Tennessee football: Tom Brady retires behind Peyton Manning in some key metrics

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Through the first decade-plus of their rivalry, the debate between former Tennessee football quarterback Peyton Manning and Tom Brady centered around rings vs. stats. Manning fans rightly pointed out that football is a team sport, and he should have the edge as the better quarterback.

However, while Brady started to change that narrative in 2007 when he threw 50 touchdowns with Randy Moss as his primary target, it really began to change in the mid-2010s. Manning’s abilities were clearly fading by mid-2014, the same year Brady began his run of four more Super Bowls in seven years after his first three in the early 2000s.

Meanwhile, as Manning retired after 2015, Tennessee football fans had to witness Brady’s longevity that allowed him to eclipse Manning in every statistical category that matters. Now Brady retires with more rings, more Super Bowl MVPs, more career touchdowns and more career passing yards.

What made it worse was when Brady won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, taking away one of the only winning metrics Manning had over Brady: being the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. It became harder and harder for Vol fans to make the case against Brady.

So with rings and longevity, Brady seemingly has a huge advantage. However, with Brady now retiring, according to ESPN, there are some key accomplishments in Manning’s favor that can’t be overlooked. The first is MVPs. Manning will now always remain ahead of Brady in that one.

This metric isn’t random either. It proves that while Brady’s longevity probably outweighs what Manning did, his peak performance didn’t match Manning’s and quite honestly, it wasn’t as long. Manning won a record five MVPs, four with the Indianapolis Colts and one with the Denver Broncos. Only one of those is even questionably: 2009.

Brady has won three, all with the New England Patriots, and may win a fourth with the Bucs. It’s even more clear when there is no other season outside of this one where Brady has a case. Manning had a case in 2005, 2006 and 2012. This debate opens other statistical debates as well that suggest pretty clearly Manning was the better quarterback in his prime.

MVPS are part of the equation that show the Tennessee football legend at his peak was better than Brady at his peak. He was seven-time First Team All-Pro compared to Brady only being three-time First Team All-Pro. Manning’s total All-Pro numbers outweigh Brady’s 10-6.

All of the records for passing touchdowns and passing yards in a single season will also stick with Manning despite the fact that Brady got to play a 17-game season, something Manning never did. In terms of career numbers, Brady retires behind Manning in completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards per game and touchdowns per game.

That’s not to say that there aren’t stats favoring Brady. He’s got a better touchdown to interception ratio, more adjusted yards per attempt and a better career QB rating. However, more per-game and per-season stats favor Manning.

Also, as for QB rating, it’s well documented that Total QBR is a more important stat anyway nowadays. Despite Manning playing eight and a half seasons with that stat in existence compared to Brady playing 15 full seasons, Manning led the league in Total QBR four times to Brady’s two.

What about the playoffs? All we ever hear is Brady being a better postseason performer. Well, Brady does have a better QB rating, more adjusted yards per attempt, a better touchdown to interception ratio, more yards per game and more touchdowns per game. However, Manning does have a better completion percentage and more yards per attempt.

Anybody who followed Manning knew that playoff talk made no sense anyway. In their college days, between the two of them, Manning had the most clutch performance: Tennessee football’s 1997 SEC Championship win against the Auburn Tigers.

Also, Brady’s yards per game, touchdowns per game, adjusted yards per attempt and QB rating would all be below Manning’s if we stopped before 2016. That year, right after Manning retired, the NFL changed the rules limiting where a player can even make contact with a quarterback which inflated stats dramatically.

If we take that into account and adjust stats accordingly, Manning is comparable to Brady in every postseason category. Sure, you can bring up the raw wins, but that involves defense, special teams and luck too. Let’s break all of those down.

Brady has five more rings than Manning. Well, in 18 of his 20 years as a starter, he had a top 10 defense in points allowed per play, the most important metric in determining defensive efficiency Manning had a top 10 defense by that same metric in six of his 17 years as a starter.

Now, to be fair, Brady won more Super Bowls still per times he had a top 10 defense than Manning. The number is one out of three for Manning and one out of roughly two and a half for Brady. However, that’s based on a one title difference, really, so let’s throw in another stat: luck.In overtime in the playoffs, Brady’s team went 3-0 on coin tosses. Manning’s team went 0-2.

Taking all this into account, Brady actually retires behind Manning in some important metrics, enough to say that this debate is still legitimate with both sides having a case beyond Manning just going 3-2 against Brady in the playoffs.

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Of course, more than anything, fans of Tennessee football, the Michigan Wolverines, the Colts, the Broncos and the Patriots can all appreciate this rivalry these two had. Manning is connected to that 1997 Michigan team in two ways. His rivalry with Brady is one, and Charles Woodson winning the Heisman over him is another.