x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

NFL’s star quarterback duo of Manning and Brady joined at the hip

Very little between quarterbacks despite their contrasting personalities

Peyton Manning, left, and Tom Brady are polar opposites in personality but have similar success on the field. Steven Senne / AP Photo
Peyton Manning, left, and Tom Brady are polar opposites in personality but have similar success on the field. Steven Senne / AP Photo

Peyton Manning already had gained a large measure of fame before unleashing his first professional pass. The son of a former NFL quarterback, a virtuoso on the university level, he carried the oversized burden and expectations as the No 1 pick in the 1998 draft.

Not so for Tom Brady. Two years later, he was a draft afterthought, selected in the sixth round after a decent but undistinguished amateur career.

Yet, fate has linked them as a metaphorical couple who have, more than any other players, reshaped the game into a quarterback-driven sport. Because of the Denver Broncos’ Manning and the New England Patriots’ Brady, who face off for the 14th time on Sunday, the position has grown so much that it dwarfs all others.

“The difference in these two guys is they can read the coverage pre-snap and post-snap,” the Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees told ESPN. “Some guys can read it pre-snap and go back to pass, and it’s like a blur because you can change on them.

“You can change all you want on these two guys. They know body language. They know stance. And they just know.”

Fans who favour one over the other often base their preference on image and personality.

Manning is the football wonk with a photographic football memory who is able to display a self-effacing sense of humour that has secured him far more television screen time away from the game. He has appeared in a variety of amusing adverts, none more hilarious than with him and brother Eli as rappers. He was host of the popular sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live, grading out with an A-plus.

The more private Brady is largely invisible away from his job, at least until the explosion of smart phones that often capture him on holiday, most famously dancing at a festival in Brazil during the off-season.

(He sported a mini-ponytail, a look that would seem unfathomable for Manning.)

Brady is often seen in the company of his celebrity wife, the model Gisele Bundchen, whom he married four years ago. Manning began dating his wife of 12 years as a student.

The debate over which is the superior player has no resolution. Bottom line, their dedication and drive know no bounds.

Manning missed the 2011 season with a series of neck surgeries that would have sent others into retirement.

Brady was saddled this year with an inexperienced, injury-ravaged receiving corps, but he has maintained the lofty standards he set for himself.

Reams of statistics can be presented on behalf of each. One illustrates how difficult it is to separate them.

Brady has won 77.3 per cent of his games, the highest for a quarterback in the modern era. Manning’s rate of 69.7 is third, dragged down by his 3-13 record as a rookie when Indianapolis was rebuilding.

The last word goes to Pees: “They’re in a class by themselves.”

sports@thenational.ae