If you’re going to pick one quarterback to lead a game-winning drive with two minutes left in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady is a good one to have. He’d be my choice, considering that, you know, he’s done it twice already. Not surprisingly, Brady was the choice of the players as well.
The problem this year, though, is that I would not trust the talent around Brady to make it work. Which is why Denver’s Peyton Manning was second on the list; not only is Manning a great quarterback but he also has terrific talent. That combination is why I’d take Manning this year in that role. But if I could pick one guy and pair him with whomever? It’s Brady.
Of course, Eli Manning has done it twice as well -- against Brady’s Patriots. And, better yet for the Giants, he left Brady only 29 seconds in their first Super Bowl meeting and 57 seconds and no time outs in the second. Of course, Brady led a touchdown drive before Manning’s first heroics and if Wes Welker hadn’t dropped a pass would have led a scoring drive in the second meeting.
I wouldn’t pick Eli Manning ahead of Brady or his brother, but I’ll take a guy who’s done it and I’m surprised a little bit at where he rated. Then again, with him it depends on the year whether he's a guy you'd want in that spot or not. He only received nine votes, which trailed No. 5 Ben Roethlisberger by 11. Roethlisberger had his own magic two-minute drive to win one. It’s hard to argue with No. 3 (Aaron Rodgers) and No. 4 (Drew Brees). And I know they haven’t done it in a Super Bowl. I’m quite sure they’re capable.
Still, of this group nothing tops for me Brady’s first season as a starter. The Patriots got the ball back at their own 17, in a tie game and with no time outs and 1:30 to play. Conventional wisdom says to get to overtime. But the Patriots were aggressive and Brady drove them 53 yards in eight plays, with a 23-yard pass to Troy Brown. A year later it was easier: the Pats started at their own 40 with three timeouts and 1:04 left. Both ended in Adam Vinatieri field goals and Super Bowl titles. I’ll take it.
Redskins angle: There really isn’t one because quarterback Robert Griffin III did not receive a vote. Nor should he at this point. Griffin showed poise as a rookie in these situations and helped himself by being able to run or extend plays. Defenses forced him to be patient by typically sitting back in cover-2 zones. The Redskins were not in many situations to win or tie games in the final minutes in Griffin’s 13 starts this past season. He could have helped himself in some of the situations that did arise, but that was more in finishing drives than getting them going. Will experience help? When you start leading game-winning drives on a consistent basis, you reach a different level of quarterback. Here's how the Redskins fared in those spots under Griffin this year:
Against Detroit, they took over at their own 20 with 38 seconds left and no timeouts trailing by seven. They moved the ball 31 yards before a failed Hail Mary pass ended the game.
Against Chicago, they drove 75 yards in 12 plays, starting with 3:57 remaining and scoring on a three-yard Griffin pass to tight end Jordan Reed with 45 seconds left in a 45-41 win.
Then came two low points. A nice drive against Minnesota -- 14 plays, 76 yards in the final 3:36 – ended with three incompletions from the Vikings’ 4-yard line in a 34-27 loss. That preceded another disastrous finish as the Redskins moved from their own 4 to the Philadelphia 18 in a 24-16 game. But Griffin was intercepted when he tried to throw the ball out of the end zone while backpedaling.
Two games later, Griffin drove the Redskins from their own 20 with 2:32 remaining to the New York Giants’ 49-yard line. But on fourth down receiver Pierre Garcon had the ball stripped from him to end the threat.