Super Bowl XLII saw the Patriots leading the Giants17-14 with Eli Manning facing a 4th and 26. The Patriots pass rush almost had him wrapped up before Manning threw a desperation prayer miraculously caught for the first down, eventually leading to a last-minute touchdown. A dejected Tom Brady walked off the field in an unfamiliar place: the losing end of a Super Bowl. Manning was hailed as a hero after pulling off perhaps the biggest upset in Super Bowl History.
A torn ACL followed by two disappointing playoff losses later, Brady finds himself against a familiar adversary in a rematch against Manning and the Giants. There is no debate that Brady will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his ten years as a starter he’s made the Super Bowl five times. He has three Super Bowl titles (winning MVP of the Big Game twice) and two NFL MVP awards. You can find his statistics scattered all over NFL record books. He makes more Pro Bowls then T.O. does sit-ups on his driveway.
But is he the greatest of all time? Not if he loses two Super Bowls to Manning. A victory however, ties him with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl titles. It would also put him ahead of Montana for the most career playoff victories all-time by a starting NFL quarterback.
Manning offended football circles earlier this season when he suggested that he was an elite quarterback in the NFL. The very thought of him on the same level with the likes of Brady, Brees and his brother Payton didn’t resonate well. But after almost throwing for 5,000 yards and a second Super Bowl appearance after upsets over the 15-1, Packers and 13-3, 49ers – he is backing it up.
Manning has already won a Super Bowl, not to mention a Super Bowl MVP Award. He too has multiple Pro Bowl appearances. But a victory would propel him to stardom with only one Super Bowl behind Brady and 1 ahead of, dare I say – Payton.
The two quarterbacks have traveled distinctly different journeys to get to this point. One is playing to get to the Hall of Fame while the other vies to be the best the game has ever seen. For Manning, it would mean stepping from the dark shadows as Payton’s little brother to: “You can’t spell Elite without Eli!” For Brady, this is a shot at vindication. It’s a chance to skyrocket into football infamy and rewrite his legacy by avenging the most crushing loss of his career.