Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the NFL’s two best quarterbacks. They’re both terrific passers, great leaders and well-spoken gentlemen. But that’s where the similarities stop.
Manning has the omnipresent commercials, the ubiquitous family and the gaudy stats: a record seven 4,000-yard seasons, four straight years with at least 12 victories and two MVP awards.
Brady has only one 4,000-yard passing season, no more than two straight years with at least 12 victories and no regular season hardware. He didn’t even make the Pro Bowl this year.
But Brady also is an incredible 12-1 in the playoffs, including 2-0 against Manning — whose 5-6 postseason record includes no Super Bowl appearances and a 16-13 touchdown-interception ratio. Brady’s playoff ratio is 19-8.
More importantly though, Brady is 3-0 in the Super Bowl, winning the game’s MVP award twice.
Other sports have had comparable rivalries to the recent Brady-Manning saga. A look at some of sports’ biggest postseason studs and duds:
While Brady, from California, and Manning, from Louisiana, rule today’s NFL, the previous generation belonged to a couple of Hall of Fame quarterbacks from western Pennsylvania.
Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino is the most prolific passer of all time with a record 420 touchdowns and 61,361 yards. However, Marino was a sub.-500 (8-10) quarterback come playoff time with 32 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. And in Marino’s only Super Bowl in the 1984 season, he and the Dolphins were humbled by Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers 38-16.
That was the second of Montana’s four Super Bowl titles in nine years. Montana had more than 20,000 fewer yards and nearly 150 fewer touchdowns than Marino during his regular season career, but his 45 touchdowns and 5,772 yards in the postseason remain records. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw had as many Super Bowl victories as Montana, although Brady could tie that mark with another championship.
Major League Baseball
The career numbers of Hall of Fame sluggers Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt, who were contemporaries, are amazingly similar. In 21 seasons, Jackson hit .262 with 563 home runs and 1,702 RBI. In 18 seasons, Schmidt hit .267 with 548 homers and 1,595 RBI.
But Jackson wasn’t dubbed “Mr. October” just for the homers he clouted on three consecutive pitches to win the 1977 World Series for the New York Yankees. All told, Jackson slammed 18 postseason homers with 48 RBI. His .755 slugging average is a World Series record and his .357 batting average in the World Series is sterling. Between 1971 and 1982, Jackson led the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees and the California Angels to 10 division titles and five World Series championships.
Schmidt, conversely, is considered the greatest third baseman of all time, but not because of his postseason exploits. Like the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he played his entire career, Schmidt was a playoff phlop. Schmidt hit just four homers and 16 RBI in 36 postseason games with a meek .236 average. The Phillies made the playoffs six times and advanced to just two World Series, winning one. Schmidt managed just one hit in 20 at-bats in the 1983 World Series loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell were the NBA’s yin and yang in the 1960s. The offensive-minded Chamberlain focused primarily on personal goals. The defensive-minded Russell, in contrast, was all about team achievements.
Although both were tremendous rebounders (Chamberlain’s 22.9 a game just edges Russell’s 22.5 a game), Chamberlain’s 30.1 points a game ranks second all time to Michael Jordan and is nearly twice Russell’s 15.1 average.
In 1961-62, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points a game. However, Russell led the previously undistinguished Boston Celtics to an amazing 11 NBA titles in his 13 seasons. Chamberlain, at 7-foot-1 and 250 pounds was the biggest man of his era, but won just two championships in 14 years, the second after Russell had retired.
Whether Chamberlain played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers or Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Russell and the Celtics found a way to win, capturing seven of the eight series they played against each other.
Goalies Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour are first and third in career victories. With 551 wins, Roy — who retired in 2003 at 37 — is comfortably ahead of Belfour, who currently has 467 wins at age 41. Belfour has more shutouts (75-66) and a lower goals-against average (2.48 to 2.54).
But it’s a different story when it really matters.
While the well-traveled Belfour reached six conference finals in his 16 seasons prior to this one, he played in just three Stanley Cup finals and won a lone title in 1999 with the Dallas Stars.
Roy, who led the Montreal Canadiens to their first title in seven seasons as a 20-year-old rookie in 1986, went on to man the nets in 10 conference finals and five Stanley Cup finals, winning the Cup four times (with the Canadiens again in 1993 and with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001).
Strangely, Belfour and Dallas bested Roy and Colorado in both of their playoff duels in 1999 and 2000.
Maybe that gives Manning some hope that his third showdown with Brady will be the charm.