Reimer: With Eli Manning benching, Tom Brady outlasts two Mannings

Alex Reimer
November 29, 2017 - 11:47 am

Orlando Ramirez/USA Today Sports

There was a time when it seemed like the Manning brothers were on the verge of declaring dominance over Tom Brady. It was Jan. 20, 2014, the day after Peyton Manning’s Broncos had defeated the Patriots in the AFC championship. Back from neck surgery, Manning produced two incredible seasons in Denver, throwing for more than 10,000 yards and 94 touchdown passes. He also demonstrated an ability to oust Brady in the postseason, beating his contemporary in their last two head-to-head January meetings. Overall, Manning had won five of his last eight contests against Brady dating back to November 2005. 

Eli Manning, though he never put up numbers in the same stratosphere as Brady, also showed an ability to outperform the Patriots quarterback in the big games. The Giants defeated New England in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, with Manning capturing MVP honors on both occasions. 

In the spring of 2014, the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo, and Bill Belichick infamously referenced Brady’s “age and contract situation” when explaining the move. Since then, Brady has posted maybe the four best seasons of his career, and leads the league in yards at 40 years old. He’s also led the Patriots to two dramatic Super Bowl victories, including the biggest comeback of all-time. 

The Peyton Manning-Brady debate officially ended in 2015, when Manning threw 17 interceptions in his final season. Yes, the Broncos defeated the Patriots in the AFC championship and won the Super Bowl with Manning under center, but he was more of a ceremonial starter than anything else. Manning went 30-of-55 for 317 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in those two affairs. Denver’s defense and running game carried it to victory. 

There was never any debate surrounding Brady and Eli Manning, but Peyton's younger brother showed to be one of the few quarterbacks in football who could match Brady in a championship game. The Giants, however, have not competed for the Super Bowl since their dramatic win in 2012. They’ve only reached the playoffs once since then, losing to the Packers in the Wild Card round last year. Over that span, Manning has gone 41-50 and thrown 87 interceptions. 

The Giants’ lack of success since their last Super Bowl isn’t all Manning’s fault. Their embarrassing performance this season can largely be pinned on coaching ineptitude, widespread injuries to their receiving corps (Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall are both out for the year) and a weak offensive line. Still, Manning isn’t absent from blame for this 2-9 campaign. His 84.1 QB rating is his lowest since 2007. 

That’s how we got to Tuesday, when the Giants announced Manning would no longer be their starting quarterback. The decision generated mass outrage from the New York press, with the Sports Pope himself ripping into the Giants and head coach Ben McAdoo during an epic 17-minute rant. Manning’s defenders believe he should have been granted the courtesy of finishing out this lost season, especially because Geno Smith –– who stinks –– is going to take over. 

But sentimentality doesn’t matter in football. While Manning’s career probably isn’t over –– Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars or the Broncos are two possible landing spots that immediately come to mind –– he’s been an average quarterback at best over the last four years. At 36 years old, it’s fair to assume the downward trend will only continue. It does for most. 

That is, except for Brady. He’s managed to outlast his greatest contemporary, Peyton Manning, and his younger brother. If there was a third Manning quarterback in the league, Brady would likely have a chance to start longer than him, too. 

Just when it seems like we’re running out of ways to articulate Brady’s excellence, another example appears. 

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