Peyton Manning v Tom Brady: Analyzing The “Replacement Factor”

[Surgeon General’s Warning: Statistics!!!]

The age old debate: Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, who is the better QB? We’ve argued it time and time again.

Back in March of last year I recall a friendly discussion I had with a co-worker who happened to be a fan of the Patriots and Tom Brady. I argued, “Well, fine, forget the statistics and Super Bowls. Manning is better than Brady because he is more important to his team and does more with less. When Brady went down week one of 2008, the team still went 11-5. If Manning ever went down the Colts would be an 8-8 team at best. Probably 6-10.”

“But you don’t know that, because Manning’s never missed a season like Brady,” he replied.

Fortunately for me and quite unfortunately for the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning’s neck injury decided to help my argument out.

Peyton Manning Versus Tom Brady: Who Is The Better QB?

Manning missed the entire 2011 season due to injury. We now have exactly one full season of games to compare how Brady’s and Manning’s teams fared without them. Turns out I was a little too optimistic about the Colts’ chances without #18.

First, let’s dispose of the two traditional arguments in the Manning versus Brady debate.

1. Statistics

Statistically over their careers to date, Manning and Brady are pretty similar:

  • Manning wins in the completion percentage department.
  • Brady wins the TD/INT battle.
  • Manning wins the yards per game battle.
  • Brady has the better overall rating.
  • Manning has a lot fewer fumbles… Etc…

It could cut either way if you just focused on their statistical production.

One thing is sure: both Manning and Brady are impressive QBs.

2. Super Bowls

Manning 1 – Brady 3. Point Brady.

My only problem with simply comparing Super Bowl victories is that it would make Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson better than Dan Marino (as well as Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, or even a current guy like Philip Rivers). Jim Plunkett is twice as good as Marino if we’re just counting Super Bowls. That has always seemed sketchy to me.

Instead of statistics or Super Bowls, let’s look at the “replacement factor:” how each quarterback’s team did without them and how their backups fared.

In 2008, when Brady got injured in week 1, Matt Cassel was unexpectedly forced to take over the starting duties. We’ll compare his numbers in 2008 to Brady’s career numbers.

Tom Brady versus Matt Cassel

  Comp % TD/INT QB Rating Yards per Game W/L Record
Matt Cassel ('08) 63.4% 1.91 89.4 230.0 11-5 (0.687)
Tom Brady (Career) 63.8% 2.61 96.4 248.3 123-37 (0.768)

There is a relatively modest drop in each statistical category:

  • completion percentage down by .4%
  • TD/INT ratio down by 0.7
  • QB rating down by 7 points
  • yards per game down by 18.3 yards
  • won/loss record is down by .081

Considering that Cassel had not started a single NFL game prior the 2008 season, his performance was quite impressive.

Now, consider Manning compared to his replacements in 2011.

Peyton Manning versus Colts QBs in 2011

  Comp % TD/INT QB Rating Yards per Game W/L Record
Colts QBs in '11 56.5% 1.00 72.1 200.8 2-14 (0.125)
Peyton Manning (Career) 64.9% 2.02 94.9 263.6 131-61 (0.682)

Manning’s backups’ statistics crashed worse than Lebron in the NBA Finals.

  • completion percentage down 8.4%
  • TD/INT ratio down 1.02
  • QB rating down 22.8
  • yards per game down by 62.8 yards
  • won/loss record down by .557.

Manning’s backups were on notice months in advance that Manning might miss some games due to his surgeries. They even brought in veteran Kerry Collins (remember him? He took the Titans to a 13-3 record just a couple years earlier).

How do the differences compare?

  • The Colts’ completion percentage without Peyton Manning was 21 times worse than the Patriots’ without Tom Brady. Let me write that again just to make sure you understand. The Colts completion percentage was twenty-one times worse than the Pats’.
  • The Colts TD/INT ratio without Peyton Manning was nearly 1.5 times worse than the Patriots’ without Tom Brady.
  • The Colts QB Rating without Peyton Manning was more than 3 times worse than the Patriots’ without Tom Brady.
  • The Colts average passing yards per game without Peyton Manning was more than 3 times worse than the Patriots’ without Tom Brady.
  • The Colts win percentage without Peyton Manning was nearly 7 times worse than the Patriots’ without Tom Brady.

Wait, wait, wait! I can already hear the Patriots fans saying “But Cassel was so much better than Collins/Painter/Orlovsky.” Interesting point, but totally false.


Go type “How is it physically possible to be worse than the Colts Quarterbacking crew in 2011” into Google and the search result will literally be a picture of Matt Cassel in 2009.

After the 2008 season, New England traded Cassel to Kansas City. Matt Cassel’s numbers with the Chiefs in ’09 went from their almost-Pro-Bowl-worthy 2008 Patriot levels to actually being worse than Indianapolis QBs in 2011:

  • He completed just 55% of his passes (1.5% worse than Indy QBs in ’11; Down 8.4% from 2008 with the Pats)
  • His TD/INT ratio was 1/1 (Identical to Indy QBs in ’11; Down .91 from 2008)
  • His QB rating was 69.9 (2.2 worse than Indy QBs in ’11; Down a whopping 19.5 from 2008)
  • His average yards per game was 194 (6.8 yards worse than Indy QBs in ’11; down 36 yards from 2008).
  • The only category Cassel was able to best the Indy QBs in was the win record.

Conclusion: Peyton Manning is a better quarterback than Tom Brady because he is irreplaceable.

Tom Brady can be replaced by any mediocre QB and the Patriots will still have success. The Pats are just that stacked personnel-wise, and they have been for years. Let’s admit it, that’s largely due to great team management, smart use of draft picks, and frugal free agent pickups.

So, the next time you get stuck in the middle of the Manning versus Brady debate, go ahead and talk about the statistics, talk about the Super Bowls, but don’t forget about the “replacement factor” because Peyton owns it.


Now it’s your turn to chime in.

Who is the better QB?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


  1. Blafond says:

    You are not taking into consideration the quality of the back-ups. If my memory serves me correctly Matt Cassel was in the pro Bowl 2009 or 2010

  2. after leaving the patriots, cassel had to learn a new system with completely different personnel.  unfortunately for the colts, their quarterbacks just weren’t as prepared to step in and take over.

  3. First of all Cassel did take the Chiefs to the playoffs.  He is not a bad QB.  And this might come as a shock to you but a football team is more than just the QB.  It was obvious that the Colts players did not give their all.  They basically just gave up.  You also have to look at injuries when debating this.  It is out of Peytons control but he is obviously more injury prone.  Brady had a season ending injury.  Many people said that players are never the same after that injury.  Brady went on to be MVP and make it to his 5th SB.  If Peyton comes back and gets another league mvp and takes the Broncos to another SB we’ll talk.   But the AFC is weak now and I could see Brady going to 1 or 2 more SB’s. And if the Pats fix their defense then watch out.  Brady is better.  This debate ended this last year. There is no longer a Brady/ peyton debate.  It is now a brady/montana debate

    • someguy says:

       yes your right this debate did end, but in favor of Peyton manning. you must be a retard to compare them cause of super bowls… is Dan Marino even good in your eyes cause he never won one…

      • This “Super Bowls don’t matter”/Dan Marino argument is getting awfully tired. No one argues that Marino’s legacy wouldn’t have been improved by winning a Super Bowl? It’s the only thing he’s missing, but it’s a big one. Championships are the point, homie. Who’s better, Marino or Peyton in your eyes? Probably Peyton, and not just because he threw one more TD in ’04 either… a Super Bowl helps make your case.

        Now saying Peyton, Brees, and Rodgers are all on the same level with 1 SB while Roethlesberger is ahead of them with 2 SBs would be stupid, no doubt. But when we are talking about 3 SBs and 5 appearances in 10 active seasons, that’s not trivial shit that you can just dismiss. That’s some Elway shit… and he only won 2!
        If Brady wins another and his SB record is 4-2, are we really going ignore that 6 SB appearances is insane and hold his 2 losses against him? Well… I guess probably, but that’d be dumb.

    • Great White North dude says:

      Brady cant carry montana’s jock strap.  Seriously.  Brady leads inspiring drives of less than half a field to win a superbowl in tie games.  Montana destroys his opposition with record passing performances OR drives the team the length of the field for the winning TD.  He is 4-0.  He does not know what its like to lose a superbowl.  Brady is almost 500 now. hmmmmm.  seems like NO CONTEST!  And dont tell me Montana has a better team or that argument comes right back in your face about manning comparisons.  BTW, I like Bradshaw better too.  And Aikman.  They DONT LOSE the big game.  Brady vs montana?  lol

      • Bkahler96 says:

        Hey Sherlock, who has more superbowl wins? Oh yea Brady. Who has choked and cost their team the game against the Saints, oh yea Manning. You are mentally retarded, get tested for down syndrome ok sweety?

      • Comes right back in our face with Manning comparisons? Brady had NO receivers before Moss and Welker. NONE. Meanwhile, Peyton had Wayne, Harrison and Edgerrin James for basically his entire career. Your argument is invalid.

  4. Mitchmaster77 says:

    everyone outside of New England agrees that Manning is better. Ask any defensive  NFL player who is better and they will tell you Manning. Ask most analysts and they will say Manning. Ask most coaches and they will say Manning.

    • I disagree most coaches would say that.  I could understand more defensive players saying that if just because they’re mad that Brady almost always beats them.  How many games has Brady lost in the last 5 years?  It’s crazy.  He’s better than Peyton.  I feel like Peyton fans are more anxious to have this debate.  As much as I hate it i will give Eli credit cuz now you can’t just say Manning…you have to specify which one you’re talking about.

    • Blafond says:

      Then why was brady voted the best player in the NFL in 2010 BY HIS PIERS (THE PLAYERS AND COACHES OF THE NFL)

  5. Rlm4483 says:

    You’re also forgetting that Brady actually mentors his backups where Peyton doesn’t let them touch the ball at practice…

    • Www Hudson32908 says:

      tom brady is the best dink and dunk,small ball,bubble screen, check down qb ever

      • So you mean decision making, analyzing a defenses strengths and weaknesses and tearing them apart without a running game, without a defense, and without deep ball wideouts to stretch the field. Yea I can see how that would’t compare to having a pair of great wideouts that ca stretch the field and consistently get open for 40yards passes, while having a supporting run game, especially when you consider scrambling as a means to open up receivers 50yards down the field (i.e big ben) A fair amount of “open coverages” are clever defensive disguises, and it takes a disciplined QB to not fall for them, seriously, almost all of brady’s int’s the past few years have been the product of tipped or dropped passes, that says a lot.

  6. Mitchmaster77 says:

    Brady cant even carry Montanas jock….lol….Brady vs Montana…what a crock..

  7. Jfuent96 says:

    seriously is this even a debate brady is hands down a better qb…brady actually mentors his qb back ups unlike manning because he isnt as good as brady…has a stable of receivers that hasnt changed in years and bradys changes all the time and he only gets better…brady can carry a team with no defense and blame himself when they lose when manning would crumble like always and manning dick suckers will blame his defense and so would manning himself… manning plays in a dome and hos numbers still arent as good…plus most post season comebacks and much more consistent…i have nothing against manning he is one of my favs but to say manning is better is ludicrous and a last ditch effort by his lovers after he crumbles in head to head matchups against bradys team…

    • Great White North dude says:

      yeah, brady takes all the heat.  thats why he let welker hang out there to dry after he didnt take back anything his snooty wife said about tommy cant win the game all by himself.  Brady should not have BEEN in the sb.  Lee Evans GAVE it to them.  (neither should ELI either but that is just because there are too many stupid players in the NFL these days – thinking about post td celebrations rather than focusing on ball possession).  That pass to Welker (which was catchable and he knows it) was way more difficult considering the time brady had to throw.  And therein lies the secret to bradys success.  Bellichiks different schemes and systems all may change and the players pop in and out but the Oline has ALWAYS given brady more time than any other qb in the nfll will get open in 6 seconds.  manning doesnt have or take the time to hang on to the ball as long, hence less fumbles.  And brady plays on a superior organization at every level.  Clearly.

      • Brady said something along the lines of how great Welker was and he hopes he can keep throwing to him for a lot more years… the game prior, he talked about how bad he sucked. He didn’t leave anyone out to dry. I’ve seen a clip of Peyton Manning screaming at Saturday the same way Brady screamed at his O-line. People yell on the sidelines… what are you so offended by it for?

        But Brady DOES play at a superior organization, which is why it makes no sense to compare the 08 Pats to the 11 Colts.

        Having said that, let’s talk about the Pats this year without Brady. The Colts couldn’t score… but they looked like an actual NFL team putting up 24 against a terrible Pats defense. Without Brady putting up 31 in the first 3 quarters, Pats would’ve lost… to the worst team in the league. If that’s any indication of how the Pats would’ve done this year without TB12, the author’s point is moot because the Pats would’ve been just as bad or worse.I’m not saying Brady is the better QB… honestly I think anyone who makes a definitive statement one way or the other is full of shit. And the arguments are getting awfully desperate sounding now.

    • Great White North dude says:

      Oh an by the way, I heard manning once say they had protection issues when he was getting hammered. that was it.  In the superbowl where the giants beat the juggernaut, brady was seen SCREAMING at his Oline on the bench.  He didnt appear to like the constant menu of turf he was forced to eat, that so many qbs have had to endure, but never him.  He has entitlement written all over hime.  Take away his time and all his checkdowns and he is no better than a dozen other nfl qbs.

  8. Mitchmaster77 says:

    Brady is a top 10 qb all time…..Manning is top 3 all time. Keep drinking the koolaid Sully.

  9. Notorious_soldier_69 says:

    Peyton manning has one of the worst records in nfl playoff history, he’s great but Tom Brady is greater. If you were to switch brady’s accolades with Peyton’s , all these people would be calling Peyton the greatest of all time or something along those lines, just because he’s a more like able personality and use all know it, and if Tom Brady had Peyton’s career he wouldn’t even be in any discussion period because people always find reasons to hate on him

  10. Brady  ALL THE WAY!  better mentor too

  11. Author has obviously never heard of “confounding variables.” We’re comparing an 08 season where the Pats were coming off a dominating (check the scores… they’re insane), record smashing 16-0 ’07 season to the ’11 Colts who were coming off a mediocre (in Manning terms) 10-6 season… that’s absurd! The ’11 Colts were not even close to ready to handle Manning going down, but the Pats were… that’s a point against the Colts’ preparation, not a point for Peyton Manning.

    Having said that, imagine if Brady was out this year. How well do you see the Pats doing with the 2nd worse defense (by yards) in the NFL without Brady throwing for a mile to two tight ends over the season? Would they have been as bad as the Colts? Probably not, but only because Belichick is a better coach and has Brian Hoyer prepared, but they would’ve been far from seconds from winning a 4th Super Bowl. By the by, Brady has gone to the Super Bowl 50% of the times he’s played a full season… what other quarterback can say that?
    You also failed to list their regular season, postseason, and heads-up records… all of which go to Brady.

  12. 2nd worse defense of all time and trip to the Superbowl. enough said. also not to mention that brady owns manning in every single winning record.

    • Great white north dude says:

      NFL rule changes man.  Look at the giants.  there defence sucked all year too.  Bellichik, as much as I cant stand him, is a fricking genious and he disguises his weaknesses.  Patriots played second tier Qbs until they got to Eli (who continues to show brady what a real “money” qb is). 
      Patriots d wasnt even tested playing tebow.  And then it was kind of tested by Flacco, who surprised me and actaully looked good against the pats d AND should have won! 
      Bellichik mixes things up and keeps teams guessing. 
      Personally, I would open it up against that d but coaches in big games can get a little conservative.
      This year was an anomoly as SF should have played Baltimore in a defensive struggle. However, stupid players allowed weaker defensive teams in.  And seriously, how about allowing a little contact downfield with the prima donna receivers of today.  wow.

      • Bkahler96 says:

        If Flacco had to throw against the Ravens defense, and Brady against the Patriots defense, it wouldnt even be a close game. Flacco cant touch brady’s jock strap

  13. Blafond says:

     We must also consider what the Colts had to gain by having such a bad record!

  14. YonScalitoCO says:

    For all of you that are having an aneurism over the W-L and playoff record, chew on this: what if brady had gone to colts and manning to the patriots? Do the colts automatically win 3 super bowls and the patriots only win 1? Absolutely not. The patriots had fantastic team management, stellar draft picks, and a great defense which are all things the colts could never quite close on. With manning at the helm, they would have easily won *5* super bowls. As ridiculous as brady-to-marvin harrison would have been, the colts would again be little more than upstarts against these fictional beasts of the east.

    • Great White North dude says:

      brady to harrison would not have been the same.  Harrison was small and a precise pattern runner.  Manning threw timing patterns to him all day.  Quick, timing patterns not hang onto the ball for 5 second throws.
      brady to moss was something any decent qb could deliver.  throw it high, throw it low, throw it out there and moss comes down with it because he was a freak, much like gronkowski.  dont tell me how accurate brady is.  especially under pressure.  No pressure means no interceptions.

      • This post is so biased and poorly thought out its bizarre.

      • Any decent qb could replicate Brady to Moss? It’s that easy? Then why hasn’t anybody else just done it? Last I checked, that was one of the bests season by any receiver ever.

        Yeah, I guess any decent qb could deliver a 23 TD season to Moss… just nobody has… to any receiver… ever…

        • Moss’ record is such bull crap yes somebody has done something even more impressive than brady and moss hookin up for 23 tds Joe Montana and jerry rices 22 tds in only ¹2 games because of the strike in 1987.

    • I HATE these absurd “what ifs.”
      Brady will not play in Indianapolis anytime soon and Manning will never be a Patriot.
      I mean, what if Joe Montana had spent his career in Seattle?
      Same results?

      What if Tom Brady played his career indoors?
      With two Hall of Fame WR’s?
      With a GM that went out of his way to surround him with offensive talent?

  15. This is the stupidest story I have ever read. Why are you punishing the Patriots for having a least a decent backup? and lets not forget THAT IT WAS A 5 GAME DIFFERENCE!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! CASSEL TOOK A TEAM THAT WENT 16-0 TO 11-5 AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THATS NOTHING???? 

  16. Dodgerlakerfan1969 says:

    Doesn’t the caliber of backup have any consideration. Cassel is a 3 year starter. Curtis Painter may never play another snap in the NFL. He has been cut and has not picked up by another team. That goes to tell you who the GMs and coaches put the blame on the Colts 2-14 season. BTW, the Colts were also one of the top teams with players on the injured reserve list. This article is ridiculous.

  17. Jeebus279 says:

    Well the author automatically has 0 credibility in the first couple paragraphs …the 08 pats did NOT make the playoffs…they lost to every good team which is the difference with having Brady there..the 08 pats beat up on teams like the raiders and rams …Brady is irreplaceable …out of 10 staring seasons they missed the playoffs once with Brady and went with Brady 5 times did they wino.without Brady? What was their record the year before Brady started? Don’t tell me brady is replaceable

  18. Dodgerlakerfan1969 says:

    Here is some info for the author. Since Brady has been surrounded with offensive talent he has outshined Peyton statistically. He owns 3 spots in the all-time leader board for highest passer rating in a season. Peyton owns 1. Brady owns 3 spots in the all-time leader board for most TDs in a season. Peyton owns 1. Brady owns 2 spots in the all-time leader board for most passing yards in a season. Peyton owns NONE. Brady has done this in 4 years of play being surrounded with offensive talent. Peyton had 13 seasons worth. If Brady had been surrounded around that talent for that long he would own all the records.

  19. jack francis says:

    I couldn’t say who was the best QB ever …just don’t tell me that any particular QB is better than TB.  currently has best winning % ( qb’s over 100 games) ALL  time  and for all but (1) one year with mediocre, at best, supporting casts….compare his receivers with Montana’s..Manning..Bradshaw…even today, NO deep threat, imagine him with Rogers,Ryans, Eli’s….never had an all pro running back..

    Perhaps his best year was 2006 as he had one of worst receiving corps in the NFL and took the team within 2 minutes of  winning AFL  championship and a sure fire 4th Super bowl win  against the Bears.

    I really enjoyed Montana’s outstanding skills but realistically imagine throwing to Jerry Rice most every game and Peyton with M Harrison,R.Wayne,D.Clark etc

  20. The Cassell argument is weak.
    Cassell flourished in ’08 because of the easiest schedule (AFC and NFC West) the Patriots had all decade. Casell threw 29 fewer TD’s, 1500 fewer yards and had a QB-rating 30 points lower than Brady the year before He also lost 5 more games…but apparently it’s all pretty much the same to this website.
    And five AFC Championships to two.
    More importantly, “Brady can be replaced by any mediocre QB and the Patriots will still have success” is mind-numbingly stupid. Your argument is weak if you rely on that. The REASON Cassell was any good in 2008 was because of all the heavy lifting Brady had done getting them to where they were, an 18-1 team.
    And if Cassell is better than Curtis freakin’ Painter, who’s fault is that? Brady’s?
    If Curtis Painter stinks it really has nothing to do with settling this debate.

    And please, after all this time, stop with the “by your way of thinking, Trent Dilfer is better than Dan Marino” stuff. No one has EVER stated that. Last I checked, Super Bowls matter.
    As does not throwing Super Bowl-losing pick six’s.

  21. Duane Bitner says:

    Since 2007 in which Brady was finally surrounded by offensive talent here are the stats for Peyton and Brady. Brady averages 4589 yards, 38.2 TDs, 9.2 INTs a season and an overall passer rating of 107.3. Peyton averages 4217 yards, 30.6 Tds, 15.2 INTs a season and an overall rating of 94.9. That’s a huge difference in numbers.

    Lets take a closer look at Peyton’s Playoff woes in which all the Peyton faithful blame his defense. Peyton has a 9-10 playoff record. In those 10 losses he has failed to score more than 18 points in 9 of those games. What are the odds of winning a playoff game scoring 18 points or less since the merger in 1970 ? 12%. Doesn’t give your team much chance to win if you can’t score points ESPECIALLY if you were built to do just that. In 6 of those games they were within ONE score of winning. Looks like an offensive problem to me. 

    Now lets take a look at his 2006 SuperBowl run. To most of the Peyton faithful these facts will be shocking. Peyton is the ONLY SuperBowl QB in history to have TWICE AS MANY INTs(7) than TDs(3) throughout their playoff run. He is ONE of just TWO QBs in history to have two consecutive playoff games with just 1 TD and 5 INTs and still advance to win the SuperBowl. The other QB being Bradshaw and his Steel Curtain defense. Peyton is also the ONLY SuperBowl winning QB in history to win a playoff game without scoring an offensive touchdown. His kicker scored all 15 points. Peyton also had the LOWEST Passer Rating(70.4) throughout the playoffs than ANY SuperBowl winning QB in history. Yes, lower than Dilfer and Johnson. And lastly he was the lowest rated SuperBowl MVP in history with an 81.8 rating. Another win at the popularity polls. How’s that for an impressive SuperBowl run from one the the greatest All-Time. LOL. 

  22. #keeping it real says:

    Tom Brady is so much better, honestly this “debate” ended a long time ago. Tom Brady has been to 5 Superbowls, winning 3 and coming a helmet catch short of another. Manning has only been to 2 and he beat the bears (big whoop) and choked against the Saints by throwing the pick 6. Brady had a 16-0 record, Manning never has. Tom Brady is tied with the legend Joe Montana for most playoff wins(come on, he is going to break it to), Manning has a losing record in the playoffs. Head to head, Brady is beating Manning, badely. Plus seriously just watch brady and manning. Brady is so much more sound and fluid in his motion, and has a laser arm. Manning is washed up now, good luck beating Brady on our way to the superbowl, and the ravens and steelers and other teams. BRADY>MANNING

  23. someone else entirely says:

    Suck for Luck anyone?

  24. Strollinruins says:

    The reason Peyton is the QB of choice…. he’s not married to Yoko

  25. Brady And Cassle had a better coach.Thats why Cassle did as well as he did.Colt’s coach gave Manning all of the coaching duites on the field.So when they lost him for that year the coach was clueless 

  26. When the electricity is passed a friction is created and thereby heat.
    The decision to purchase products from this company is a bold decision that
    will bring to you many advantages. Extruders may
    be divided into three general types :.

  27. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  28. To understand the process that plastic extrusion companies use to
    manufacture their own products, you have to have some knowledge of chemistry and an understanding of the complex
    machines that are used in the manufacturing process. a ceramic
    heater the current is automatically minimized. Extruder is definitely
    the equipment intended for manufacturing more or less ongoing lengths of plastic sectors
    out from a selected style of acrylic resin.

Speak Your Mind