One of the biggest debates in the NFL over the last decade-plus has been the Manning vs. Brady debate. But according to Peter Keating and other writers at ESPN the Magazine, that debate has been settled.
Keating and a team of writers at ESPN the Magazine created their “Dominant 20,” a list of the 20 most dominant athletes across all sports over the last 20 years. And they named former Vol, Indianapolis Colt, and Denver Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning the most dominant NFL player over the last two decades.
Here’s what they had to say as to why Manning, who came in No. 3 overall behind only Tiger Woods and LeBron James, earned the top spot in the NFL:
“Perhaps the greatest testament to Peyton Manning’s sustained excellence? He made being elite look ordinary; he was just that good. The 539 passing touchdowns, an NFL record. The 71,940 passing yards, also a league mark. The 186 wins at quarterback, the most in the NFL at the time of his retirement — a record that he held until last October, when foil and fellow ridiculously dominant QB Tom Brady seized that honor. Ponder the sheer amount of year-in, year-out greatness required to amass those numbers. Those 539 TDs? He threw for at least 25 touchdowns in 16 seasons — three more than Brady. The 71,940 yards? He racked up 4,000-yard seasons before they were de rigueur, reaching that mark 14 times overall (more than any other quarterback) and every year from 1999 to 2004, when no other QB did so more than two times. The 186 wins? Those can add up when you boast a .750 winning percentage (or better) against half the league. Dominating opponents? Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Tom Brady, Manning’s “rival” in the NFL who still plays quarterback for the New England Patriots, claims the last spot on the list at No. 20.
Keating anticipated the decision to put Manning ahead of Brady would draw plenty of criticism. He wrote a separate article on ESPN.com that answered questions he knew he and his writers would get about the piece, and he explained their reasoning behind picking Manning as the most dominant NFL player over Brady.
“For one thing, today’s QB stats are steadily inflating. (There were 1.72 passing touchdowns for every interception in the NFL last season, up from 1.29 20 years ago.),” Keating writes. “For another, Brady wasn’t really Brady-automatic Pro Bowler and MVP candidate-until 2007. Result: Manning considerably outpaces him when measured by yardsticks that don’t depend on era, like MVPs (5-3), first-team All-Pro selections (7-3) and number of seasons throwing for 4 percent or more of the league’s passing TDs (12-9, adjusted for number of teams). Then there’s this: In evaluating players, we considered regular-season stats only, since there’s no good way to compare playoffs across sports.”
Manning retired after the 2015 season after helping lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl title, his second title in his career. The NFL legend finished his career with several passing titles, and he still holds many of Tennessee’s passing records as well despite not playing for them in two decades. He’s a College Football Hall of Famer and will undoubtedly be a first ballot NFL Hall of Famer once he’s eligible.