2. Peak Performance
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady peaked concurrently, and the Colts reaped the rewards.
From 2004-2006, Peyton Manning played his age 28-30 seasons; Brady, meanwhile, lived ages 27-29 in New England, and was one year away from receiving Randy Moss as a 30th birthday gift and watching the narrative change forever.
It’s safe to say, though, that the two men were peaking concurrently at that time.
During those three seasons, Manning led the league in TDs in ’04 and ’06; Brady never did. Manning had the league’s highest rating in all three seasons.
Manning, sometimes criticized for being a bit too loose with the football downfield, as opposed to displaying Brady’s relentless care and composure, was only picked 10, 10, and nine times in those three seasons. Brady? 14, 14, and 12, while taking fewer chances.
Their team records were stunningly similar — both men QB’d a 14-2 campaign and a 12-4 season, but Manning doubled down on the 12-4s, whereas Brady went 10-6 in 2005 (while leading the league in passing yardage, to be fair).
Both great quarterbacks match up conveniently for these three seasons in time, as the league’s passing boom was just beginning. The stats agree: Manning, on a level playing field, outranked his rival.
Give Manning Randy Moss, and we probably never see a second wave of Brady dominance.