The NFL Playoffs have arrived. That usually means twelve teams embarking on a quest for a championship. For two men, however, that quest could end with a title that lasts for more than one season.
From living rooms to bar rooms, blogs to water coolers, a popular conversation in regard to football is “Who is the greatest quarterback of all-time?” Most of the time, the same names are tossed around: Montana, Unitas, Elway, Marino, Favre, Manning and Brady. Sure, guys like Bradshaw and Aikman are often thrown into the mix by Steeler and Cowboy die-hards, only to be written off because of the talent they had around them.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both have legitimate cases to end that conversation this postseason.
In the case of Manning, he already has two Super Bowl appearances and one ring to go with his Marino-like stats and Favre-like longevity. If he walked away from the game today, he’d be No. 4 all-time in passer rating, No. 2 all-time in touchdown passes, No. 5 all-time in completion percentage, No. 2 all-time in game-winning drives and the all-time leader in fourth quarter comebacks. A Super Bowl win this season would make him the only quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a starting quarterback for two different franchises.
This season could be the crown jewel of Manning’s career. He alone was the difference in transforming a team that backed into the playoffs as a Wild Card in 2011 into the No.1 overall seed in AFC Playoffs this year. He accomplished that feat after what many (including myself) assumed was a career-ending neck surgery.
As far as Tom Brady goes, a Super Bowl win this year would be his fourth, tying Bradshaw and Montana for the most all-time. It would also mark his sixth Super Bowl appearance, separating his total as most all-time ahead of John Elway’s five.
Like Manning, Brady’s stats are among the best ever. He is currently No. 9 all-time in passing yards, No. 5 in touchdown passes, third in passer rating, ninth in completion percentage, fifth in game-wining drives, and ninth in fourth quarter comebacks.
Another Super Bowl win or even appearance for Brady would be all the more impressive considering the roster turnover since he took his first snap as a Patriot. He is the last remaining player on New England’s roster from the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win in 2002. He, Vince Wilfork and Deion Branch are the last remaining players on the roster from New England’s last Super Bowl win in 2005.
Coaching turnover hasn’t exactly been on Brady’s side either. He has been called a “system quarterback” by some of his critics. I have to ask “what system?” He’s had three Super Bowl appearances with Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator. He’s had one with Josh McDaniels (whose system is different than Weis’), and one (2011) in Bill O’Brien’s tight end-oriented scheme. McDaniels has Brady on the brink of another.
There goes that argument.
So as these playoffs get rolling and the twelve teams battle it out for the game’s top prize, don’t forget what is arguably at stake for Brady and Manning. If they meet in a couple of weeks for the AFC Championship like many expect them to, it could be the most watched non-Super Bowl game in NFL history, and for good reason.
The winning quarterback could be one game away from giving us all one less topic to debate over a cold one.