Manning versus Brady: Who's graded better over the years?
At Pro Football Focus we strive to bring in-depth information about players at every position in the NFL — to prove that it’s not always about the quarterbacks around the league. It’s why we have The Dwight Stephenson Award, recently won by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. There are times though, when the quarterback narrative is fitting and it’s difficult to not think about the storyline of Brady versus Manning one more time as we head into the AFC Championship game this Sunday.
Since we began grading in 2007 there have been seven games where Manning and Brady have been opposing signal callers, and the grades for both are startlingly similar.
|2007||November 4th||+1.7||+3.4||New England|
|2010||November 21st||+3.1||+3.0||New England|
|2012||October 7th||+1.6||+4.3||New England|
|2013||November 24th||+4.6||-0.9||New England|
|2014||November 2nd||+4.5||-0.4||New England|
Over those seven games the difference in total grades has been just +1.8, with Brady edging it. Brady has yet to post a negatively graded game in one of these encounters, and while Manning has had the bigger games in terms of PFF grade, he’s graded negatively in two of the last three. That’s telling given where they both are in their careers right now, with Brady still grading among the best in the league, and Manning struggling in 2015. Both will be facing good defenses on Sunday, but what we’ve seen in 2015 suggests that Brady is the more likely of the two to have a good game.
Two incredible careers
When looking at the cumulative PFF grades for quarterbacks since 2007, only Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have graded higher, with Brady and Manning once again grading very similarly.
*Tom Brady missed 15 games in 2008 through injury
*Peyton Manning missed all of 2011 through injury
It’s interesting that Manning outgraded Brady in every season where they both played from 2007 to 2014, with Manning grading at +280.1 and Brady at +203.0, while Brady has continued to excel in each of the past two season, with Manning’s grade dropping severely at -1.4, and the New England signal caller at +82.2.
What is incredible though, is to look at those grades and see just how dominant they have been at quarterback, consistently – at least until recently with Manning – grading amongst the best in the league. It’s telling just how big the gap has become in the past two seasons though, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that at this stage in their respective careers, Brady is by far the better player.
This season there really is no comparing the two, Brady is our second-highest graded quarterback at +50.3, trailing only Carson Palmer (+59.1), while Manning is all the way down in 29th (where he is tied with his brother Eli at -6.3) and isn’t even the highest-graded quarterback on the Denver roster thanks to Brock Osweiler (+0.6).
The low point of Manning’s season came against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was bullied into a -10.7 grade in half a game of football. One of the worst quarterbacking performances we’ve ever graded, he completed just one pass over 10 yards in the air that night.
Throwing downfield is an area where Brady has a huge advantage this year, going 25-for-68 for 875 yards with three touchdowns and one interception on passes travelling 20 yards or more downfield. Manning has gone just 10-for-45 for 438 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions, with Brady owning a 44.8 accuracy percentage compared with Manning’s 28.6 percent on these throws.
Under pressure Brady has the edge too, with a PFF grade of +11.7 and a touchdown to interception ratio of 15:3 on plays where pressure gets there, compared to Manning’s -2.7 grade, and 3:8 ratio. The Broncos will always certainly be able to get pressure on Brady on Sunday, but with the way he’s performed this season, that might not actually be able to slow him down.
Looking back over the course of their careers Manning and Brady have both been outstanding, and while the debate over who had the better career may go on for years to come, it’s Brady who stands tall this season –anand that gives the New England Patriots a huge boost when it comes to Sunday’s AFC Championship game.