AFC Championship Could Be The Final Manning-Brady Matchup
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, one of the great rivalries in sports might have its final act this weekend when the Denver Broncos host the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. This will be the 17th meeting between the team's two quarterbacks, Tom Brady from the Patriots and Peyton Manning from the Broncos. They're arguably two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. And for more on the importance of this meeting, we reach Gary Myers. He's football writer for the New York Daily News and also author of the new book, "Brady Vs Manning." Welcome.
GARY MYERS: David, how are you doing today?
GREENE: I'm good, thank you. So you thought this rivalry was so important you wrote an entire book about it. What makes it special?
GARY MYERS: (Laughter) Well, I think when we look back on this time in the League, we're going to think of Brady and Manning. They've both been tremendously successful, and what's made this so unique is that rivalries in the NFL are usually more about teams than individuals. It's very unusual that players who are not in the same division have faced each other so often. Sunday's game will be the fourth time they've met in the AFC Championship Game with the winner going to the Super Bowl.
GREENE: Well, tell me this. I mean, you make a really good point here that a lot of times we think of rivalries in team sports between teams. I mean, I think of maybe Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as one other that might be comparable. I mean, Brady-Manning - are we at that level?
GARY MYERS: Yeah, I certainly think it's at that level. And then you have, you know, Chamberlain and Russell, also, in basketball. But in a team sport like this, especially because these two players are never on the field at the same time, it just shows you how unique and tremendous this has been that two quarterbacks have been grouped together like this, even though one is obviously not defending against the other.
GREENE: What is the rivalry? I mean, you said that it has defined the era in the NFL, but, I mean, you've also said it's really transformed the League. What exactly do you mean by that?
GARY MYERS: I think Brady has become the ultimate underdog story who has gone on to be just an amazing player. And Peyton has helped change the game in just his style of play - the quick passes over the middle and being able to be given the responsibility of changing plays at the line of scrimmage, almost calling the play from the line of scrimmage.
GREENE: Why do you call Brady an underdog?
GARY MYERS: Well, just because of his background. Brady never felt respected or appreciated in Michigan, despite the fact he was 20-and-5, starting over two years in the Big Ten. He lasted until the 199th pick of the 2000 draft. He was the seventh quarterback taken in that draft. He was the seventh player taken by the Patriots, so not even New England knew he was going to be anything close to what he's become. So his whole career has been defined by having a chip on his shoulder and feeling he has something to prove. And I think that's really driven him for the last 16 years.
GREENE: Before I let you go, it's worth noting that these two guys, they don't just play each other on the field and have this bitter rivalry. They're really good friends, right?
GARY MYERS: Yeah, I think that developed early on in their careers. And you watch a game, you always see quarterbacks kind of chatting on the field before the game, and they always shake hands after the game. But they have a friendship that goes way beyond that. They speak on the phone frequently. They play golf in the off-season. They've had dinner with their wives. And, you know, David, their fathers have become good friends. They text each other the last five, six years, every Monday during the season, just to check up on each other, see how the kids are doing, that kind of stuff. But they've never met, which is really kind of interesting.
GREENE: Their fathers have a text relationship?
GARY MYERS: They have a text relationship. That shows you the age that we're in, right? (Laughter) If you told Archie Manning and Tom Brady Sr. about 20 years ago they'd become friends, but they never have met and their relationship would be by texting on cell phones...
GARY MYERS: ...They'd say, what's that? You know?
GREENE: They'd think we were crazy.
GARY MYERS: (Laughter).
GREENE: I would love to get a copy of that text exchange this coming Monday. Gary Myers, thanks so much for talking to us.
GARY MYERS: Thank you very much for having me on. I really appreciate it.
GREENE: He is football writer for the New York Daily News and author of the new book, "Brady Vs Manning," and the two of them will be on the field in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.