Every football announcer out there has talked about how incredible Drew Brees is. How he is playing the best football of any quarterback out there, how he can't be stopped, etc. And to their credit, they are right. Brees has made the Saints a scary team for anyone to play.
But the best. No.
Check out the leader stats for passing and the name you see isn't Brees. It isn't Rivers or Brady or Farve or Roethlisberger.
It's Peyton Manning.
See, the problem with consistency is that even when its consistent greatness, people tend to forget or even belittle the greatness. Since Peyton has been doing this since forever, they tend to take it for granted.
This year, Manning leads the league with 20 TDs and for yards passed with 2872, averaging out to 315.1 yds/game passing.. He's done this with virtually no running game (the Colts are 29th in the league in rushing despite Manning's passing numbers), an inconsistent offensive line (despite the inconsistency and how often he passes, Manning has been sacked only 8 times). Also, despite losing Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez—2 of his starters and reliable receivers—and having to rely on rookie Austin Collie and 2nd year player Pierre Garcon (and again, with a running game that no opponent fears at all), Manning has only throw 7 interceptions.
The numbers are ridiculous, as is the consistency. So far, Manning has throw over 30 TDs in a season 4 times (and will again this year). To compare, Joe Montana did that once. Dan Marino did it 4 times in his 17-year career, but only once after his 4th season. Tom Brady has only done it once. Brett Favre has done it 8 times, but averaged 3 more interceptions while doing it than Manning did. In fact, after his 5th season, Manning only has averaged a little over 10 INTs a season, despite often residing near the top of the leaders in passes attempted. Favre on the other hand, is an interception waiting to happen, averaging 18.3 INTs a season throughout his career, and instead of throwing fewer as he matured, often threw more, including a whopping 29 INTs in his 15th season and leading the league last season with 22.
This season, Manning leads the league with a completion percentage just a tick under 70 percent. This is up from his career rating of 64.7 completion rating, which is good for 3rd all-time. To put it another way, Manning has not thrown for under 60% since his rookie season and has not throw under 65% since 2001. Hall of Famer Troy Aikman threw over 65% twice his entire career. Joe Montana also did it twice. Brett Favre has done it 3 times his entire career. Tom Brady has done it once. Dan Marino never did it. Elway never got close ever. Neither did Staubach. Once again, Manning has done every year since 2002.
To continue Manning's staggering statistical parade—he's number 1 all-time in passes completed per game. 2nd all-time in yards per pass attempt. First all-time in passing yards per game. 2nd all-time in QB rating. 3rd all-time in pass completion percentage. 5th all-time in avg yards/pass attempt. 5th all-time in lowest sack percentage—and Manning compiled those sack percentages in a pass-happy NFL, not when "3 yards and a cloud of dust football" was the way football was played.
But what really makes Manning's stats so amazing is that for most of his career, he's been asked to carry his team. Normally when quarterbacks have to pass 30 to 40 times or over, they lose. In fact, the web site, CHFF showed, that when quarterbacks are asked to "carry a team," their teams lose 70% of the time.
In football, balance between the running game and the passing game normally generates wins. This season is no different, with teams going 16-39 in game in which they asked their quarterback to "carry them" and throw the ball a lot. 16-39...and Manning has 5 of those wins, winning every game his team asked him to pass the ball 40 times or more. The Colts are 9-0 this year, so over half their games they asked Manning to "carry them" and he has responded. In contrast, Brady is 2-2 when asked to carry his team this season. Drew Brees has yet to be asked to throw over 40 times in a game this season. One more stat: Nine quarterbacks attempted 40 or more passes in Week 10. All but Manning lost.
All of this is not to discredit Brees or Brady or any of the other fantastic quarterbacks out there. Brees is a super quarterback; Brady is a Hall-of-Famer. But really, Peyton Manning is in a class of his own.
And has been for a long time.