Commentary

Ultimate Brady-Manning comparison

Difference is minimal, but the Colts' QB is best, according to our five-person panel

Originally Published: November 19, 2010
By ESPN.com staff

Tom Brady, Peyton ManningIcon SMINew England quarterback Tom Brady fell short in the voting by our five-person panel of experts, but he leads Peyton Manning in their head-to-head on-field matchup, 7-4.
Lamborghini or Ferrari?

Godiva or Vosges chocolate?

Chateau Mouton Rothschild or Chateau Lafite Rothschild wine?

What's better?

Now you have a sense of the challenge for our five-person expert panel, which we asked to evaluate the New England Patriots' Tom Brady and the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning in 15 important areas.

As Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. noted: The difference between the quarterbacks here is very minimal.

The NFL's top two quarterbacks -- who play against each other for the 12th time Sunday -- are slam-dunk Hall of Famers.

Both have a Super Bowl ring (Brady three, Manning one).

Both have a once-in-a-lifetime, monster season on their résumés: Brady's 50 touchdowns, 4,806 passing yards and 117.2 quarterback rating in 2007; Manning's 49 TDs, 4,557 passing yards and 121.1 quarterback rating in 2004.

You get the picture.

The ground rules for our panelists were simple: Vote for Manning or Brady; splitting votes was not allowed. Manning won 11 of the 15 categories, sweeping two.

But there's one important category not included that Brady still owns: head-to-head victories. He leads Manning, 7-4.

Now, on to the breakdown:


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EDGE, BRADY (3-2): I have been fortunate enough to play against both guys and compare them to other players I have faced. Tom Brady's deep ball shares similarities with Randall Cunningham's. Their body composition, body posture (standing up tall in the pocket), and long delivery allow them to put a softer touch on a long throw. He may not have the strongest arm in the league, but, because of that long delivery, Brady throws a really nice ball to catch. He also trusts his offensive line, so he's able to focus solely on where the ball needs to be and let his perfect follow-through do the rest. -- Eric Allen

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Tim Hasselbeck, Herman Edwards); Brady (Eric Allen, Matt Williamson, Marcellus Wiley)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (3-2): For every other QB, there are times throughout the season when you watch a pass and say, "Ah, almost." But Peyton Manning rarely "almost" misses a target, and I think people take that for granted. With Manning, the ball is right where it's supposed to be on the receiver, not off his fingertips or behind him. If it's behind, it's because that's where the ball needed to be. Manning can read zone and man coverage in addition to anticipating where the route is going to open up. From probably 20 yards out to the line of scrimmage, he is fundamentally sound on every aspect of delivering the ball. -- Eric Allen

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson, Allen, Hasselbeck); Brady (Edwards, Wiley)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, BRADY (4-1): Tom Brady, no doubt about it. I love his energy. He's not this poised, under-control player at all times; he brings what is needed for the situation. Peyton, on the other hand, is the same methodical player. He's good, but if I want to win one playoff game, I want someone like Brady who can bring it. Brady is also extremely versatile and can adapt to change not just from game to game but from play to play. If you throw a different look at him, he's able to handle it within a couple of snaps. When I was with the Raiders, I played against him in his first big playoff game (2002 AFC divisional round), and, no matter what position I took as a cornerback, he'd throw the ball to the opposite side. He had confidence and could adapt to the way Charles Woodson and I were covering the New England receivers. -- Eric Allen

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Edwards); Brady (Wiley, Williamson, Allen, Hasselbeck)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (4-1): As a coach, there are certain quarterbacks who make you stand there at the end of a football game and go, "We left too much time on the clock." Both of these guys fall into that category, but Manning rarely makes mistakes. He knows where to go with the ball; he reads the coverage very well; and he's hard to sack. If you're watching the last minute and 30 seconds of a game with one timeout and 75 yards to cover, Peyton Manning calling the plays and getting the job done is must-see TV. I've seen him do it too many times. -- Herm Edwards

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson, Edwards, Allen, Wiley); Brady (Hasselbeck)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (3-2): Manning is more difficult to game plan for because he is the most cerebral quarterback in recent memory. It used to be that he had a harder time with 3-4 fronts, but that is no longer the case. He has adjusted accordingly, as he does with everything. Manning is a master at getting the Colts into the right play and diagnosing a defense pre-snap. He often knows what the defense's intentions are and immediately gets his offense into a position to exploit that specific defense's weaknesses. He is a master, and there is no one else quite like him in this area. -- Matt Williamson

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson, Hasselbeck, Wiley); Brady (Edwards, Allen)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (5-0): I say Peyton Manning because of the consecutive-games-played streak (now at 200), because of the insane passing statistics that he continues to compile and because he changed what a quarterback does at the line of scrimmage. Every time he walks to the line, almost anything could happen. He goes to the line with the ability to get into the right play, no matter what it is. Teams have changed the way they play defense against him by disguising their schemes as long as they can. The Colts' version of the no-huddle offense has also changed the game by taking teams out of their third-down pressure packages. It also is very different because even though they don't huddle, they often snap the ball right before the play clock expires, which creates problems for the defense as they try not to show their hand to Peyton too early. -- Tim Hasselbeck

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Wiley, Williamson, Edwards, Hasselbeck, Allen)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (5-0): Peyton Manning is more durable because he rarely gets touched, so it's hard for a defender to even get an opportunity to measure how tough he really is. Plus, he hasn't missed a single game since his rookie season. It's difficult to figure how to stop Manning because he knows his offense better than any other quarterback and his preparation is unmatched. Defenders know they have to cut the normal amount of time it takes to get to a quarterback in half when they are dealing with Manning because he's a lot more efficient in the pocket. Manning is a machine, and his "happy feet" allow him to maneuver quickly and get rid of the ball fast. -- Marcellus Wiley

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Wiley, Williamson, Edwards, Allen, Hasselbeck)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, BRADY (3-2): One of the most underrated aspects of Brady's game is how far and accurately he can throw the football. If you look at 2007, when he first played with Randy Moss, Brady displayed tremendous arm strength all season, especially on the deep passes. And 50 touchdown passes indicates an arm that can make all the throws. -- Tim Hasselbeck

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Edwards, Wiley); Brady (Hasselbeck, Williamson, Allen)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (4-1): Everything Peyton does at the line of scrimmage reveals an extremely high football IQ, maybe the best ever. He knows when to hurry up and quick snap to catch the other team with 12 men on the field. He operates with a football awareness that you rarely see. In watching Peyton play, I find that he's wrong less than most quarterbacks. For example, Manning makes fewer mistakes with regard to throwing into coverage than Brady does.
-- Tim Hasselbeck

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson, Edwards, Hasselbeck, Allen); Brady (Wiley)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, BRADY (4-1): When you think about Tom Brady's pocket awareness, he's not very mobile, but, at the same time, he's elusive in the pocket. He really shows off his moxie by making a side step or fake to throw off the rush while keeping his eyes downfield looking for a short intermediate route. Peyton Manning is a bit more systematic in the pocket, but Brady will maneuver effortlessly in buying himself more time to find receivers. Brady does a better job of adjusting on the fly while Peyton has a "We'll figure it out later" mentality. Both quarterbacks are efficient, but they have very different styles. -- Marcellus Wiley

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson); Brady (Allen, Hasselbeck, Edwards, Wiley)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (3-2): Peyton Manning is a better team leader because he can deal with any issues. The Indianapolis Colts have dealt with a lot of turnover, but Manning has been able to adapt. Manning has had to deal with several receivers in the past few years who weren't expected to be great players, and his leadership transformed those underrated players into household names. Last season, the Colts were at the bottom of the NFL in rushing and still made it to the Super Bowl. If you take Manning off the Colts, they would have the first pick in the draft every year. -- Marcellus Wiley

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Hasselbeck, Edwards, Wiley); Brady (Williamson, Allen)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (4-1): Manning is the most mobile quarterback in the NFL. He doesn't run like Michael Vick or extend the play in a physical manner similar to Ben Roethlisberger, but he moves ever so slightly within the confines of the pocket like a prizefighter while keeping his eyes focused down the field. Brady is excellent at this skill, too, but his offensive line is better than Manning's. But no one does it like Peyton.
-- Matt Williamson

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Wiley, Williamson, Allen, Hasselbeck); Brady (Edwards)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (3-2): As with all these categories, the difference here is very minimal. But I love how Manning is always up high on his toes in the pocket, and he delivers the football from a slightly higher release point than Brady. Both quarterbacks have refined their motion so well that they waste very little extra movement and, because of their outstanding mechanics, they maximize their arm-strength potential. -- Matt Williamson

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson, Hasselbeck, Allen); Brady (Edwards, Wiley)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (3-2): Manning gets an ever-so-slight edge here, according to our panel. Both are playing at a very high level, but Brady is almost a year and a half younger than Manning. Although he was rehabbing a knee injury, he attempted only 11 passes in 2008. He also appeared in only one game in his rookie season. He is still the best football player on the planet, but I think we have seen a very slight physical decline in Manning in 2010. Surely his amazing streak has to take some toll on his body and longevity.
-- Matt Williamson

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Hasselbeck, Edwards, Wiley); Brady (Williamson, Allen)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!


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EDGE, MANNING (3-2): Look at both of those guys and tell me which one looks like a coach. Brady would make a great movie star, but I don't see him on the sideline! He's got the hair thing going; he's going to do Hollywood stuff. Manning is driven to achieve football perfection. When you draft a young receiver, Manning is the guy who shows up at his campus and starts working with him. When Anthony Gonzalez was drafted (Ohio State, 32nd pick in 2007), Manning went over there and visited because Gonzalez couldn't come to Indianapolis. He'd be that kind of coach and, in a way, he's already an on-the-field coach within the Colts' system. -- Herm Edwards

•  HOW THEY VOTED: Manning (Williamson, Hasselbeck, Edwards); Brady (Allen, Wiley)
•  YOUR VOTE: Brady or Manning? | It's Personal Part II poll!