Via the Denver Post, former Patriot Rodney Harrison, who helped the team to two super bowl titles expressed a widely held belief amongst Manning's supporters that the former Colt simply had to shoulder too much of the burden in Indianapolis:
"I think Peyton has been so unfairly judged because he really didn't have that defense over the years like Tom," Harrison said. "Tom had a lot of veteran players, a lot of really good defenses, where if he didn't play particularly well, he knew that he had a defense with a lot of veteran players that could save him. Whereas, Peyton didn't really have that advantage. If Peyton was on our team, I think we could have easily won three Super Bowls, no doubt about it."
But does this argument hold any water? Let's check the facts:
- From 2001-2005 Tom Brady posted a 58-20 record as a starter in the regular season, and a 10-1 record in the playoffs (his first loss in the playoffs came at the hands of Jake Plummer and the 2005 Denver Broncos FWIW)
Manning went 54-26 in the regular season, and 3-4 in the playoffs from 2001-2005
- In those 78 regular season games, Tom Brady had a 300 yard performance 12 times, and posted three such games in the playoffs.
In those 80 regular season games, Manning threw for 300 yards 23 times, and posted three such games in the playoffs
- From 2001-2005 (regular season and playoffs), Brady holds a 17-9 (.654) record when throwing for less than 200 yards.
Manning holds a 10-8 record when throwing for less than 200 yards (.555)
- From 2001-2005 (regular season and playoffs), Brady holds a 24-16 (.600) record when completing less than 60% of his passes.
Manning holds a 6-12 (.333) record when completing less than 60% of his passes.
- From 2001-2005 (regular season and playoffs), Brady holds a 15-5 (.750) record when not throwing for a single touchdown in the game.
Manning holds a 7-8 (.467) record when not throwing for a single touchdown in a game.
- From 2001-2005 (regular season and playoffs), Brady holds a 31-9 (.775) record in games decided by one score.
Manning holds a 24-12 (.667) record in games decided by one score
- From 2001-2005 (regular season and playoffs), the New England Patriots held opposing offenses to 17 points or less 48/91 games (52.7%). His record in those games? 47-1.
The Indianapolis Colts held opposing offenses to 17 points or less 30/87 games (34.5%). His record in those games? 30-0.
It certainly appears as if Brady had much more help defensively. The winning percentages across the board are higher for Tom Brady when he's struggled to produce in games. His defense also gave him 18 more games allowing the opponent to 17 points or less. The Patriot defense gave Brady that support in 7/11 playoff games he appeared in during this run on Super Bowls. Peyton Manning only had that support once (a victory).
Brady has turned into a great QB, but this was not the case early on. He was a game manager that learned and sharpened his skills with the support of one of the greatest coaches of all time and a defense that kept the game a low scoring affair more often than not.
I am biased when it comes down to the Manning vs. Brady debate. Whatever you think about that, just remember that the numbers side more with Rodney Harrison when it comes to this discussion--and he played with Tom Brady.
Bottom line, I have never seen a quarterback operate like Peyton Manning. I believe very strongly that he will add another Super Bowl victory to his resume. Maybe then this tired old argument against his pedigree will go away. Regardless, he's simply the best.