Interestingly, Manning has eaten away at Brady's playoff success argument in recent years while Brady is now putting up numbers that look very similar to Mannings.
But is it time we add a third QB to the mix?
Check out the career stats for the following three players listed in a per-game average (thanks to Pro Football Reference for the source material) to allow for easier comparisons:
Player A is tied for the best completion percentage, throws for the most yards per game, and the most touchdowns with the best yards per attempt average (and yards per completion) while putting up the best passer rating. The only drawback is that he throws the most interceptions as well.
So what about looking at the three quarterbacks at their best? Lets look at the best four years of each quarterback's career. To do that, I looked for the four consecutive seasons that were their best work, looking at years in which they led the league in significant categories, were named All-Pro or at least to the Pro Bowl. It happened that for all four the best four seasons are their years from age 27-30.
At their best, Player A still stands out. He averages more yards per attempt and completion, leads in passer rating and touchdown and interception percentage. But once again, Player B and Player C seem to be pretty comparable. Player B has a better touchdown rate and a slightly lower interception report, but Player C throws for significantly more yards per game and throws for more yards per attempt and yards per completion.
So why has the debate for the best quarterback in the NFL not been a three-way battle? Here's why.
|Super Bowl W||Super Bowl L||Pro Bowls||All-Pros|
If you follow the NFL at all, you've probably figured out by this point that Player A is Manning, Player B is Brady and Player C is Drew Brees. Statistically, there's really not an argument for anyone being the NFL's best quarterback other than Manning. His five All-Pros stands out most significantly--he's been chosen repeatedly as the NFL's best quarterback, but he also has the best statistics.
Brady's argument for his superiority over Brees comes down to winning. Brady has three Super Bowl wins, Brees has three playoff wins. And the fact is that Super Bowl wins are a key barometer for NFL quarterbacks--just ask Joe Namath whose Super Bowl win turned what would have been a frustrating career into a Hall of Fame one. Brees has a career record that is barely on the positive side of .500. You can blame him for not being a winner or you could blame him for being saddled with some pretty ineffective teammates for many years.
That's why the Super Bowl is so important to Brees' legacy. If Manning wins the Super Bowl, he adds another line to the resume as everyone tries to figure out where he slots in with Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and the other all-timers. But for Brees, this Super Bowl could change how he's perceived. Right now he's the guy who's put up great numbers. Win the Super Bowl and all of a sudden it's hard not to include him with Brady and Manning when discussing who is the best quarterback in the NFL. Manning may be No. 1, but Brees' is gaining on Brady for No. 2.