Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) meets with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) after the 2013 AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Is the Manning-Brady debate over?

Peyton Manning and the Broncos are advancing to Super Bowl XLVIII after soundly defeating Tom Brady’s Patriots 26-16 in the AFC Championship game. Manning improved to 5-10 against Brady, but does that win alone decide who the better quarterback is? No way.

If Manning doesn’t retire after the Super Bowl, the he’ll face off against Brady play again in 2014. This debate is far from over. Both quarterbacks are getting older, but they (obviously) have some great football left in them. As for now, however, the answer to who is the better (or more prolific) quarterback is clear in my eyes.

Brady has three Super Bowl rings and Manning has one. Manning has the chance to change that next weekend, but he technically still won’t be on Brady’s “level”. But I disagree. Quarterbacks should not be defined by how many Super Bowls they have won. Teams win championships, not quarterbacks. That’s why football is called the greatest team sport on earth.

I know Manning has made late-game gaffes in the playoffs:  in Super Bowl XLIV against New Orleans when Tracy Porter jumped in front of Manning’s pass and returned it for a touchdown, sealing the game for the Saints, and in 2012 when Corey Graham intercepted Manning in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal for the Ravens. But Brady threw two fourth quarter picks against those same Ravens in the AFC Championship game that won the game for the Ravens – something that was overlooked by just about everyone.

When Manning makes an error, it’s always his fault, but when Brady does it, it’s the Patriots’ fault as a team. Nobody was talking about Brady’s overthrown pass(es) to Julian Edelman in this year’s AFC Championship game, potential touchdown passes. Somehow, for some reason, Brady gets a free pass, and Manning doesn’t. Why? Because he’s “only” won one Super Bowl?

Again, teams win championships, not individual players. The 2006 Colts had the worst run defense in the league and an average running game on offense, yet they still won the Super Bowl. The 2009 team was similar – the defense and running game were both subpar. On the other hand, the Patriots had one of the league’s best running games and defenses from 2001 to 2004, winning the Super Bowl in three out of those four years.

In 2007 and 2011, New England didn’t have a great running game or defense, and ended up losing to the Giants both times. I don’t think it had much of an effect on the Super Bowls they won, but the Pats haven’t won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal was uncovered. That’s just something to point out.

The point is that the Patriots won those Super Bowls because they had a great team. The Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006 with a great offense. Players are most accurately judged by individual accolades (such as records and statistics) rather than Super Bowl victories.

Manning’s career numbers are definitely better than Brady’s; Manning has been in the league longer. This year, Manning shattered Brady’s touchdown record by five scores (55 to 50) and beat Drew Brees’s single-season passing yardage record by a yard (5,277). Oh, and not to mention, Manning did this coming off four neck surgeries. Brady did come off an ACL injury in 2008, but didn’t have the kind of season Manning had. Brady had Wes Welker and Randy Moss that year as well.

Manning’s 2013 campaign ranks among the best, if not the best, of any season for a quarterback in the history of the league. In terms of statistics, it easily outranks Brady’s 2007 year when he threw for 50 touchdown passes (the team lost the Super Bowl to the Giants after going undefeated up to that point).

I know what’s next: the people who support Brady in this debate would tell me that Manning’s production slips off in the playoffs. Take a look at this graphic by Football Outsiders’ Scott Kacsmar:

Brady declines more than Manning

Brady’s production actually slips more than Manning’s, especially in terms of passer rating and defensive-adjusted passer rating. The graphic says that Manning is 10-11 in the playoffs, but he’s 11-11 with the win against the Patriots to send Denver to the Super Bowl. Manning is the better regular season quarterback, and his play doesn’t drop off as much as Brady’s in the postseason. There’s really no debate at this point.

The only thing Brady has in his favor is the Super Bowl rings, but again, teams win them, not individual players. This debate is far from over. But in my eyes, the better and more prolific quarterback is Peyton Manning.

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Tags: Denver Broncos Indianapolis Colts New England Patriots NFL Peyton Manning Tom Brady

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