An interesting question was posed by Paul Pabst of the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday: “Whose career would you rather have right now, Tom Brady or Eli Manning?”
Before you jump on one or the other consider some of the factors in the argument. Tom Brady has been to the Super Bowl five times and has won three. Eli is two-for-two and both wins came against Brady.
Both have been involved in some of the most intense games of our generation. From Brady’s Tuck Rule to Eli’s clutch performances on the road, both quarterbacks handle the spotlight like a champion.
Both players have underdog stories. As everyone knows Brady was the 199th pick out of Michigan in the 2000 season. He began his professional career as the fourth string quarterback behind starter Drew Bledsoe and two guys named John Friez and Michael Bishop. Yeah, I don’t know who they are either.
Even though Manning was drafted number one overall in the 2004 draft, he has been regarded as Peyton’s little brother and Archie’s other son for longer than he would want to remember. After watching Peyton establish himself as an elite quarterback, I never believed this dorky goon of a younger brother could ever get near his level.
Now I know what you’re saying, “Gus, I’m obviously going to pick Brady. Have you seen his wife?” Yes I have seen his wife, the international supermodel. Have you seen Eli’s wife? It’s not like you’re putting your JV players in in the fourth quarter. There is zero drop-off.
Now here we sit. One player that no one had expectations for and another that had all the expectations in the world and two shadows looming over him.
Now for some differences.
Brady has never had a particularly stunning group of receivers to throw to. His best receiving core was during their undefeated regular season in 2007. Brady flourished that year with Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, Kelley Washington and a still effective Randy Moss. But as good as Brady was that season with the weapons around him, he was still handed his first loss in a Super Bowl.
This season was similar to the 2007 season for Brady, in that he had players around him. Wes Welker is still a top five receiver in the league as he proved this year after leading the NFL in receptions. Rob Gronkowski is an absolute monster, and when you pair him with Aaron Hernandez they make the best tight end combination in the NFL.
Manning has had guys to throw to and has consistently had a decent running game. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks played like gods this season. Mario Manningham made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history after Chris Collinsworth had said earlier that Manningham can’t make that deep sideline catch. This season the Giants were last in the NFL in rushing but they came on during the playoffs and have a decently consistent triple threat at running back.
Brady, especially in recent years, has had to put the team on his back because of the Patriots’ weak sauce defense. And because the Patriots don’t have an incredible run game, he has to toss it around the yard more than some other quarterbacks.
When the Giants’ run game is on it takes the pressure off of Eli. The Giants also have a stellar defense that Manning can rely on to make stops. Eli, simply by the makeup of his team, doesn’t have to do as much to put his team in a position to win.
But it is off the field that we find maybe the most vital difference. Brady is fancy, so obviously he’s going to endorse something fancy. That’s why he wears Uggs and sprays on cologne. Eli is less fancy. How do I know? He and big brother Peyton endorse Oreos.
Brady is a first ballot Hall of Famer with trophies and awards coming out of his ears. Eli is a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP. He was born into greatness, but paved his own way to potential legend status. Brady is more accomplished, Manning has years to go.
You have to live forever with the choice you make, but after seeing both their wives I don’t think living with yourself will be very difficult.