Comparing quarterbacks at different stages of the careers is difficult. So, to compare, we'll take a sample size from years four through eight to see how one quarterback stacks up against the two quarterbacks that defined the position over the past decade.
Tom Brady (2003-2007)
Peyton Manning (2001-2005)
Eli Manning (2007-2011)
Single season highs (amongst all three):
Attempts: 591 (Peyton Manning, 2002)
Completion percentage: 68.9 (Tom Brady, 2007)
Yards: 4,933 (Eli Manning, 2011)
Yards per attempt: 9.2 (Peyton Manning, 2004)
Touchdowns: 50 (Tom Brady, 2007)
Interceptions: 25 (Eli Manning, 2010)
Completions (20+): 68 (Peyton Manning, 2011)
Completions (40+): 18 (Eli Manning, 2011)
This does not say a whole lot. However, it sets up a point I'd like to make when we look at stats collectively over a five year sample.
Still, I find it impressive that Eli has completed more 40+ yard passes in 2011 with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz than either of the other two have with Hall of Fame talent to throw to at some point in this sample.
Also, if you will note, each quarterback owns several different stats. This sample is not to obscure any of the accomplishments of Brady or big brother Peyton either, as you will note, both of their statistically most impressive seasons ('04 for Manning and '07 for Brady) are included.
Now, let's look at how each quarterback has fared over a combined five seasons.
Tom Brady: 2,625
Peyton Manning: 2,654
Eli Manning: 2,645
Tom Brady: 1,656
Peyton Manning: 1,755
Eli Manning: 1,601
Tom Brady: 63%
Peyton Manning: 66%
Eli Manning: 61%
Tom Brady: 19,757
Peyton Manning: 20,902
Eli Manning: 19,530
(Yards per attempt)
Tom Brady: 7.5
Peyton Manning: 7.9
Eli Manning: 7.4
Thus far, the numbers are so close that it's starting to get a little weird. Remember the disclaimer. This looks at the same years (4-8) in each of these quarterback's careers. There was no premeditation in this presentation. I am not picking and choosing numbers in the presentation to favor one quarterback over another.
Tom Brady: 151
Peyton Manning: 161
Eli Manning: 141
Tom Brady: 60
Peyton Manning: 72
Eli Manning: 85
This is the area that people will talk most about. Touchdown passes and interceptions, and as far as differential goes, Eli is a bit off the mark of the other two (+56). Tom Brady weighs in at +91, while big brother is up at +89.
The problem is, a touchdown pass versus interception differential does not exactly correlate. It's used all of the time as a measurement, for reasons that are based mostly on convenience.
But, other stats get us right back to where we were originally.
(Completions of 20+yards)
Tom Brady: 257
Peyton Manning: 264
Eli Manning: 252
(Completions of 40+ yards)
Tom Brady: 50
Peyton Manning: 50
Eli Manning: 47
These stats are about as on par between three quarterbacks as you'll ever see.
This last measure is not really much of a measure. But obviously a quarterback's numbers will be impacted by who he is throwing the ball to.
Tom Brady's leading receivers:
2004: David Givens, David Patten
2005: Deion Branch, David Givens
2006: Reche Caldwell, Ben Watson
Peyton Manning's leading receivers:
2002: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne
2003: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne
2004: Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison
2005: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne
Eli Manning's leading receivers:
2008: Domenik Hixon, Amani Toomer
2009: Steve Smith, Mario Manningham
2010: Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham
2011: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks
Does this make or break the argument? No. Peyton Manning enjoys the luxury of a pair of receivers that features one Hall of Fame lock (Harrison) and one who will likely fall just short (Wayne). Tom Brady played several years with no-name receivers, but he posted his monster season when he got some help (Moss and Welker). Eli has had quite the mixed bag at receiver and now finally has a really promising group in place. Despite this, he's right in the mix with Brady and Peyton on just about every stat.