I’ve read several articles about Eli Manning being better than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Eli now being a hall of famer, and Sunday’s loss signaling the end of the Patriots dynasty. To answer those easy questions:
- Eli is not better than Peyton, or Brady. He’s not even the best quarterback in his conference (those distinctions go to Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees). I can’t find enough superlatives to throw his way, but a great playoff run does not erase record setting regular seasons by Rodgers, Brees, or Brady. In addition the body of work put up by Peyton, Brady, and Brees.
- Eli will certainly don a yellow jacket when he finishes playing. By then end of next year he will have at least 30,000 passing yards, 200 touchdowns, and two Super Bowl MVP awards. His bust in Canton is already being developed.
- The Pats “dynasty” may be over, but their window for championships is nowhere near shut. They are still easily the class of the AFC, the new offensive rules will keep Brady’s offense un-guardable for the distant future, and Bellichick is savvy enough to keep the defense competitive in playoff games. He obviously understands that his offense is good enough to win double figure regular season games even if he plays crappy quarterbacks turned into wide receivers at cornerback.
I think a more prudent discussion is the legacy of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Both of those may be up to some sort of debate.
Belichick has 3 Super Bowl wins as a head coach (the only coach in NFL history to win three in four years), 2 Super Bowl wins as a defensive coordinator, 5 Super Bowl appearances as a head coach, 3 Coach of the Year awards, a 64% winning percentage in the regular season, and a 70% winning percentage in the playoffs. I don’t see how a four point loss in a Super Bowl can erase, negate, tarnish, or diminish anything from his stellar record. The only possible negative things one could mention are that the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the whole “Spygate” fiasco, and that they are just 2-4 in their last six playoff games. Of course none of this matters in the grand scheme of things, considering that even if Belichick doesn’t win another playoff game for the rest of his career, he will still be considered one of the greatest coaches of all-time (not just football, across all sports).
Not the Super Bowl, but an all too familiar walk of shame for Belichick
Tom Brady’s legacy is not destroyed, but the argument that he is the greatest quarterback of all-time probably ended on Sunday. Had the Patriots won Brady a 4th Super Bowl and probable third MVP, talking heads would say he is the greatest ever. Competing against Joe Montana he would have had the same number of Super Bowl wins and MVPs, more Super Bowl appearances, more postseason wins, and better regular season stats … the argument essentially makes itself. Brady owns several (at least 5 individual) Super Bowl records, but the lingering thought will be that he couldn’t close out the Giants in 2007 and 2011, and that he couldn’t drive his team down for the winning score both times (yet Eli Manning of all people did). Anyone who thinks that Eli is better than Brady is an idiot and doesn’t understand football much at all. That being said, it’s hard to call someone the greatest when they continually lose to the same opponent. For example, I’m in the camp of people who do not think that Roger Federer is the greatest men’s tennis player ever. I just don’t see how he can carry that distinction when his head-to-head record against Rafael Nadal is so poor (9-18 overall, 2-6 in Grand Slam Finals, and 3-10 in their last thirteen matches). Eli doesn’t have that kind of stranglehold against Brady, but one cannot say that Joe Montana (4-0 in Super Bowls with 3 MVPs and no interceptions) has a single albatross on his record.
It’s not your fault Tom. As your wife said, “My husband cannot f-ing throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.”
Quarterbacks get far too much credit and blame or the outcome of big games, so the argument that it’s not Brady’s fault is not valid. If one says that this loss wasn’t his fault, then one can also say that the victory against Baltimore 2 weeks ago when he played awful shouldn’t be counted on his playoff victory list. Moreover, his first Super Bowl win was more a product of his team’s stellar defense holding the then greatest offense in NFL history to only 17 points, forcing 3 turnovers, and scoring on an interception return. People may say that Eli won because he had the better team, but that’s not a quantifiable argument. The Patriot’s defense royally sucked this year, but with pro football now a glorified version of Madden, it doesn’t even matter (the Packers had an even worse defense than New England, yet finished 15-1). What’s more, New England only gave up 555 more yards than New York all season (roughly 35 yards more per game). As a matter of fact, New York actually gave up 58 more points than New England did this season. So maybe Eli’s defense isn’t as stout as the media makes it seem. From a purely subjective perspective, no one on the Giants defense scares me other than Jason Pierre-Paul. Justin Tuck and Osi Umeniyora are highly overrated at this point, the linebackers are nondescript, and the secondary has no one elite. Brady may not have Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, but he’s pretty stocked with weapons. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski would easily start on any team except for maybe San Francisco and New Orleans. Welker averages 110 catches per year with New England, and if Belichick actually tried to run the ball with regularity Green-Ellis, Ridley, and Woodhead are not a bad combo.
To keep a long story from getting too much longer, Tom Brady is an all-time great, but unless he wins two more Super Bowls he will never carry the title of greatest ever. Two consecutive losses to the same opposing quarterback, not having his best game, and not producing the great comebacks will remain on people’s minds. His body of work puts him above so many others, but instead of being in the conversation for arguably greatest ever, he’s now only in the conversation of all-time greats with Peyton Manning, and maybe one day Eli Manning.