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Old 12-06-2010, 05:02 PM   #1
Third Rail
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Default Whitlock Puts Ben in His Top Three

I don't always agree with him, but Whitlock is one of my favorite sports writers and I think he hit this one on the head. Also, I love that he names Troy as an MVP candidate. It's about someone threw his name out there for that. It doesn't ALWAYS have to be a QB.

Brady, not Manning, is era's best QB

For those of us who have long been skeptical of the national mediaís premature and unjustified anointment of Peyton Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time, our day is here.

Sunday, Manning continued to show his age (34), tossing four interceptions, including two pick-6s, in the Coltsí 38-35 loss to the Cowboys. At 6-6, thereís a good chance Indy wonít make the playoffs. Manning is having his worst season in nine years (24 TDs, 15 INTs).

His apologists blame his poor play on injuries to Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai, a leaky offensive line and the lack of a consistent running game.

To his credit, Peyton Manning blames Peyton Manning.

ďI threw four interceptions to guys who were covered, and the ball shouldnít have been thrown,Ē Manning told Indy reporters after the game. ďIíve either got to throw it away or throw it to somebody else. Thatís basic football. The quarterbackís job is to protect the ball, and Iím not following through on that.Ē

If the media didnít overhype Manning, he might be one of my all-time favorite players. Heís a stand-up guy and a marvelous player. Heís just not the best QB of all time. Heís not the best QB of this era.

Tom Brady is.

Monday night, when the Jets and Patriots square off in a blockbuster matchup, Brady has a chance to take control of the MVP race and demonstrate the intangible that makes him a better quarterback than Manning.

Brady is fearless. Two years after the knee injury I thought would undermine his pocket toughness, Brady is back to being Brady, a courageous, unflappable pocket passer.

Heís thrown 23 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Heís leading the league in passer rating. A victory Monday night, and the Patriots will tie the Falcons for the leagueís best record (10-2).

When it comes to evaluating Brady, itís always about more than statistics. There are no stats for courage and leadership. Theyíre like obscenity. You know them when you see them. Look at the smooth way Brady and Bill Belichick ushered locker-room cancer Randy Moss out of New England. Thatís leadership.

Standing in the pocket and taking a hit rather than nervously throwing into coverage is leadership, too. Manning has always thrown more interceptions (and a higher percentage of INTs) than Brady because Manning has always gone to greater lengths to avoid contact.

Playoff teams are adept at hitting the opposing quarterback. That explains the dramatic difference between Bradyís and Manningís playoff records and performances (Brady three Super Bowls and Manning one). Three-four, exotic zone-blitz defenses get inside Manningís head. They make him think and panic.

Let me repeat: I do not dislike Peyton Manning. Heís one of the 10 best QBs of all time. What bothers me is people think heís better than Tom Brady. Itís just not true.

In five years, Big Ben Roethlisberger might move ahead of Manning on my list. Regardless of what Roger Goodell does to NFL rules, football is always going to be a game defined by toughness. Did you watch Big Ben Sunday night?

The Ravens broke his nose in the first quarter and Big Ben never blinked. He never thought about coming out of the game. And down the stretch, against the meanest defense in football, Big Ben fought off Terrell Suggs and avoided a sack on one play and threw the game-winning TD pass two plays later.

There is no stat for playing with a broken nose. There is no stat for fighting off Suggs and throwing the ball away. If the league kept those stats, we know Roethlisberger and Brady would rank higher on the chart than Manning.

Maybe after Monday night, if Brady survives Rex Ryanís punishing defense and the Patriots win, Iíll win some more converts. Maybe a second MVP award for Brady will help him close the Manning gap.

And, yes, as of right now, Brady deserves the MVP award more than Michael Vick.

I said ďas of right now.Ē

Vick is an incredible story. His 467 rushing yards and six rushing TDs add a dimension to his candidacy that Brady canít match. But Vick hasnít played enough and the Eagles are 8-4. Iím open to changing my mind over the last month of the season.

Right now itís Brady, followed by Vick and Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu.

In terms of best QB of this era, itís Brady, followed by Manning and Roethlisberger. Iím not open to changing my mind about that.
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