a markedly improved defense) won with their own equally impressive defensive unit knocking off Brady and the Pats and reigning MVP Cam Newton and the Panthers #1 ranked offense in successive games. This despite the fact that a suddenly very ancient, noodle-armed Manning was clearly outgunned by both opposing signal callers at this stage of his illustrious career.

    Fitting then that he goes out champ when he was far from at his record breaking, surgical best. It’s like the reverse of Brady’s narrative. He came in as a champ as a scrawny kid who was a far cry from the Pro Bowler with the lightning quick release he would eventually become.

    The difference is that first impressions are lasting impressions, and quarterbacks, more so than probably any other player in a TEAM sport, are judged by the success of their team. Brady had vastly superior teams around him in those early defining days.

    This article backs up what I always felt but didn’t have the metrics to demonstrate clearly. Thanks for the great write up.

    • eag97a

      Except that the narrative that he was game manager early in his career is demonstrably false. You can argue that TBs 2001 season was “game-manager-y” with an ANY/A+ (102) but all his other SB seasons are 107+ in ANY/A+. And that just measures his passing ability (sacks included) but not his overall qb performance. You could argue that Dilfer is a game manager with a below average ANY/A+ of 90 playing 11 and starting 8 games but Brad Johnson has had a brilliant 2002 season with 120 ANY/A+.and had an above average qb career in general. Now if you define a game manager as a qb having an above average passing season and managing a season thru a deep playoff run then all HOF qbs have this ability as one of their defining characteristics. But if you mean a game manager as someone riding off a great defense and not turning the ball over to a deep playoff run even a SB win while having a below average passing season then that defines a 2000 Dilfer, 09-10 Mark Sanchez and yes PMs’ 2015 season etc. While PM is a HOFer and arguably one of the GOATS this season doesn’t define him and is just another feather on his cap. Wins and rings are all team accomplishments but most metrics in football are inc. yards, TDs, sacks etc. This discussion about legacies and narratives obscures the fact TB was actually a good qb right out the gate when he became the starter while he is undeniably a better qb during the latter part of his career we should remember that the main job of a qb is to lead his team to the end zone and score points and if we just dig a little bit more you will find that PM and TB are much closer in reg. season stats early 00s’ if we factor in rushing TDs and FGs. And lastly while I find it ironic that PM won his SBs while playing his worst playoff runs it just validates my philosophy of judging qbs thru the lens of everything (stats, accomplishments, wins, championships etc.) instead of superficial “individual” stats (TDs, yards etc.)

      • lcj1049

        Tom Brady was a good quarterback early who eventually became a GREAT quarterback. But in his first four years he was a game manager who was progressing every year bit by bit.

        In 2003 and 2004 his defenses gave up the second fewest and fewest points per game while leading the NFL in interceptions/forced fumbles and then finishing fifth. In 2003 he had two running backs combine for more than 1500 yards while in 2004 Corey Dillon ran for 1650.

        In Super Bowl XXXVI he completed only 17 passes for 145 yards while his defense provided him with 7 points via a pick sick. A Bill Belichick defense stopped a high powered offense for the second time in a Super Bowl (See: 1990 Giants, NFC Championship, Super Bowl XXV) . In the AFC championship game that year Bledsoe came in and competently held the team together in Pittsburgh throwing for a touchdown while special teams provided another score via a Troy Brown punt return. (This is the same Troy Brown who after Tom Brady threw a back breaking interception in a playoff game in San Diego stripped the defender of the ball giving Brady another chance.)

        He played on GREAT teams with clutch players early in his career, while sometimes playing great himself. But Tom Brady has not been the infallible, 100% clutch, football genius to Manning’s playoff choke artist that everyone seems to believe.

        • WR

          “But Tom Brady has not been the infallible, 100% clutch, football genius to Manning’s playoff choke artist that everyone seems to believe”

          No one who is serious has believed this in years. And sorry, but Brady was not a game manager from 2001-2004. In 2001, he was 6th in the league in passer rating. In 2002, he led the league in TD passes. In 2003 and 2004, he was top 10 in the league in passer rating and anypa. That doesn’t fit the definition of a game manager at all.

          • lcj1049

            eag97a: Whether the defense was “all time” or “transcendent” or not isn’t relevant. I never mentioned those defenses. Brady is a better quarterback than McMahon, Dilfer, Roethlisberger, Cunningham, (the 91 Redskins were about the offensive line, Rypien was sacked just 10 times all year) etc. Those Patriot defenses lead the league in points per game and interceptions/forced fumbles. In comparison to the defenses in football at the time, his were at the very top and were providing ample opportunity for a very good quarterback to learn to become an all time quarterback.

            PM was not a victim of anything. He blew games etc. But like the article and stats point out, he did not get the support from teammates that TB got, especially not the support TB got early in his career when he was absorbing the most information and truly learning what it meant to play QB at the NFL level.

            At the end of the day, to rate one over the other just isn’t possible.

            • eag97a

              What I’m saying his defenses were good but not so good as to drag him and the offense to a SB win as what happened tp PM this year. He and the offense had to do their part as well. And this is proven since him and the offense had at least an ANY/A of 102 during those SBs ergo competent passing offense. Those teams can be characterized as well-balanced and well-coached but I dispute the notion that those teams are all time great teams with the possible exception of the 2004 squad and even there I won’t say it is a top 15 to top 20 all time squad. I would say the 2007 Pats and 2013 Broncos were better teams and they both lost the SB. PM might have gotten lesser support from his D/ST but his offensive teammates gave him lots which this article did not address and if we go by the adage that offense is around 60% of a team he might have had better support overall who knows. As I said before its too close to call for me as of this moment and I will have to wait for TB to retire before we can judge the overall body of work.

              • lcj1049

                I don’t disagree with anything you say.

                Again, I didn’t say the defense dragged TB, and I didn’t say any of the Patriot teams were all time great teams. But they were the best performing defenses in the NFL at the time. And that fact cannot be discounted.

                Were those Patriot dynasty teams Cowboy/Niners of the 90’s? I would venture to say no. 84, 89 Niners, 93, 94, Cowboys. They were all time great teams. The 2001 Patriot team did not win solely due to TB and certainly didn’t win despite him. He was on the team and he played well, but he wasn’t light years better than every other member of that crew. The Ty Laws, Mike Vrabels, Willie McGinest’s were all providing a ton of support. TB wasn’t the catalyst. Everyone was involved.

                Yet people, years removed act as if he was throwing for 300 yards 3 TD’s 0 Int in every playoff game right from the moment he stepped on stage. He wasn’t. TB was more than “competent” in 03 and 04, he was very good player on fully formed teams who were totally prepared to win Super Bowls.

                So yes, those teams ere more supportive of TB than were the Colt teams for PM at that time. And that matters when judging them.

          • lcj1049

            WR: Top Ten in passer rating is exactly that: top ten. In the top third. 6th in this, eight in that etc. He was a very good quarterback who was playing with a great, fully formed team who consistently put him in position to have top ten stats. I said a game manager that was progressing. He wasn’t a game manager for very long as he took the lessons and consistently got better. By 2006 he was a fully formed EXCELLENT quarterback whose perfection was as much due to team as his own brilliance.

        • eag97a

          Well if you define a game manager as a good qb with above average passing efficiency and counting stats who doesn’t lose you games enroute to deep playoff runs then I agree with you totally. As for the early 00’s Pats defenses they were good but not transcendent like the 85 Bears, 00 and 06 Ravens, 08 Steelers, 91 Eagles or even the 91 Redskins. They did their job to help out the offense and the ST as well. As for the running game it really helped the offense too but you must remember the qb controls the offensive execution, audibles, protection calls etc. so giving all the credit to the running game is a mistake, it is organically part of the offense which is why I almost always hammer the point that passing is just one part although significant but still a part of a qbs skillset. And as for specific plays and events in the playoffs I have never been a fan of what-ifs and attributing outsized bad luck to qbs especially to Manning and also by extension good luck to Brady. They both have played almost 2 seasons worth of playoff games and extraneous events will even out for the both of them. You must remember that PMs 2 SB winning playoff runs are nothing to crow about since you well know what his stats are and he also was a beneficiary of good luck as well. I’m not saying TB is infallible and PM is a choker, I just have a slight beef about people claiming PM is the victim of horrendous luck throughout his career and he is significantly better than TB due to his individual stats and abilities when most people including so called football statisticians are in fact just pointing out his passing stats as proof of his QB GOAT-hood. Passing is just one part of quarterbacking.

  • Jazz Lee Robinson

    Peyton Manning is 3-1 vs Tom in afc championship games. Since they can’t meet in the super bowl (same conference obviously) the afc championship is like their super bowl add those in and the “ring” conversation is 5 each

    • eag97a

      Nope the ring conversation is 6 for TB (4 SB rings and 2 AFC rings) while PM has 4 (2 SB rings and 2 AFC rings). If you are gonna talk about rings then those numbers are the correct figures.

      • Jazz Lee Robinson

        Reading comprehension is essential in school, man. Brady has 4 rings legit, and 1 afc championship win AGAINST PEYTON MANNING = 5 “rings”. Peyton Manning has 2 legit rings and 3 afc championship wins AGAINST TOM BRADY = 5 “rings”

        • eag97a

          I know your argument but using “rings” argument in this head-to-head debate when neither plays defense/special teams is to say the least bone-headed. Artificially using “rings” to argue one is better than the other? Even worse than cherry-picking data, you are using fake date. I can understand using TDs, yards, wins or advanced stats for arguments but “rings”… To be fair you might be asserting they are tied because of “rings” but I still don’t see the force of that argument.