Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Tag: peyton manning

(Sports) Myopia

I just finished a game of Scrabble in which I was handed every opportunity to win, and I did. My opponent tends to take losses pretty hard even when he shouldn’t, and there’s no question he thoroughly outplayed me. I got three “bingos” for 150 bonus points, owing to outrageously good tile fortune, and he got only one, for 50. I won by 12. While planning for and around the bingos is certainly part of the game, the higher your score without them, the better lemonade you’ve made. I was going to write him and tell him this, but I know he doesn’t want to hear it—he just wants to win, and would take it as gloating on my part, not because it would be per se but because we’ve been over this enough to understand how he would feel about it.

I have my own blind spots. Yesterday my flag football team lost to the #1 team in the league in an exceptionally close game. We were ranked fourteenth coming in, and as recently as two weeks ago lost 38-0 in our second game. After that, though, something clicked, and we won last week. This week, we held our own and fell apart but most of the team was happy with the result. The one person who wasn’t was me, and no one could figure it out, because I had played at least (objectively) a decent game as quarterback. The only problem was I threw two interceptions on our “girl plays”—the mandatory once-per-four-down plays that must go to a female—when I vowed not to throw picks at the outset. One teammate couldn’t figure out why I was so down about it until he mentioned it to the quarterback of another team at the postgame bar roundup. “You don’t understand,” he said. “You NEVER forget interceptions.” And at that point my teammate knew that there was nothing he could say to me to make me forget them, even if it wasn’t the end of the world. It’s just one of those things.

If I felt bad yesterday, I can’t imagine what Peyton Manning is going to feel like for the next 50 years.


Brady vs. Manning

Not a lot of time today, so I’ll go down a well-traveled road: Brady vs. Manning.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Peyton Manning will finish his career with superior passing stats. He’s played in a pass-first offense his entire career, and he plays in a dome. I’m not making excuses for Brady here; I am, as always, just saying. Brady will probably finish with better winning stats, depending on how you define it. The three Super Bowls, the 16-0 season, the highest all-time winning percentage—they’re all his.

These guys entered the league around the same time and have matching career arcs, so they’re natural to compare more than, say, either one of them and Ben Roethlisberger (who came later), Donovan McNabb (who didn’t reach as high), Drew Brees (late bloomer) and the newer crop of Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan (two of whom didn’t actually postdate Ben, but whose success did). Part of that contrast, for a while, were their styles: Manning ran the Blue Angels-like airshow, while Brady ran the crafty, surgical Patriots offense. Before Randy Moss arrived, the Patriots weren’t known as a team to blow out their opponents. They didn’t always win big, but they always won.

Then 2007 hit, and Brady was doing his Manning impression. He wiped Manning’s 49 touchdown record from the books in a game ya boy was at (and at which he was egged for wearing a Welker jersey), and led the Pats to within 90 seconds of the Super Bowl title. Then he got hurt eight minutes into the following season, left to watch his backup lead the Patriots’ spread offense to a respectable 11-5 record, two wins better than near Super Bowl Champions Arizona Cardinals.

Brady returned this year against the Buffalo Bills hoping to spread-offense them into submission, and the Pats won only because they got bailed out by a (typical?) Bills error (see number four here). Then they lost to the Jets, who blitzed dropback Brady into submission, and the Pats went back to the drawing board. The new Pats gameplan would look a lot like the one that won them three Super Bowls: more running, more play-action, a greater mandate to eat time away and set up big plays rather than go for them on every down. It’s something of a Classic Brady offense, even if it’s more Classic Belichick scheming: use what you’ve got. The Patriots are short on wide receivers, so this is the best plan for them.

At 6-2, the plan seems to be working. Now we’ll see how the contrast in styles with Manning’s Colts works this year. No longer do Brady and Manning look like the same quarterback, as they did in 2007. Brady’s back to being The Guy That Wins and Manning’s brought his aerial attack to another level. The contrast in styles is back, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s Pats/Colts, and it’s as big as ever.