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Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning: Who's the Best? - Part I

Brady vs. Manning
Who Is the Better QB and Why?

This argument is right up there with Frasier-Ali, Williams-DiMaggio, Bird-Johnson. The rivalry .. um, rivals .. Red Sox-Yankees, Bruins-Canadians, Bears-Packers. The discussion has been called "irrational" by one of the premiere sites for statistical NFL analysis (, see Parts I, II, and III -- there's no "evidence," just a forum-style argument).

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning: Who's better and why?

Well, in case you didn't notice: This is a New England Patriots blog. The answer is Brady. No question. Unfortunately, as hard to believe as it is, there are some misguided and misinformed heathens out there.

I don't know that we can change that, but here upon the Pulpit, I give you in back-and-while and red-white-and-blue is the gospel truth. In Part I of our testimony, we discuss The Stats.

The Stats
(Stats from and

Brady Manning Brady Manning
Age 29y 11m 31y 3m**
seasons/games 7* / 96 9 / 144 Record 12-2 7-6
attempts 3,064 4,890 486 475
att./season 510.7 543.3
completions 1,896 3,131 295 290
comp./season 316.0 347.9
comp. % 61.9 64.0 60.7 61.1
yards 21,564 37,586 3217 3495
yds/season 3,594.0 4,176.2
yds/att 7.04 7.69 6.62 7.36
yds/comp 11.37 12.00 10.91 12.05
TD 147 275 20 18
TD/season 24.5 30.6
Att/TD 20.84 17.78 24.30 26.39
INT 78 139 9 15
INT/season 13.0 15.4
Att/INT 39.28 35.18 54.00 31.67
fumbles lost 25 16
sacks 182 170
sk/season 30.0 18.9
rating 88.4 94.4
rushes 239 269 38 18
yds/att 1.8 2.6 1.8 1.9
TD 3 13 2 3
1st downs 79 63
Table Notes:
* Brady played at the end of one game his first season. He's had 6 full seasons.
** I typo'd this earlier. Manning is 31, not 33.

During the regular season, Manning has a pretty decisive advantage in most areas. He throws a lot more passes, so he obviously has more yards and more touchdowns. He also has more interceptions.

If you look at the averages, we get a bit of a clearer picture. Manning averages 0.65 yards per attempt better than Brady, 0.63 yards per completion more, 6.1 touchdowns per season more. But quality of your own offensive personnel and the quality of the opponents' defensive personnel has a lot to do with that. Manning also has a 2.1 percent edge in completion percentage.

Let's look at a couple other numbers: Manning throws a touchdown every 17.78 passes; Brady, every 20.84. Pretty close. Probably a lot closer than most people would expect. Manning also throws an interception every 35.18 passes, and Brady does every 39.28 attempts. Brady has a decisive edge there.

Manning has fewer sacks per season and more rushing touchdowns, but that again is a function of the quality of your own offensive line and the opponents' defense and your general offensive scheme. But Brady has a good edge in first downs gained.

Overall, Manning has a clear edge, but Brady has the advantage in a few key areas.

Now look at the playoffs.

Recently, I read an argument that said Brady has been floundering since Charlie Weis took the head coaching job at Notre Dame and that Manning has been getting in the playoffs. After starting 0-3, Manning is 7-3 in has last 10 playoff starts. Of course, Brady is 8-2 in his last 10 (including two Super Bowl wins) and 12-2 overall. Brady has a monumental advantage in win-loss playoff records.

Manning's completion percentage advantage decreases from 2.1 percent to 0.4. Quite negligible. But his yards per attempt and completion increase from 0.65 and 0.63 to 0.74 and 1.14. Manning's numbers are both better than his regular season number. Brady's are not as good. Some people would call that surprising.

But to win playoff games and to win championships, yards aren't the key stat.

In one more game (14-13), Brady has two more touchdowns. As opposed to the regular season, Brady has the big edge, 24.30 to 26.39. That's a turnaround of almost 5 passes per touchdown better.

It doesn't end there either. Brady's thin attempts per interception in the regular season explodes in the postseason. Brady throws far few interceptions in the playoffs: just one every 54.00 attempts, compared to his 39.28 in the regular season. Manning falters. He drops from 35.18 to 31.67. Brady throws almost twice as many passes between interceptions than Manning does.

Brady also runs a lot more, which means when the biggest games are on the line, he takes matters into his own hands more often. Note that these performances are against the best teams in the league, not the Houstons and Oaklands of the world. Brady picks apart these elite defenses methodically and ruthlessly.

Playing well in (and that's an understatement) and winning the biggest games: That's what makes a champion.

In Part 2, we'll look at the some of the talent surrounding these two future hall of famers.


Which quarterback has the statistical edge?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Tom Brady
    (88 votes)
  • 69%
    Peyton Manning
    (204 votes)
292 votes total Vote Now