By the time the Patriots and Broncos are done deciding who’s moving on to New Jersey in two weeks, it’s safe to say that this game will fall into the list of accomplishments for either Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and nothing more.
Despite all the thoughts and opinions to the contrary this week, nothing that happens this afternoon, positive or negative, are going to sway the pundits one way or another to change the already deep seeded opinions that each player has spent more than a decade’s worth of accolades and achievements establishing. Neither legacy will be affected by how today ends, and it’s an argument that holds no merit. Both have had long careers and the opinions by the masses, right or wrong, have already been decided.
Everyone knows Tom Brady’s legacy. He took the NFL world by storm after winning three championships in his first full four seasons, and from there he’s already piled up every accolade and record needed to build a legacy that everyone will ever remember long after he walks away from the game. He’s reached two other Super Bowls and fell just short, with one coming off of a perfect regular season. When he gets done with the game or the game gets done with him, his name will be enshrined in Canton and he’ll forever be one of the quarterbacks that players coming into this league will aspire to be.
The same can be said for Manning, although his reputation is a little different. Plenty of success in the regular season, having racked up some of the best passing totals in the league over the course of his career. However, his playoff record hasn’t exactly been stellar and his one Super Bowl came after besting New England’s flu-infested 2006 club that ran out of gas in the second half of the AFC Championship game as the Colts managed a come-from-behind win, and then got the gift of playing a terrible Chicago Bears team to win his first Lombardi Trophy.
But a ring is a ring, and Manning has gotten his. At the same time Brady already has three of his own, and looking back at what both players have accomplished, it’s hard to argue that they’ve both already had a career that most other people in their position could only imagine. One more ring for Manning is merely a consolation prize to help offset the 10-11 postseason record he currently holds and would put him one game over .500 at 12-11, provided he wins today to advance and again two weeks from now. He would also tie his brother, who has already bested the Patriots signal caller twice in order to get them.
Brady, meanwhile, is 18-7, giving him the best winning postseason percentage in league history. With every yard he throws for Sunday, he’ll extend his postseason all-time passing yard total a little higher after eclipsing the 6,000-yard mark during the Patriots win last weekend against the Colts.
At this point, he’s playing with house money and has the benefit of going out on the field likely knowing that after everything his team has been through and all the losses they’ve sustained, they’ve still got just as good of a chance to move on as they’ve ever had.
For Manning, the entire media world has given the usual million reasons of why he should win. To top things off, they’re piling on a little more by saying his legacy is on the line and can change completely by beating New England this afternoon.
The truth is, his legacy won’t change any more than Brady’s. The problems he’s had in the playoffs will be rehashed every time his name is mentioned, while Brady’s records and success over his career will be mentioned as well. Brady winning a ring won’t change what people already feel about him no more than the opinions people have of Manning, regardless of whether or not he’s able to win another title.
Oddly enough, none of those successes or failures will help either player this afternoon, and the only story that will be written will be the outcome from today. What’s done is done, and they’ve both reached the point where regardless of who hoists the Lombardi trophy in two weeks, they’ve both already set the bar for the men who will someday replace them in the years to come.
They’ll both always be remembered as two of the best to ever play the game. One game isn’t going to change that.