Sunday marks what could be the end of an era, as the NFL sees two of its greatest players face off for likely the final time: Brady vs Manning.
NFL fans around the world should realize how lucky they've been to have watched two of football's greatest players. (The same thing said of David Bowie by Twitter's @JeSuisDean holds true for this rivalry: "If you're ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as Brady vs Manning.")
This was truly a special era in sports and it is a sad day for the sport to know the end could be here. This will be the 17th time Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will compete against one another, and there is no better way for this great rivalry to play out than to have the stakes be a Super Bowl trip for the victor. Considering his age, contract situation, and on-field performance this year, this could well be the final game of Peyton Manning’s historic career (if the Denver Broncos are to lose, that is).
Because this rivalry is coming to an end, as huge fans of all flavors of football, we would be remiss not to talk about its parallels to the Ronaldo vs Messi rivalry. Obviously, Ronaldo and Messi are still in their respective primes and we hope they have a long way to go before the end of their era at the top of global football. When you think about their rivalry compared to Brady vs Manning, however, there are many similarities.
Comparing Brady vs Manning To Messi vs Ronaldo
To begin, we'll start with the popularity of these athletes. Ronaldo and Messi, according to most polls, don't only rank as the most popular athletes among soccer fans. A recent article by Forbes shows them as the two most popular athletes in the world based on social media followers. They also hold the top 2 spots among jersey sales for all soccer players. Likewise, a recent poll conducted by CBS Sports shows Brady and Manning hold 2 of the top 3 spots for most popular players in the NFL. Looking at jersey sales, noone sold more this past year than Brady in the NFL in America. And Brady's popularity, like that of Messi and Ronaldo, is not limited to the continent on which he plays; it also extends to Europe where he was the top selling jersey among NFL players in all of Europe – even though he has not played a game in Europe since 2012.
In comparison, Peyton Manning ranked in the top 5 for jersey sales for all NFL players this season. If you look at all merchandise associated with each player (from jerseys, bobbleheads, posters, etc.), Peyton actually ranks 2nd among NFL players, whereas Brady is 3rd in that category.
Looks (a.k.a. Popularity With Female Fans)
When discussing the popularity of these athletes, of course, you must also mention the similarity between Ronaldo and Brady as it relates to female fan base. Along with being tremendous athletes, Ronaldo and Brady are also rated highly by female fans everywhere. You would be hard pressed to find a female fan of either sport, or in general, who did not consider Ronaldo or Brady on the list of sexiest male athletes alive. Judge for yourself:
To be honest, when it comes to either the Brady vs Manning or Messi vs Ronaldo rivarly, it's pretty clear who the respective winners are in this category. Sorry Peyton and Lionel.
When you consider Brady vs Manning and Ronaldo vs Messi, one of the things that makes each pairing unique is the fact that during the time they have played they have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
For nearly a decade there has been little debate about who the top two quarterbacks are year in and year out. Every now and then, we have seen QBs have great seasons (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, etc.) and enter the argument, or a new young face would emerge, but no other quarterbacks have shown the consistency these two have shown. And, if you were to ask NFL fans where they rank Brady and Manning, most would place each in the top 10. Some would even say both are in the top 5. Likewise, Messi and Ronaldo have been the two best players in soccer year in and year out for the past 5-10 years.
Arguments can be made for all four when asked: Who is the greatest? And no matter which side you are on, there are plenty of stats to support your opinion. The fact remains that each pair has dominated their sport for a longer period of time than anyone else in the time they have played. The real comparison, then, is the impact they have on their teams when they play. If you watch these guys play, their skill and performance generally dictates the outcomes for their teams. If they play well, their team does well; if they do not play well, the opposite is true.
This leads us to the stats accumulated by these incredible athletes that have separated them from the rest.
First, let's look at Messi vs Ronaldo when it comes to stats:
Now, let's look at Manning vs Brady stats:
When looking at the stats compiled by each athlete, it’s hard not to see how similar they are to one another. They are truly each other's closest adversaries.
So, this Sunday, when the clock strikes zero on the historic Brady vs Manning rivalry, fans of the NFL should be thankful they were alive to witness two class acts compete at the highest level for so long. And, when it comes to soccer, we should all take a minute to realize that what we have in Messi vs Ronaldo is absolutely great as well.