The Coin Flip: Brady vs. Manning

Good sports discussions usually come from one thing: disagreement. One person thinks one thing, the other thinks another, and before you know it you’re sitting around with your buddies debating the merits of the of the 4-3 defense versus the 3-4. It’s what makes sports, and football in particular, great.

Given that, we’d like to introduce you to our new series, “The Coin Flip.” Every so often we’ll pose an NFL question to ourselves, and debate the merits of the question from each side. We’ll lay out why one side is right…and perhaps why the other is wrong. In the end though we’ll leave it in the hands of you, our readers, to determine which side is correct. So please vote in each poll and drop a comment letting us know what you think.

Our first question fits perfectly at this time given the recent news regarding Payton Manning’s health. Which QB is more valuable to their team? Payton Manning or Tom Brady?

Jamie’s Take: It’s Manning By A Mile

227 games. That’s how long its been since another QB started a regular season or postseason game for the Colts. That QB? Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has found his way back into the NFL of course, but it’s as the 49ers head coach. If that doesn’t give you a sense of just how stable the Colts have been under Manning, then I don’t know what will.

I’m not going to knock Tom Brady, as Brady is obviously one of the greatest QBs of all time, having been to 4 Super Bowls and winning 3. And sure, he’s 2 ahead of Manning in each category, but this isn’t about who has the best team or most rings on their fingers, it’s about the most valuable QB. Without question Brady is a leader on the field, but Manning takes it to an entirely different level.

While I am hesitant to take away any credit from guys like Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, Tom Moore and the rest of the Colts coaching staff over the past decade plus, it’s Manning that truly directs the Colts offense each game. No quarterback in the NFL has the type of freedom that Manning has on the field. Manning serves as the de facto offensive coordinator every time he steps on the field. Take a look at how the Colts will differ under Kerry Collins when he steps under center against the Texans this week. Will he be checking into a better offensive play or positioning players the way Manning does? No chance.

Brady has also been blessed by playing with some of the best NFL defenses for his entire career, and has had some of the most talented defensive minds scheming for the Patriots. Manning on the other hand has had to literally outscore and outsmart other teams week in and week out, year in and year out…and Manning never had to rely on the “Tuck Rule” to win his first title.

And of course, there’s one indisputable fact. When Brady went down in Week 1 of the 2008 season, the Pats turned to Matt Cassel. The same Matt Cassel who had 33 passing attempts in college, and 39 attempts in the NFL to that point. You read that right. In approximately 8 years, Cassel had attempted a grand total of 72 passes. Let that sink in. 72. Sure, it has turned out to be proven that Cassel is a talented QB, but Bill Belichick and crew took a player with 72 attempts in 8 seasons and won 11 games with him. If Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter or any other QB comes in an wins 8 games this season for the Colts, let along 11 games then I’ll concede that Brady is equally as valuable as Manning…but I don’t think we’ll be having that discussion any time soon.

Look, I’m not knocking Brady. He’s one of the best QBs to ever play the game, but is he more valuable than Manning? The answer is no, and the Colts 2011 season will show that.

Alex’s Take: Brady or Bust

All due respect to Peyton Manning, but the most valuable player in this debate, and the NFL, is Tom Brady.  Nobody has made more out of less than Tom Brady since he began his career in 2001.  Brady is more valuable to the Patriots because he makes everybody around him better.  Think of some of the offensive pieces that he has worked with over the years:  David Patten, Deion Branch, Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk just to name a few.  Can you guess who the starting RB for the Patriots was during the Super Bowl against the Panthers?  It was J.R. Redmond.  This is a guy who took Danny Woodhead, who couldn’t make the Jets squad a year ago, and got him a contract extension with the Patriots.  Brady takes average players and turns them into household names.

Despite their dominance, an argument can be made that Brady is going to be the only player from the Patriots dynasty to be elected into the Hall of Fame.  Not so for Manning as he’s been surrounded by offensive weapons from Day 1 like Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, a guy who only caught the second most passes in the history of the NFL.  Has Manning made them better?  Sure.  But Brady has a knack for being able to take a guy who washed your car on Thursday and throw him a TD pass on Sunday.

Jamie mentioned that Brady has been blessed with “some of the best NFL defenses” for his entire career.  That’s simply not true.  In 2 out of 3 of their Super Bowl years, the Patriots ranked 23rd or worse in total defense for the season.  In fact, during Brady’s entire career, the Patriots have only had one defense finish in the top 5 of total defense.  During the Patriots famed 16-0 regular season in 2007, the Colts actually had the higher ranked defense!  Simply put, the Patriots’ defenses frequently give up lots of yards giving Brady and his offense poor field position and, thus, a higher degree of difficulty to succeed.  It’s a misnomer to assume that the defenses have been good all of those years.

Brady is also more valuable because he’s clutch.  Look no further than the Super Bowl.  Brady has single-handedly won 2 of them with 2 minute drills at the end of the game.  Manning, well, let’s just say he didn’t fare so well when trying to lead his team to victory under pressure in the Super Bowl.

Finally, everybody loves to bring up the Matt Cassel argument.  Brady gets hurt, Cassel steps in and goes 11-5. However, 2 key points: (1) The Patriots missed the playoffs that year and (2) New England was 16-0 the year before. That’s a 5 game difference.  There’s no other quarterback that’s worth as much.  The Colts were 12-4 last year.  Are they all of a sudden a 7-9 team in 2011 if Manning doesn’t play?  Not a chance.

Without question, Brady is the most valuable player in the NFL.


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