NFL Network's Cosell: Comparing Brady to Manning

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NFL Network's Cosell: Comparing Brady to Manning

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

If you like football and you aren't following Greg Cosell on Twitter, you ought to. He's been at NFL Films for 32 years. He's currently a senior producer there and way back in 1984, he and Steve Sabol created NFL Matchup, the first nuts-and-bolts, Xs-and-Os show that demonstrated the technical and strategic artistry of the NFL game. In addition to continuing with that show and co-authoring The Games That Changed The Game with Ron Jaworski and David Plaut, Cosell breaks down hours of game film. He uses the "all-22" coach's film so he gets a better look at what's going on than the rest of us. He's been tweeting his position-by-position findings during this long, dry offseason. Over the next few days, I'll pick Cosell's brain about the Patriots' personnel and schemes. Third in this little string: Quarterbacks. Why isn't Brady the best ever?He's top-five all-time to me. He's a Hallof Famer, no question. The only thing I would say is, 'How would Brady's public perception be different if Adam Vinatieri missed somefield goals?' If that happened, it would haveno impact whatsoever on Brady's performance, but he wouldn't be labeledwith thatvague term 'winner' which is what makes him in some minds the greatest quarterback ever. It's the Scott Norwood-Jim Kelly debate. If Scott Norwood made the field goal against the Giants (in Super Bowl XXV), Jim Kelly would be regarded differently. But Jim Kelly's performance isn't better. If Vinatieri missed some field goals, Brady's performance as an absolute would not change.When comparing Brady to the greats of other eras - Montana, Elway, Marino, Fouts - how is the position different?I think the NFL game has changed andI think Brady is a perfect example of how you have to play to be a greatquarterbackin the NFL. It's processing information at the line of scrimmage. He's absolutely brilliant in that area.A lot of what the Patriots do in that passing game happens before the snap. You rarely ever see Brady throw a ball that you say, 'My God, where was he throwing it?' It's really remarkable. It's amazing how much is done from the time he gets to the line, to the snap, to the moments after the snap.Even if they don't call their own plays as their predecessors did, there seems to be just as much responsibility on quarterbacks now because of specialization.Guys like Peyton Manning, Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers to an extent - they are calling their own plays. The defenses move around so much and are so detailed that quarterbacks have to reset protections, move receivers . . . they may not be calling their own play in the huddle, but they are adjusting so many things at the line of scrimmage. Guys back in the day who called their own plays, the game back then was 11-on-11. It wasnot a situation game the way it is now. They'd call a play and they'd run the play. The game's not like that now. Let's compare Brady and Manning a little. First, accuracy. This is the absolute strength of both guys. It's been very overlooked in both cases because of all the things they do so well. But when it comes to accuracy, you can do everything else right but if you can't put the ball where you want it to go, where it needs to go, what good is that? At the end of the day bothof them are really, really accurate. Scary accurate. I havea tough time separating the two. In running their team's offensesThey run very different offenses. Manning, in that stretch from 2002 to 2008 or so, the Colts were a downfield passing team with an emphasis on throwing the ball to the outside. They ran isolation routes - Reggie Wayne on the out patterns or Marvin Harrison on the post. For the most part, the Patriots have been a short passing team. Manning is a phenomenal anticipation thrower. He throws to a spot before the receiver has started his break better than anyone. Brady is more of a "read it on the move and throw it to the open guy" quarterback. He's so smart and his receivers are so smart that they make that offense work so well because of their intelligence. Arm strength and technical aspects of throwingBoth have gotten much stronger in the NFL. One of the most overlooked aspects of Brady's arm strength is the way his ball cuts through the wind. His throwing mechanics are perfect. The way he drops, the way he bounces, his balance, the way he steps into throws. You rarely see him throw a football without stepping into it. He's a clinic on the correct way to throw a football. He's much smoother than Manning. I think, for the most part, Brady is almost perfect in the way he plays the position. I love the way he is in the pocket. His calm, composure, pocket movement, feeling the rush, staying on balance, keeping the ball in position to deliver it and his eyes down the field. He's a master of that. And he's certainly better at that than Manning. SUMMARYGiven we're all pretty well-versed in Brady's strengths at this point, I wanted to take a wider view of him with Cosell. And one of the most interesting points he made that helped illuminate a fundamental difference was when he discussed the kind of offenses they run. Manning has always seemed the jumpier, more anxious quarterback. Perhaps that's related to the fact so many of his throws are based on - as Cosell points out - anticipation. If pressure is coming before a target is near his spot, Manning has to hold, hold, hold or get off that receiver and on to another. For Brady, so much of the Patriots' offense is option routes in which he and his receiver read the defense and react to coverage. Think of it another way: when the Patriots are going well offensively, they are able to adjust during the play, countering the coverage on the fly. There is less of that with Manning. While his pre-snap histrionics make it seem he's orchestrating so much more, when the ball is snapped, he's more often married to the play and the routes than Brady is because they aren't as much a "read" offense. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran