When you raise the question of who is the better quarterback between Peyton Manning and his brother Eli Manning, it’s not even close. Peyton is perennial all-start candidate, a two-time MVP, and is on pace to break the very same passing records that Brett Favre is breaking right now.
But what if you alter the question just a little bit; to where you ask, “Which quarterback has had the better start to their career?”
Ah, now the line gets a little bit blurry. Obviously, without Eli’s most recent Superbowl win, this is not even a contest. But he did win. And with a Superbowl ring on his finger in only his 4th year in the league, there is no question that Eli is ahead of the curve. Peyton didn’t even get is first playoff victory until his 6th season, nevermind winning a Superbowl.
However, Peyton has been an all-time great passer, and his teams have always won in the regular season. In fact, Peyton has only experienced 2 seasons in his 10-year career where he didn’t win at least 10 games. The first of those two seasons came in his rookie year, and that second season came with the loss of running back Edgerrin James early on in the season.
But Eli has had only one losing season in his first 4 years, and that too came during his rookie year. However, he was not the quarterback for that entire campaign; although, he was the quarterback that did eventually lead them to a sub-.500 record that season. Nonetheless, in the 3 seasons to follow, Eli took the Giants to the playoffs. Now just like his brother, he lost his first 2 playoff games. Unlike his brother though, he won his 3rd trip, and he did it in only his 3rd season.
Now some of you will want to ignore all that, placing the blame on the circumstances and not Peyton Manning himself. However, I think you would be forgetting that the Colts were favored to win all three of his first playoff appearances and that Peyton’s performances in all of those games were significantly below his average performance in the regular season.
And isn’t that what being a quarterback is all about? What you do in the playoffs? Eli was not favored to any of his playoff games this season. Not one. He was supposed to lose on the road to the Bucs, Cowboys, and Packers. And there wasn’t a soul who thought he had a snowball’s chance in hell of beating the Patriots in Arizona.
So ignore Peyton’s big time numbers, his pro-bowl appearances, and his MVP awards, because early on in his career, none of those prolific honors gave him a single playoff victory. While his brother, Eli, won a Superbowl with far less fanfare, in what can still be considered his formative years as a quarterback in the NFL.
There is no question that Peyton is the better quarterback right now and that the Colts wouldn’t trade him for Eli for 27 first round picks. But if you ask Peyton if he would trade the start of his career for the start of Eli’s, to a man, I really have to think he would want that Superbowl at age 27 when he can look forward to possibly winning quite a few more.