NFL

How 1 of the NFL’s Greatest Rivalries Quietly Came to a Disappointing End

Eli Manning and Tom Brady have had very different careers. The latter is one of the NFL’s most celebrated quarterbacks, winning six Super Bowls. Manning hasn’t achieved the same excellence. He’s been mediocre at times but has two thrilling Super Bowl wins over Brady’s Patriots under his belt.

The two QBs have had one of the greatest one-on-one rivalries in football. Unfortunately, it seems like it came to a rather disappointing conclusion this season.

The Eli Manning–Tom Brady rivalry

Brady went 2-1 against Manning in the regular season but 0-2 in the postseason. The rivalry featured memorable games, including: 

  • The final game of the 2007 regular season, when the Patriots defeated the Giants to cap off an undefeated 16-0 regular season
  • Super Bowl XLII, when Manning led the Giants on an improbable last-minute drive to hand the Patriots their first loss of the season in a stunning upset
  • Super Bowl XLVI, when Manning led yet another last-minute comeback to defeat the heavily favored Patriots

Brady has a significant advantage over Manning in pretty much every major statistical category. But what made this rivalry so compelling is how well Manning performed on undermanned teams against Brady’s juggernauts.

When it mattered most, he was able to play David to Brady’s Goliath, overcoming miraculously long odds to beat him when it mattered most. 

The last time Manning and Brady played

The last time the Patriots and Giants faced off with Manning and Brady both on the roster? October 10, 2019. The Patriots defeated the Giants soundly, 35-14. This wasn’t a matchup of the old rivals, however. At this point, rookie quarterback Daniel Jones had replaced Manning.

The last time Manning and Brady went head-to-head was on November 15, 2015. The Patriots prevailed, 27-26, in an exciting game that pushed them to 9-0 and the Giants to 5-5. New England needed Stephen Gostkowski’s last-second field goal to win it.

Like most of the games in their rivalry, it ended in a rather thrilling fashion. Neither man knew it at the time, but this was also likely the last time Brady and Manning would ever face off. 

Why Eli Manning and Tom Brady will never face off again

Eli Manning of the New York Giants greets Tom Brady of the New England Patriots after a 2018 pre-season NFL game
Eli Manning greets Tom Brady after a 2018 preseason game | Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Manning played little this season. The Giants benched him two games into the year and he only returned for a few starts after Jones got injured. It’s highly unlikely Manning returns to New York, as he doesn’t want to accept a backup role.

The QB also made it clear he doesn’t want to be a backup elsewhere as he called the process “not real fun” in his exit interview following the Giants’ last game. It’s unclear whether another team would bring him back as a starter, as his play has diminished greatly over the past few seasons. 

Combine this with the fact that Brady’s future is unclear. After a stunning wild-card loss to the Tennessee Titans, Brady faces an unsure offseason as a free agent. Brady was noncommittal when asked about the future. Bill Belichick has never been shy to move on from a player he deems past his prime. This may be the end for Brady in New England if the team opts not to re-sign him or if Brady retires. 

This basically means we’ve seen the last of these two playing against each other. While it’s a disappointing end to a great rivalry, football fans will always have two epic Super Bowls to look back on.

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