Erick is leaning toward writing in former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. I am and have been a New England Patriots fan since I was able to climb onto the couch to watch the games. And back in those days, the Patriots were a laughingstock.
I suffered through Jim Plunkett (who went on to be a frigging superstar with the 49ers), tragic Steve Grogan, Tony Eason, Hugh Millen, and Drew Bledsoe. Even Doug Flutie managed to squeeze himself into the parade of humiliations. Now we have Tom Brady, the most hated winner in the NFL.
If I’m going to throw a vote into the flatulent winds of political oblivion, I may as well make the best possible choice. So I present a deep dive into Manning vs. Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback rivalry ever in football, now extended to the ultimate battle of presidential politics.
Let’s start with the basics. Both men are eligible to be president. Manning is a New Orleans homeboy from a famous football family. Brady is a central California surfer boy who grew up watching Joe Montana. He was a personal witness to The Catch. Manning is 40 years old, and Brady is 39. They are both legal.
Manning has a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication from the University of Tennessee. While with the Vols, he majored in football, garnering every possible award other than the coveted Heisman Trophy. Manning was the first pick of the 1998 NFL draft, selected by the Indianapolis Colts, where he stayed for 13 years before heading to Denver.
Brady has a degree from the University of Michigan in football–actually something called “general studies” where he earned a 3.3/4.0 GPA in his “emphasis” fields of business and psychology. Here’s his old resume.
Who’s smarter? That’s hard to say. Manning reportedly had a 3.61 GPA and SAT combined score of 1030 (not particularly high). The vaunted Wonderlic score is used by the NFL to measure “smarts.” Brady scored a 33; Manning scored a 28. Neither of them can touch Ryan Fitzpatrick, who earned a 3.2 GPA at Harvard, scored a 1580 on his SAT, and a Wonderlic score of 48. But I could never, ever support a Jets player, so let’s move on. He’s probably a Democrat anyway.
Both Brady and Manning support Republicans (as do most NFL players). Brady has been known to pal around with Donald Trump (possibly because he’s married to Gisele Bündchen). Women like Gisele attract Trump like honey attracts bears. (I must say that Gisele’s smoking hot appearance at the Rio games was the highlight of the opening ceremony. I digress.)
In the “hot wife” department, Tom Brady beats practically every man on the planet. Manning’s wife Ashley is the quintessential smart, savvy NFL player’s partner, and a decent businesswoman herself. They’d both make formidable first ladies (but Gisele!).
Brady distanced himself from Trump, telling Boston WEEI sports radio that politics is “way off my radar” and he was certainly not endorsing Trump. Manning keeps himself out of politics. “Negative, negative on that,” he said when asked. So at least for this football season (likely to be the last), Brady doesn’t seem ready to assume the mantle of leader of the free world. And one more Super Bowl might interfere with a January 20th inauguration.
Manning is pretty much free to do as he pleases, having no day job. But could he be persuaded to move to Washington D.C.? Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins hails from Michigan, Brady’s alma mater. I think Brady would fit in quite well as a Redskins fan (post New England, of course).
As for foreign policy, Brady seems to have the advantage. His kids are bilingual, Portuguese-speakers, and Brady also manages to slaughter the language. I don’t know if Manning speaks anything other than New Orleans English–possibly some Creole or pidgin French?
Now we get to the core issues: trust. People like Peyton Manning. What’s not to like? He’s a nice guy. Even President Obama hailed Manning, “[It] is great to see somebody with a career like that, who always conducted himself on the field and off the field the way he did, to be able to go out on top.” Obama joked about his 2008 coronation at Mile High Stadium, “Thank you for letting me borrow it just for a little bit, I have a feeling it’s a little louder after Von sacks Tom Brady.”
It sounds like Obama is a bit slanted toward Manning, and anything Obama likes, well, let’s give that point to Brady, with the unity award to Manning.
Which man better embodies conservative values?
Manning donated $5,200 to Tenn. Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2013. Alexander is a RINO, scoring an abysmal 28 percent on his Heritage Action scorecard. He voted to allow women to be eligible for the draft, and for every pork-barrel big-spending project that came across his desk. On the good side, Alexander voted to defund “sanctuary cities.” On the bad side, he voted to continue funding Planned Parenthood. But we should not judge a man by one donation.
Brady was suspended for four games after his part in Deflategate. Brady’s suspension was mostly for refusing to cooperate with the league’s ever-more intrusive requests investigating the incident. Manning, who is no longer a player, cooperated with the NFL as part of a doping investigation, and was cleared as a result. Had Brady cooperated by handing over his cell phone, would the league have taken the extraordinary step of appealing in federal court? Probably not.
Give him credit for trying. A four-game ban – on top of the $1 million in fines and loss of first and fourth-round draft picks for the Patriots – seems like an awfully steep price to pay in the case that involved deflated footballs and such gray areas when it came to the evidence, the science and Brady’s direct involvement. It’s like banning a Major League Baseball pitcher 40 games for throwing spitballs.
A lot of people are happy to see Brady go down. And Manning has nothing to lose by remaining a goody-goody. Brady has served under only one coach–Bill Belichick (arguably one of the smartest men in football). Belichick’s morals in football have always been questionable–even as a Patriots fan I cringe. I think Brady tries to do the right thing, but 16 years under a man who plays at the ragged edge of cheating, frequently over the edge, takes a toll.
The worst thing Manning seems to have ever done is mooning a trainer as part of a college prank. Manning wins the Boy Scout point. He also wins the “quiet faith” point. There’s no doubt Manning is a committed Christian, but also a practical man.
“Christians drink beer. So do non-Christians. Christians also make mistakes, just as non-Christians do. My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago.”
Brady grew up Catholic, the son of a devout man, and was married in a Catholic church. He has fathered a child out of wedlock. He doesn’t subscribe to any one faith, but is (like many) searching for God in many places. From Mark Leibovich’s 2015 New York Times Magazine piece on Brady:
He marched me back into the house, through the kitchen and past a shelf that displayed a large glass menorah. “We’re not Jewish,” Brady said when I asked him about this. “But I think we’re into everything. . . . I don’t know what I believe. I think there’s a belief system, I’m just not sure what it is.” After Brady won his third Super Bowl in 2005, he seemed to betray a wistful sense of anticlimax in an interview with Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes.” “Maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey, man, this is what it is, I’ve reached my goal,’ ” he told Kroft. “Me, I think, God, it’s got to be more than this.”
I read this quote back to Brady, nearly 10 years and zero Super Bowl victories later, and he laughed at his naïveté. “I got a litany of Bibles sent to me after that,” Brady told me. “When I think back on that, what a narrow perspective I had. I’m 27. I don’t know [expletive]. Not that I know [expletive] at 37.”
For a four-time Super Bowl winner, three-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFL MVP, 11-time Pro Bowl player, with more assorted awards than Frito Lay snack brands, this is an astoundingly self-aware statement.
But Peyton Manning is the winningest NFL quarterback, ever–that is unless Brett Favre un-retires again.
In the end, I think both men are universes more qualified than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. They both have more strength, wisdom, and character than the “official” ballot choices offered by their respective parties. They both value marriage, and can see the value of hard work, and the blessing of forgiving mistakes by themselves and others.
Who would win my write-in vote?
I was leaning toward Manning, against my own Patriots, until I wrote this piece. The deep dive into both men leads me to a complete toss-up. If people want to blame Brady for Deflategate and hang him to dry, that’s their problem. Every quarterback likes the ball like he wants it. The fact that Belichick encourages this kind of shenanigans shouldn’t disqualify Brady. That’s my opinion.
After all is said and done, I have to go with Brady, who could not care less that he earned one vote for president. But if he’s reading this, I’d love to get a thank you note (or lunch in Manhattan).