Brady, not Manning, is era's best QB

BY Jason Whitlock • December 6, 2010

For those of us who have long been skeptical of the national media’s premature and unjustified anointment of Peyton Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time, our day is here.

Sunday, Manning continued to show his age (34), tossing four interceptions, including two pick-6s, in the Colts’ 38-35 loss to the Cowboys. At 6-6, there’s a good chance Indy won’t make the playoffs. Manning is having his worst season in nine years (24 TDs, 15 INTs).

His apologists blame his poor play on injuries to Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai, a leaky offensive line and the lack of a consistent running game.

To his credit, Peyton Manning blames Peyton Manning.

“I threw four interceptions to guys who were covered, and the ball shouldn’t have been thrown,” Manning told Indy reporters after the game. “I’ve either got to throw it away or throw it to somebody else. That’s basic football. The quarterback’s job is to protect the ball, and I’m not following through on that.”

If the media didn’t overhype Manning, he might be one of my all-time favorite players. He’s a stand-up guy and a marvelous player. He’s just not the best QB of all time. He’s not the best QB of this era.

Tom Brady is.

Monday night, when the Jets and Patriots square off in a blockbuster matchup, Brady has a chance to take control of the MVP race and demonstrate the intangible that makes him a better quarterback than Manning.

Brady is fearless. Two years after the knee injury I thought would undermine his pocket toughness, Brady is back to being Brady, a courageous, unflappable pocket passer.

He’s thrown 23 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. He’s leading the league in passer rating. A victory Monday night, and the Patriots will tie the Falcons for the league’s best record (10-2).

When it comes to evaluating Brady, it’s always about more than statistics. There are no stats for courage and leadership. They’re like obscenity. You know them when you see them. Look at the smooth way Brady and Bill Belichick ushered locker-room cancer Randy Moss out of New England. That’s leadership.

Standing in the pocket and taking a hit rather than nervously throwing into coverage is leadership, too. Manning has always thrown more interceptions (and a higher percentage of INTs) than Brady because Manning has always gone to greater lengths to avoid contact.

Playoff teams are adept at hitting the opposing quarterback. That explains the dramatic difference between Brady’s and Manning’s playoff records and performances (Brady three Super Bowls and Manning one). Three-four, exotic zone-blitz defenses get inside Manning’s head. They make him think and panic.

Let me repeat: I do not dislike Peyton Manning. He’s one of the 10 best QBs of all time. What bothers me is people think he’s better than Tom Brady. It’s just not true.

In five years, Big Ben Roethlisberger might move ahead of Manning on my list. Regardless of what Roger Goodell does to NFL rules, football is always going to be a game defined by toughness. Did you watch Big Ben Sunday night?

The Ravens broke his nose in the first quarter and Big Ben never blinked. He never thought about coming out of the game. And down the stretch, against the meanest defense in football, Big Ben fought off Terrell Suggs and avoided a sack on one play and threw the game-winning TD pass two plays later.

There is no stat for playing with a broken nose. There is no stat for fighting off Suggs and throwing the ball away. If the league kept those stats, we know Roethlisberger and Brady would rank higher on the chart than Manning.

Maybe after Monday night, if Brady survives Rex Ryan’s punishing defense and the Patriots win, I’ll win some more converts. Maybe a second MVP award for Brady will help him close the Manning gap.

And, yes, as of right now, Brady deserves the MVP award more than Michael Vick.

I said “as of right now.”

Vick is an incredible story. His 467 rushing yards and six rushing TDs add a dimension to his candidacy that Brady can’t match. But Vick hasn’t played enough and the Eagles are 8-4. I’m open to changing my mind over the last month of the season.

Right now it’s Brady, followed by Vick and Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu.

In terms of best QB of this era, it’s Brady, followed by Manning and Roethlisberger. I’m not open to changing my mind about that.

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