On this Eli Manning/Tom Brady thing

I would not put Eli Manning in Tom Brady's class, but I think it's fantastic that Manning would.

You've surely seen this story by now, where Manning was doing a radio interview and Michael Kay asked him whether he would put himself in the same class as Brady as a quarterback and Manning said sure, of course he would.

This is the worst kind of modern sports/news "story," but it happens all the time now and always seems to get more attention than the ones that provide actual insight or information about the teams and players and sports we watch. Manning's doing an interview. Kay asks a yes-or-no question about Manning's own opinion of himself as a player. Manning, a proud and confident young athlete, answers in a proud and confident way. And suddenly everyone's up in arms. "How can he say that? That's ridiculous! What a goofball! This is going to come back to haunt him!"


First of all, what's Manning supposed to say? "No, that guy's way better than I am. I'm just some schmo trying to eke out a living in Big Tom's world?" Manning was the No. 1 pick in the draft. He's thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. And four years ago, when they played head-to-head in the biggest game in the world, it was Manning and his underdog Giants who took down Brady and a previously unbeatable Patriots team, was it not?

But that doesn't make Manning as good as Brady. He's not. Brady has more yards, and more touchdowns, and far fewer interceptions, of course, in those two years. He has a longer and better résumé. He has three Super Bowl titles to Manning's one. But none of that deprives Manning of the right to believe that he's as good as Brady, which he absolutely should if he wants to win championships for the Giants.

We put Brady on a pedestal because we are fans and in some cases objective analysts, and he's the best there is right now. But NFL quarterbacks aren't walking around thinking that Brady is a billion times better than they are. At least the ones you'd want quarterbacking your team aren't.

This story is silly because it's not as if Manning came out unsolicited and started saying he was in Brady's class. He was asked specifically, and he gave the answer he should have given. But the reaction to the story is even sillier because it rests on the ridiculous presumption that our athletes should all think and talk exactly the way we want them to.

No matter what you or I think, Manning should believe he's the best quarterback in the league, just as Rex Grossman and the Redskins should believe they'll win the NFC East. We can sit here and say they're kidding themselves, but that's the mindset they need to have when they take the field to play this brutal game at the highest possible level.

Let's look at it this way, and then I'm done with this topic: If you were a Giants fan, or a Giants coach, or Archie Manning, let's say, and you happened to grab Eli before he ran out onto the field that night in Arizona to play Brady and the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl, and you asked him right then and there, "Is Tom Brady better than you?" what would you have wanted him to say?