I never took issue with Peyton Manning. He seems like a nice and funny enough person and, hello, fantasy football guy here. Actually, I rooted for Archie's kid at Tennessee when the Vols battled and consistently lost to Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators. Yet you might think the opposite if listening to me knock Eli's brothers credentials. When everybody started telling me that Peyton Manning wasn't just better than Tom Brady, but the greatest quarterback ever despite one postseason debacle after another, I countered, hard. Silliness run amuck.
The early years of the Brett Favre experience were a rollicking good time, especially once he finally reached the mountaintop. When his reckless side overtook his game with one jump ball pass after another, when he repeatedly held the Packers hostage with retirement talk, the worm turned, but mostly because the praise remained fierce and blind.
There's a similar thread that runs through many of mine sports debates and probably yours over the years. Topics don't live solely in the black or white, but mostly the gray. All of us, yes, all of us, at times bring up one-sided, partisan or simply incorrect angles. When I recognize this in others, my debate side says let's get it on.
This all leads back to the discussion throughout this week as the Redskins prepare for Sunday's playoff matchup with the Packers. Which discussion? The one where people ponder whether Cousins, a first-year starter is better than Rodgers, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player award winner and Super Bowl champion.
Some of this discussion imagines what happens over the next five years. Some of it is immediate. All of it is nuts.
Before we go any further, note that I've been out front with the Cousins-should-start for the last year. When the masses laughed or worse in my direction, often while noting Cousins' supposedly uncorrectable penchant for turnovers, I proposed the following: Wait. Let's see what happens should Cousins get the job. My bet was the miscues would drop if the self-aware QB didn't feel a benching might happen around every corner.
I said as much in conversations with colleagues and during radio interviews. To longtime friends or anyone who inquired for my take. To various Twitter defenders of RG3. Even to Cousins weeks before the Redskins opened training camp in Richmond.
We know what happened next and over the last 17 weeks. Now, none of this is about me looking for credit or a chance to brag. It's about this discussion over whether you'd rather have Cousins or Rodgers, right now or over the next five years.
Look, I get it. National shows need a sexy hook. Local sites want clicks. Chicks dig quarterbacks. Same for dudes. Rodgers is an established brand. Cousins the hot new model.
That doesn't mean we must kick sanity to the curb. One story feeding on top off another starts turning a cute thought into one of those Manning better than Brady debates even when the data and eye test says hahahaha.
Granted, the 2015 case for Cousins over Rodgers isn't crazy. Washington's guy led the NFL in completion percentage, led the Redskins to a surprising NFC East title and did so by throwing 23 touchdown passes and only three interceptions over the last 10 games. Green Bay's signal caller finished with the lowest completion percentage of his career. He also had 31 touchdown passes with eight picks.
Rodgers has also been a Pro Bowl level player for eight seasons. Eight or so weeks ago, many wanted Cousins benched. At the least most didn't believe. Now that the Redskins are hot and the Packers are not, the sunshine for KC is blinding.
By the way, you know why Brady is better than Manning? The regular season is for show, the postseason is for history. It's not just that Brady has four times the Super Bowl rings. It's that his performances under the brightest lights resembles if not often exceeds his regular season work. The Manning backers fell in love over and over again with their guy yearly during their statistically dazzling 16-game relationship. One bad date in January wouldn't end their love even if that's really all that matters in a high-end "best of the best debates."
Should Cousins struggle Sunday, the "told ya!" blowback will be fierce. Suggesting he's better than one of the best quarterbacks of all time who is still in his prime will be a reasony why.
With Rodgers, it's been there done that. If you want to put him in the "greatest QB" debate with Brady, Joe Montana, John Elway and those on the periphery like Manning, go for it. At his best, Rodgers' combination of arm strength, accuracy, savvy and mobility matches anyone in history. If some Scot McCloughan level scout wants to tell the world he sees a true dip in Rodgers that's beyond him losing some confidence because of a leaky offensive line and his receivers dropping passes, let's talk. Otherwise the conversation is about a liking a new shiny object over the establishment.
Kirk Cousins has been an NFL starter for one season, one very impressive season. Before anyone else suggests he's better than Rodgers today or over the next five years, I propose the following: Wait.
I've said for a calendar year Cousins has the needed arsenal, though his 2015 work topped my expectations. Should Cousins shine brighter than Rodgers Sunday, go nuts.
Suggesting he is now, as in better and not just hotter, or will be before he ever starts a playoff game is just that.
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