Quarterback weak on NFL Network
The NFL Network is hosting "quarterback week" as a way to fill time during an interminable offseason filled only with baseball, basketball and boredom.
So on primetime show "Playbook" Wednesday night they asked – and weakly attempted to answer – the hottest question burning up football chat boards across the country: would Peyton Manning be sporting three Super Bowl rings if he, and not Tom Brady, quarterbacked New England?
It was a moment that begged for fact-filled examination, analysis and assessment. Instead, NFL Network "pundits" Mike Mayock and Solomon Wilcots offered timid opinion and no (ZERO!) facts to support their opinions. Not one. Essentially, they surmised New England head coach Bill Belichick would not tolerate the freelancing Manning's currently afforded in Indy and that, according to Wilcots, Manning would "still win, but he'd be a different QB." It was an embarrassing so-called examination, because it perpetuates the myth that Brady is an automaton who never calls his own plays at the line of scrimmage. Of course, he does so frequently.
In any case, without a single fact, and only the most papery-thin opinions at his disposal, there was enough evidence for Mayock to conclude that Manning would have three Super Bowl rings because "the theory that Peyton Manning can't win the big game (is) a fallacy." Mayock offered no evidence to support his case. He simply made the statement. A highly erroneous statement.
Underwhelmed by NFL Network's weak, factless effort, we conducted a little exercise – a PT regimen of reason taught to us on the Parris Island of pigskin by a drill instructor called the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
After buffing our once oval bods on these pigskin push-ups, it became clear to us that New England would have fallen woefully short in the postseason with Manning at the helm.
Here's how we know: We simply looked at Brady's postseason stats during New England's playoff run and put Manning's career playoff stats side by side. Our exercise was made a bit easier because Brady and Manning have each played and completed eight playoff games in their careers (Brady has appeared in nine, but was injured in the first half of the 2001-02 AFC title game at Pittsburgh).
It's obvious that Manning's penchant for saving his worst performances of the season for the playoffs and his wildly inconsistent postseason play would have hijacked New England's Super Bowl hopes, just as it's done to Indy's playoff hopes each season. More specifically, the Cold, Hard Football Facts show that New England would have exactly zero Super Bowl titles over the past four years had Manning been running the team.
Here's how New England's past three playoff seasons would have looked had Manning and not Brady been at the helm and had Manning performed for New England the same way he performed with his star-studded offensive cast in Indy. It's not a pretty picture.
Game 1 – divisional round, home vs. Oakland, blizzard, 16-13 victory
Brady's first playoff game stats
32 of 52 (61.5%), 312 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 70.4 passer rating
Manning's first playoff game stats (home vs. Tennessee, dome, 19-16 loss)
19 of 43 (44.2%), 227 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 60.9 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: Unable to run the ball effectively, New England puts its postseason hopes on the shoulders of their inexperienced QB in his first playoff appearance and 15th NFL start, asking him to throw the ball 52 times in a howling blizzard. Brady responds with a near flawless performance in the fourth quarter and overtime, leading the Patriots to scores on three of their final four drives, while rushing for one TD, to overcome a 13-3 deficit.
Likely result with Manning as QB: New England's Cinderella season comes to a screeching halt in the divisional round, as Manning plays the single worst game of his season. Manning apologists have a convenient crutch, blaming his performance on the foul weather.
Game 2 – Super Bowl XXXVI vs. St. Louis, dome, 20-17 victory
Brady's second playoff game stats
16 for 27 (59.3%), 145 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 86.2 passer rating
Manning's second playoff game stats (at Miami, mild weather, 23-17 loss)
17 of 32 (53.1%), 194 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 82.0 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: Taking over on his own 17 with no timeouts and 90 seconds to play, Brady leads New England into position for a field goal that gives the 14-point underdog Patriots a 20-17 upset victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. He earns Super Bowl MVP honors in the process.
Likely result with Manning as QB: New England never makes it to the Super Bowl because Manning imploded against Oakland in the divisional round.
Game 3 – divisional round, home vs. Tennessee, bitter cold, 17-14 victory
Brady's third playoff game stats
21 of 41 (51.2%), 201 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 73.3 passer rating
Manning's third playoff game stats (home vs. N.Y. Jets, dome, 41-0 loss)
14 for 31 (45.2%), 137 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 31.2 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: In the coldest game in franchise history, Brady is flawless with the football and helps New England eke out a tough 17-14 divisional round victory.
Likely result with Manning as QB: After a 14-2 regular season, New England's postseason hopes are hijacked by Manning, as he once again reserves his very worst performance of the season for the playoffs. In, fact, this time he plays the very worst game of his career. Manning apologists again blame his ineptitude on the bitter cold weather, as the temperature dropped well below 0 with the wind chill.
Game 4 – AFC title game, home vs. Indy, snow, 24-14 victory
Brady's fourth playoff game stats
22 for 37 (59.5%), 237 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 76.1 passer rating
Manning's fourth playoff game stats (home vs. Denver, dome, 41-10 victory)
22 for 26 (84.6%), 377 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT, 158.3 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: Despite the snowy conditions, Brady calmly leads the Patriots to a 24-14 victory, prompting even Indy's radio announcers to declare: "Everybody in New England thought their quarterback was the better player and today that looks to be the case."
Likely result with Manning as QB: Having submarined New England's playoff hopes a week earlier, Manning never gets the chance to play one of the best games in his career. Of course, in reality, as the QB for Indy, Manning played in this very same game and played one of the worst games of his career (see Game 6 below).
Game 5 – Super Bowl XXXVIII vs. Carolina, dome, 32-29 victory
Brady's fifth playoff game stats
32 for 48 (66.7%), 354 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 100.5 passer rating
Manning fifth playoff game stats (at Kansas City, mild, 38-31 victory)
22 for 30 (73.3%), 304 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 138.7 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: Brady leads New England to 11 points in the final three minutes, sets a Super Bowl record for completions and earns his second Super Bowl MVP award.
Likely result with Manning as QB: New England never appears in the Super Bowl because of divisional round loss to Tennessee in which Manning played the worst game of his career. Had Manning played as well as Brady in that game, however, and given his two following performances, it's likely the Patriots would have gone on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Game 6 – divisional playoffs, home vs. Indy, snow, 20-3 victory
Brady's sixth playoff game stats
18 for 27 (66.7%), 144 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 92.2 passer rating
Manning's sixth playoff game stats (at New England, snow, 24-14 loss)
23 for 47 (48.9%), 237 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT, 35.5 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: Brady masterminds a pair of 15-play, second-half drives, and has another coldly efficient and flawless performance in foul weather, while leading the Patriots to a dominating 20-3 victory.
Likely result with Manning as QB: Manning again saves his very worst game of the season – and the second worst game of his career – for the playoffs. His four INTs ruin another 14-2 New England season. For the third time in his career, Manning apologists blame the weather for his poor playoff performance, yet still insist he's the best QB in football. Brady and the Colts advance to the AFC title game in Pittsburgh.
Game 7 – AFC title game, at Pittsburgh, bitter cold, 41-27 victory
Brady's seventh playoff game stats
14 for 21 (66.7%), 207 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 130.5 passer rating
Manning's seventh playoff game stats (home vs. Denver, dome, 49-24 victory)
27 for 33 (81.8%), 457 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 145.7 passer rating
Actual result with Brady as QB: On the road in a hostile environment against a 16-1 team that featured the No. 1 total and No. 1 scoring defense in football, and in 0 degree temperatures, Brady plays his very best game of the season and leads the Patriots to a dominating 41-27 victory.
Likely result with Manning as QB: The Patriots never get a shot in the AFC title game, because Manning soiled his pants with a four INT/35.5 passer rating performance in the divisional round against Indy. But let's be generous, merely for the sake of argument, and see how things worked out for Manning in his next playoff game, Super Bowl XXXIX, after playing so well in this game and leading New England to victory.
Game 8 – Super Bowl XXXIX vs. Philly, mild, 24-21 victory
Brady's eighth playoff game stats
23 for 33 (69.7%), 236 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 110.2 passer rating
Manning's eighth playoff game stats (at New England, snow, 20-3 loss)
27 for 42 (64.3%), 238 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 69.3 passer rating
Actual results with Brady as QB: In a game against a 15-3 Philly team that boasted the No. 2 scoring defense in football and three Pro Bowl performers in the secondary, Brady has another flawless performance. Along the way, he surpasses Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr and sets a record for the lowest interception percentage in NFL postseason history (1 INT every 101.3 attempts).
Likely results with Manning as QB: Manning again reserves his worst game of the season for the playoffs, this time on the biggest stage in North American sports. Manning and the Patriots are unable to penetrate the tough Philly defense enough to overcome Donovan McNabb's three-touchdown, 357-yard performance.
O.K., the logic is a bit of a stretch. But the bottom line is this: if the Patriots were led by Manning, and Manning played as poorly for them in the playoffs as he has for Indy in the playoffs, New England would not have won anything. That argument is unassailable.
And if Manning plays so poorly in the playoffs year after year with Indy's star-studded offense, often in ideal conditions, why should one believe he'd play any better leading New England's offense, often in miserable conditions?
Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, people like Mayock continue to insist that "the theory that Peyton Manning can't win the big game (is) a fallacy."
This begets a few questions: Why are people in the national media afraid to admit that Manning is the primary source of Indy's postseason problems? What is it about the Manning family that causes people to fawn over them at every possible opportunity and deny their obvious flaws? Why, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, do they insist that Manning is a victim of circumstance who plays nobly in playoff defeat but loses because of his supposedly overmatched defense?
The mainstream football media may be afraid to admit this, but it's not a fallacy to say that Manning can't win the big game. Quite the contrary. It's a Cold, Hard Football Fact.
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