Brady vs. Manning: A rivalry renewed

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Brady vs. Manning: A rivalry renewed

If I asked you to name the biggest rivalries in Boston sports, youd rattle off a list faster than Antonio Cromartie can name his kids: Lakers-Celtics. Red Sox-Yankees. Bruins-Canadiens. Patriots-Jets. Patriots-Ravens. Patriots-Giants. Patriots-Steelers. Celtics-Heat. Bruins-Canucks. Red Sox-Rays. There are as many rivalries in Boston sports as there are guys named Shamus in Southie.

But what if I asked you for Bostons best individual rivalries?

Think along the lines of Magic-Bird. Or more realistically, something like Nomar-Jeter, Moss-Revis or Youkilis-Joba Chamberlain; a rivalry that doesnt necessarily have to transcend the team dynamic, but still stands on its own.

Take a second and see what you can come up with. I hope you have better luck than I did.

I guess Pierce-Kobe or Pierce-LeBron is up for discussion, but I wouldnt qualify either. First, because Kobes always been too consumed by Shaq and his imaginary rivalry with Michael Jordan to ever care too much about Pierce. And second, because recent history has taken LeBron into another stratosphere. Kevin Garnetts had plenty of rivals, but no one that's on his level. Bill Belichicks had phases with Rex Ryan and Eric Mangini but both have faded with time. Chris Paul and Rondo had the makings of a great rivalry, but they just dont see each other enough. Theres Doc Rivers-Bill Kennedy, Bobby V-Joe Maddon or even Tom Brady-Terrell Suggs but those are too one-sided, petty andor hilarious to register. Over the past few years, the Red Sox have had plenty of great rivalries within their own clubhouse, but nothing that really extends to another team. And while guys like Alex Burrows, Matt Cooke and P.K. Subban have earned the title of Boston Sports Villain none of them has that one individual Bruins rival unless you want to count Cooke and Marc Savard, but that was sadly over as soon as it started.

Who knows, maybe its a product of free agency, or Bostons slow fall from Title Town back to reality, but the fact remains that significant individual rivalries are a rare commodity on our local sports scene.

But thankfully, the individual rivalry is not dead at least not as long as two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history are still going at in the AFC.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. An individual rivalry for the ages. Its the best kind of rivalry, too. Its not based on pettiness, cheap shots or momentary bragging rights. It's a rivalry fueled by history, by permanent legacy, by how each quarterback will be remembered among the greatest quarterbacks of all time. It's a respectful rivalry, an aspect that most likely stems from the fact that these two are never in direct competition. Brady's never hit Manning. Manning's never intercepted Brady. In 11 years, they've never been on the field at the same time. While one's at work, the other's on the bench. Watching, marveling, laser focused on how to be better.

Who is better?

I guess that depends on your definition of better, but really, there's no doubt that Brady has the upper hand.

While Manning still leads in many important statistical categories he's third all-time in completions, while Brady ranks 10th; he's third in passing yards, while Brady ranks 11th; he's third with 407 touchdowns, exactly 100 more than Brady (who ranks fifth) these days, that statistical discrepancy is just as much a matter of time as it is skill. Manning's started 49 more games than Brady, which is more than three extra seasons. And with Peyton's career clock likely to run out before Tom's, it's fair to assume that those gaps will be significantly narrowed by the time both men are done. And even then, there are a number places where Brady already has the edge. He's third all-time in passer rating, while Manning ranks sixth. Brady's also thrown 85 fewer interceptions.

Then, there's winning.

Brady has a .773 career winning percentage, while Peyton's at .667.

Brady's 16-6 all-time in the playoffs (2-4 in his last six), while Manning's 9-10.

Brady's played in five Super Bowls, and won three. Manning only been there once (and he won).

This obviously comes from a slightly biased place, but I don't care if Tony Dungy's making the list, in any breakdown of the best all-time quarterbacks, Tom Brady needs to be ahead of Peyton Manning . . .

Still, that doesn't weaken the hype leading up to Sunday's game.

You know that member of your family who drives you nuts? Right. I know. Which one? Maybe it's an uncle, an aunt, a cousin or all of the above . . . but we all have them. That family member who makes every gathering andor holiday absolute hell. That family member who annoys you by breathing.

Well, last Thanksgiving that member of my family canceled at the last minute. He supposedly wasn't feeling well, but the excuse didn't matter. The rest of us were ecstatic. It was a dream. And we all went on to have one of our most fun and easygoing turkey days in years.

But honestly, something was missing. The whole night was so peaceful and laid back, but for that reason, it didn't feel like Thanksgiving. And in a strange and irritating way, that kind of sucked. It just wasn't the same.

And last season, that's what it felt like in New England with Peyton Manning out of the mix. Initially, it was great to see the Colts take a hit. One of the most difficult games on the Patriots schedule had just become a cupcake. Tom Brady's biggest rival had just been taken down at the knees (or the neck). Everybody wins!

But when that game finally took place, and Curtis Painter awkwardly jogged out onto to the field, everyone missed Manning. Regardless of all the fear and frustration he'd laid on New England in the past, it wasn't the same without him. You wished that he was out there.

On Sunday, after nearly two years away, Manning finally returns to Gillette, and lucky for New England, Tom Brady will be waiting, ready to defend his legacy and bring us all another chapter of Boston's undisputed best individual rivalry.

Even if it might also be the only individual rivalry.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)

[H/T NESN.com]

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.