When the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots meet up Sunday in Denver, they will be led by two of the best quarterbacks of all time: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The two have met 16 times previously. Brady has won 11 of the contests, but that’s not the story line of this Manning Brady Bowl. Nor is it the fact that the two have split their playoff games 2-2 (with Manning winning the last two).
Nor is their age the story. Manning, who at 39 is the league’s oldest starting quarterback, is expected to retire after this season after a nagging injury forced him to miss several games this year. And, although Brady (the second oldest quarterback in the NFL at 38) told USA Today that he thinks he has another 10 years in him, it is far more likely that he will be retiring in the next few years. As such, it is likely that Sunday will be the last time these two storied quarterbacks will meet; but that is still not the story.
The story has less to do with two men and more to do with the game football, specifically the position of quarterback. In recent years, the mobile quarterbacks and the read-option have become more prevalent, and it is likely we will continue to see teams build offenses similar to those run by Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does represent a huge shift in the way the game is played and the type of quarterback we will soon consider to be “great.”
Neither Brady nor Manning is particularly mobile; in fact, when Brady led the Patriots in rushing yards earlier this year in a game against the Jets, he quipped, “I actually enjoyed this [leading in rushing] because it will probably never happen again.” For perspective, Brady only ran for 15 yards in that game, which says doesn’t say a lot about Brady’s rushing capability. While this does not take away from either quarterback, (both are almost sure to be first-ballot Hall of Famers), they are likely the last of the great pocket passers.
So, no matter whom you are rooting for Sunday, enjoy the game. Not just because it is probably the last chapter in the Brady and Manning saga, but it may also be the last playoff game of its kind.