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Saturday, November 03, 2007

V: Manning v. Brady; Seriously, Is This Even Close?

[Guest blogger V is back with some random musings/rantings on sports. As always, his views do not represent those of this blog - although I completely agree with everything he says. Also, as long as we are talking sports, if you root for Notre Dame over Navy today, you hate the troops. Just so you know.]

The Patriots-Colts tilt on Sunday:

I was initially tempted to think that the Pats will win this game by over 2 TDs. But, back in 1998 another team (with an in-form Randy Moss) was tearing up the league. The 1998 Minnesota Vikings set the single-season scoring record and won 15 of 16 games in the regular season. Their one regular-season loss came at the hands of Tampa Bay, whose head coach then was - Tony Dungy. [Editor's note: Whooo!!] So, I don’t know about tomorrow's game. Tony’s one of the best coaches I have seen. Heck, he built such a good team (especially defensively) in Tampa that even Jon Gruden couldn't screw it up before they won a Super Bowl. And before you Chucky apologists come at me with your underwear all in a bunch, I'll have you know that I only needed two pieces of evidence to revoke Gruden's "offensive genius" status: Chris Simms and Bill Callahan. Game over, thanks for playing. [Editor's note: Those two destroyed my two favorite teams!]

Anyway, I am tired of hearing (from the national media, not just the local Indianapolis yahoos) about how Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are 1A and 1B and either could be either. Seriously, is this even close? Brady has achieved far more while having far less to work with. Manning is a very good NFL QB and will go down in history as such, but Brady is just far, far better. Brady is dangerously close to laying claim to being the best EVER in the history of the game (and two more Super Bowl titles will do it, in my opinion). Peyton will (or should anyway) be remembered for his Gregory Hines imitating happy feet in big games, for managing many big games badly, and for being the "class act" and his throwing his O-line under the bus. Notice how the TV talking heads love to verbally fellate Manning when things go well ("you see, Tom Moore gives him 3 plays and he chooses one at the line" - "he sees the entire field" - what a master of the game" - "what a field general" - "coach on the turf" - "look at him audible so beautifully" - etc, etc, etc) and curiously give him a pass when he screws up. Like when used to consistently call the wrong plays in big playoff games. In consecutive years when he was being repeatedly planted on the turf in New England, it would have been nice to see him hand the ball off to Edgerrin James more, or call some screen passes or draws - anything to make the pass rush hesitate. (If I remember correctly, in the second of those debacles - in bad weather, when he was getting killed by the rush - Edgerrin handled the only ball 14 times in the entire game. As good as a back and receiver that he was, Edge should have handled the ball 35 times). But Manning wanted to win with his ego and lost miserably. And then, don't forget, he threw his O-line under the bus. When Manning finally won a title, it was as much on the legs of Addai and Rhodes as with his arm. So he finally learned his lesson on play calling. So he's a good QB. But to try and place him as "arguably the best of all time" (like many in the media do) is laughable. Just amongst the QBs that I have seen play, I could argue that Montana, Elway, Kelly (remember the years when he ran a pretty good no-huddle, and but for one unfortunate Scott Norwood field goal attempt might have gotten at least as many rings as Manning?), Marino, and Favre were all better than Manning. I could also argue that Young and Aikman were at least as good as Manning too.

Brady stepped in as a replacement on what was then perceived to be a so-so team at best, and was immediately excellent. He stepped in and suddenly that team elevated its play to incredible heights. And he never looked back; in fact, he only gotten better. Brady has never had a catastrophic performance in any game, let alone a big game. And his team has maintained an unbelievably high level of play through constant player flux on offense. I'll concede that Brady had Vinatieri, but then again Brady did command an offense of relative no-names and, at crucial times, repeatedly put the team in position for Vinatieri to do his magic.

I think the fact that nobody saw Brady coming is the reason that the talking heads still have some reservation about admitting to how great he really is. The ESPN blowhards like to pride themselves on their prognosticating skills (in particular you, Mel Kiper, who used to go by Mel Kuyper Jr. a few years ago), and therefore find it hard to psychologically digest that they completely whiffed on a player who might end up being the best ever at his position. Whereas Manning, they rated very highly from the beginning. Plus he's got the last name that magically buys him get-out-of-jail cards when he screw up, so it seems like he screws up less than he actually does. Their egos are tangled up in it, so what do you expect? Objectivity? Ha!


While banging on ESPN, can I ask that the media, starting with Peter Gammons and Co., please stop with the self-righteous indignation about A-Rod disrespecting the game by announcing during Game 4 that he would not re-up with the Yankees. I'm no fan of A-Rod or Scott Boras but sheeeesh. Hey media people, (and I'm quoting The Onion and Steven Colbert) I just had a stroke of genius. Are you ready? Open your mouth, baby birds, cause Mama's about to drop you one sweet, fat nightcrawler - If you guys don't talk about it, it will not be news. And if you plead (as you do repeatedly) that it was news and that you were duty-bound to cover it, then cover it and move on to your pieces on - here, I have some suggestions - how a cancer-survivor closed out the World Series, how Boston came back from the brink of elimination against Cleveland, how Manny Ramirez is a better hitter than A-Rod will ever be, how a minor league team won 21 out of 22 games to qualify to meet Boston in the World Series, how the Red Sox fans are now more obnoxious than the Yankee fans were etc, etc. And if you cannot move on because you have to cater to the public demand (as you've pled) i.e., if A-Rod and Boras can indeed capture enough public interest by their announcement to actually, successfully, upstage the World Series (as you've accused them of/have vilified them for doing) then guess what? - the story IS bigger than the World Series and A-Rod has the right to do as he damn well pleases. So shut your ad-revenue-whoring mouths and deal with it.

For years now, the media has defended its catering to the lowest common denominators by citing public interest. "If we give Anna Nicole Smith 1000 times the coverage that we give Kurt Vonnegut, that's because that's what the people want. We are not supposed to make moral judgments - we provide you decide - supply and demand - ratings - advertising revenue - blah-blah-freaking-rationalization-blah". Well folks, when for the sake of profit you (i) pander to the basest in human nature, (ii) systematically cull intelligent programming because it is easier to make and sell crap, (iii) schedule your games to end past midnight, well then you raise a generation of kids that, for instance, may care more about A-Rod’s contract than about your showcase game itself. Congratulations!


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