by Mario "Game" Granata
With the remarkable season that Peyton Manning is having, it seems that people still want to bring up the name Tom Brady and his lack of weapons. People tend to forget the type of wideouts that Manning had in his final days of Indianapolis, and why comparing these two quarterbacks is not really a comparison at all.
In a sports world that is so consumed with finding the ‘Next Big Thing’ people sometimes rush to judgment when anointing an athlete before its time. Such is the case of Tom Brady. On the surface it seems like an easy sell. He grew up in California idolizing Joe Montana, and the comparisons have been happening ever since…which happens to make me shake my head.
Now, being someone who has to remain objective above all else, I think I have a pretty good take on who Tom Brady really is. First, being from Western New York, I didn’t initially cheer for the Buffalo Bills. The first jersey I ever received was Joe Montana in 1982. So until his retirement in 1995, he was the end all be all for my quarterbacking aspirations, as many other kids during that time. From there I started to cheer for the New England Patriots, because they had a young gunslinger by the name of Drew Bledsoe, and he had a unique release (as did I at the time) so I started to follow him. And then in 2001 Mo Lewis killed Wally Pip. (I’ll let you google both those names to find the significance.)
In stepped Brady for an injured Bledsoe and the rest, as they say, is history. Finally, in 2002 I became a Buffalo Bills fan, when my new hero came to Western New York, hoping to erase the myth of Tom Brady from the AFC East. However, Drew wasn’t bringing Bill Belichick with him. Here is the basis for my argument, when people want to make the comparison of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Hopefully I can enlighten you to the reason why, I feel, Brady doesn’t hold a candle to Manning, despite the 3-1 title advantage.
1. Bill Belichick – Probably the greatest (and if not the best, in the top 3 all time) coach of all time. Many people say that you don’t want to play Dominik Hasek in a one game playoff…well, there is no better one game planner than Belichick. In 1990 he orchestrated the greatest plan against the high powered Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV which brought joy to East Rutherford and sadness to Orchard Park and its surrounding areas.
2. Easy Division – The New England Patriots have had it easy, lets be honest. Tom Brady has won at least 10 games all but one of his seasons (9-7, in 2002). But, he has played in a relatively weak division, and when you are guaranteed at least a 6-0 or 5-1 record in your own division, that means you have to go at least .500 against the rest of your schedule. And who has Brady beat in his own division? J.P. Losman, Matt Moore, Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez, Trent Edwards, Chad Pennington, Ryan Fitzpatrick, A.J. Feely, Jay Fiedler, Chad Henne, and Chad Pennington again. The list sounds like the island of misfit toys, not a Hall of Fame class.
3. Injury – It is well documented about Tom Brady’s injury at the start of the 2008 season. Now, if you were skeptical about Tom Brady being a ‘system’ quarterback, Matt Cassel took the reigns, and not having played since high school, he took the Patriots to a 11-5 record and just missing the playoffs. Now, many of you know that Matt Cassel went to USC but never played a down there, and as I defer back to the number 1 reason I gave, it was all about Bill Belichick and his genius system that allowed that to happen. How else do you explain a guy who hadn’t taken a snap winning 11 games?
4. Adam Vinatieri – The Greatest Clutch Kicker in the History of the NFL…Period. You can rest easy when you realize that you don't have to score 7 every time down the field.
5. Luck – Tuck Rule ring a bell?
So, Tom Brady was in the right place at the right time, and he inherited a team that was defensive minded, and just needed someone to run the controls, and not be a turnover machine. In many ways (and I am going to take some shots for this) but Tom Brady is a glorified Alex Smith. Brady was blessed with a great coach, who during Brady’s tenure only allowed 18 ppg, (Which is unheard of in the new NFL) and the greatest kicker in the history of the game. How could he fail?
All this talk about Brady vs. Manning has to stop, and stop soon. You think that my logic is faulty? Do me a favor, from 2001-2006 check out Tom Brady’s averages per year and compare that to Matt Cassel’s one year totals for the Patriots. I’ll wait.
Let me just sum this up in one quick statement: When Brady suffered his injury, the team went 11-5 and almost made the playoffs. When Manning missed a season, the Colts ended up with the #1 overall draft pick. MVP? I think we know who that is.