The Truth About Tom Brady And Peyton Manning's Relationship

Duke, Carolina. Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees. Michigan, Ohio State. When it comes to rivalries that dominated the NFL landscape for more than a decade, nothing came close to the must-see television of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. Eight NFL MVP Awards between them and members of the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, Brady and Manning are the only starting quarterbacks, at the time of this writing, to win Super Bowls with two different teams.

Although they were bitter rivals on the field, Brady and Manning's relationship is built on mutual admiration. "They have great respect for each other. They understand each other as well as anyone can understand," Brady's father told USA Today. "It's pretty special when you have that kind of a relationship. You want to beat the heck out of each other. But you have great respect for one another."

As the meme format dictates we're going to huddle up to see how it started vs. how it's going. Relax in your Monday morning quarterback chair and learn the truth about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning's relationship.

Let's talk about those on the field battles

No conversation about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning can begin without first talking about their battles on the field. If it wasn't picture-perfect enough, Brady's first-ever NFL career start in 2001 came against Manning's Indianapolis Colts. Although the sixth-round afterthought didn't impress (13-23, 168 yards), the Patriots cruised to a 44-13 victory on the back of a powerful rushing attack and the defense picking off Manning three times.

Their first playoff matchup came in the 2003 AFC Championship Game that saw Brady throw for 237 yards and pull out a 23-13 win that sent him and the Patriots to his second Super Bowl appearance where they defeated the upstart Carolina Panthers.

In 2016, the world saw the last Brady vs. Manning battle in the AFC Championship Game with Manning, then with the Denver Broncos, pulled out the 20-18 win and a trip to Super Bowl 50, where Manning's Broncos defeated — in yet another full circle moment — the Carolina Panthers. The pair had 17 matchups during their legendary careers, with Brady going 11-6.

A rivalry that belongs in the Hall of Fame

When Peyton Manning retired in 2016, there weren't any doubts about his eventual gold jacket. The five-time NFL MVP was a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2021 — his first year of eligibility. And was seated in Manning's personal section reserved for friends and family? None other than Tom Brady.

"Tom Brady is coming in, sitting in my section," Manning said during the Hall of Fame preseason game, per ESPN. "I'm not sure how my Colts teammates will handle that, but that means a lot that he's taking the time." Brady confirmed the news on Twitter in the most Brady way possible. "I just need to make sure he's really done. Can't risk this guy coming back..." he joked on Twitter.

The light roasting eventually gave way to Brady heaping praise on his Hall of Fame-bound rival. "I know our teams had a rivalry against one another, but when you went against a Peyton-led team, you were going against the best team in the league," Brady said. "It's no real surprise that he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

The two icons teamed up in another sport for charity

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning might have been rivals on the gridiron, but as ESPN reported in April 2020, the pair joined forces to participate in the "The Match: Champions for Charity" to raise money for COVID-19 relief. However, due to the pandemic, a location for the charitable event was difficult to find until Florida stepped in to serve as the host.

During an interview with Denver's 104.3 The Fan, Manning spoke of the speculation surrounding the event and his eagerness to participate. "And now, to have a chance to have a major fundraising event for COVID-19 relief, almost like a telethon, if you will ... If that can take place, I'm all-in for that," he said. The duo eventually joined golf legends Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in raising over $20 million for people impacted by the coronavirus, per Sports Illustrated.

Once the event was announced, Brady couldn't help taking a friendly jab at his former rival. "Never had much of a hard time beating the colts or a tiger, don't see this time being much different...," he tweeted, accompanied by a photoshopped picture of him and Mickelson standing beside child-versions of Manning and Woods. Never change, Tom.

Peyton Manning poked fun at Tom Brady on SNL

Peyton Manning is no stranger to "Saturday Night Live," and he didn't disappoint during his appearance in January 2022. Joining Weekend Update's Colin Jost, Manning joked about the rumors of Brady's retirement. Asked by Jost if he had watched the previous weekend's NFL playoff games, Manning quipped, "I heard they were good." His reason for not watching? He was binging the second season of Netflix's "Emily in Paris."

"Oh, my God, Colin, this show has everything: romance, adventure, sensuality, culture, a fresh take on feminism — finally," he said to the roaring audience. Jost then brought up the Brady retirement rumors and Manning called it "just speculation," then brought the joke full circle. "But if it were me, I probably would retire if it gave me more time to watch 'Emily in Paris,'" he said. "I really think, for Tom right now, it's just a tough decision between balancing his career and relationships — sort of like Emily."

While the debate about which Hall of Fame quarterback had the better career might rage on for some, there's little debate to be had about who's the GOAT of the long-running sketch series. As WBRC FOX6 News' Sebastian Posey tweeted, "Tom Brady: Greatest NFL QB on the field. Peyton Manning: Greatest NFL QB on SNL."

Peyton Manning wanted his Tom Brady retirement gifts back

Spoiler alert: The speculation was true. Well, until it wasn't. On February 1, 2022, Tom Brady officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Instagram. In the emotional post, the seven-time Super Bowl champion stated he was ready to move on from playing football once and for all. 

On the day of the announcement, Peyton Manning released a statement congratulating Brady on his "unbelievable football career" and stated that "it was an honor and a privilege to compete against him" on the field and his friend off the field. However, a mere 40 days later, Brady officially came out of retirement. "These past two months I've realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it's not now," he tweeted.

As one might expect, that didn't sit right with Manning. During an event hosted by The MINT Collective, Manning stated he wrote Brady a letter and sent him a bottle of wine after his retirement announcement. "I want the letter back," Manning joked. "You got to read all these nice things, I want it back. I want the bottle of wine back, too."

Tom Brady called his rival 'the greatest passer of all time'

In 2011, during the NFL Network's annual "Top 100 Reaction Show," Tom Brady was asked about Peyton Manning landing at No. 2 behind his No. 1 ranking. Brady didn't mince words on who he thought was not only the top player in the NFL that year, but the top player to ever hit the field. "To me, he's the greatest of all time," Brady said plainly (via SBNation's Stampede Blue). "What he's accomplished and the way that he studies, the way he prepares. He's really got a killer instinct too."

Brady went on to say that he not only really gets along with Manning when they aren't duking it out on the field, but that Manning's skill, talent, and drive raised the bar for his own game. "He always wants to get better and he doesn't settle for anything less than the best," Brady said. "So when you watch the best and you're able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better."

And that adoration has yet to fade. When Manning heaped praise upon Brady following the latter's short-lived retirement in 2022, Brady said of Manning in an Instagram Story (via The Sports Rush), "Love my fellow competitors too especially this guy who inspired me to be my best every day."

Deflategate tested their friendship

Even if you've never watched a single down of football in your life, you've probably heard the term "Deflategate." While the entire story is too much to get into here, the crux of the scandal was that the New England Patriots were accused of, as the name suggests, making sure the game day footballs were deflated some amount for the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

During the NFL Players Association's lawsuit on behalf of Brady, some of his emails were released, and one in particular, saw the Patriots quarterback disparaging Peyton Manning. "I've got another 7 or 8 years. He has 2. That's the final chapter...Game on," Brady wrote (via The Bleacher Report). Brady refused to turn over his phone multiple times during the investigation, and ESPN's Ed Werner speculated as to why. "Publication of Tom Brady email [about] Peyton Manning might be reason Brady — or anyone else for that matter — wouldn't want to turn over phone," he tweeted.

When asked about the email leak, Manning took the diplomatic approach. "Everybody has been speculating on that for a long time," Manning said about the speculation surrounding his retirement, "so I guess he's joining the list of trying to predict." He added that Brady sent him an apology text, and Manning declared, "no harm, no foul."

Do they have another rivalry brewing?

While Peyton Manning and his brother, former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, are no longer playing the game, they aren't that too far removed from the NFL. In 2021, ESPN announced that it would be hiring the two Super Bowl-winning siblings to take part in a Monday Night Football broadcast where the two brothers would watch the game live offering commentary and speaking to guests. The title? Well, "Manningcast," obviously.

It was such a big hit that the sports network extended their contract before it ended. "ESPN expanded its agreement with Peyton and Eli Manning, and 'Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli', through the 2024 NFL season," ESPN Senior NFL Insider, Adam Schefter tweeted. But as Manning and Brady's relationship history has proven, Brady will soon be intruding on Manning's turf.

In May 2022, The New York Post reported that Brady signed a massive 10-year, $375 million deal to join FoxSports the second he retires to join the broadcast booth. If 2022 is indeed Brady's last year on the field, then he and his former rival will have some overlap in their broadcasting careers. Will there be a ratings battle? We wouldn't expect anything less from these two.

Tom Brady had fun on the Manningcast

Of course Tom Brady appeared on the "Manningcast" to chop it up with his old rival. On the October 25, 2021, episode of the ESPN show, Brady stopped by to not only talk football, but to lightly roast Peyton Manning and Eli Manning... and get roasted himself. But don't worry, it was all bro love. "It's great to see you both, I could never turn you two down so the opportunity to come on and be with both you guys at the same time? That's an automatic yes," Brady said. 

Unsurprisingly, the Brothers Manning and Brady have a great rapport when talking shop and taking shots at each other. When Brady noted that he preferred playing Peyton over Eli, referencing his 0-2 record against Eli Manning's New York Giants in the Super Bowl, Eli quipped, "I enjoyed all of our games, Tom." Brady laughed and shook his head like only a seven-time Super Bowl champ could. 

Following his appearance on the "Manningcast," Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the New Orleans Saints. As noted by outlets and Sports Illustrated, every time a current player stop by the "Manningcast" during the 2021 regular season, they would lose their next game. Naturally, the phenomenon has been dubbed "the Manningcast curse."

Peyton Manning changed Tom Brady's Madden rating

NFL players have always cared about winning, but if there's one thing modern players might care about more than that, it would be their rating on the legendary video game "Madden NFL." In December 2021, Manning debuted as a Madden Ratings Adjuster with a video announcement on the official EA Sports Madden NFL Channel. "I always felt like I wanted more. More rings. More trophies. Of course the jacket. It just wasn't enough," Manning said in his classic deadpan comedy style. "The truth is it was always proving that I had what it took to become a Madden ratings adjuster."

His first order of business? You guessed it: lowering Tom Brady's rating. "I did especially think that Brady's accuracy rating was just a bit high," Manning quipped in the video. "That'll probably be one of the first things that I address." Manning then dropped Brady's 99 overall rating down to a 44. This is god-tier hating.

Brady had to respond, of course. After former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current football CBS broadcaster Tony Romo called him "slow," Brady posted a Twitter video of him running for a first down. "Hey, EA, tell Peyton to jack my speed rating back up," Brady said in the video.

Other players offer insight into each quarterback

Wide receiver Austin Collie was blessed to spend his first four seasons in the NFL with Manning's Indianapolis Colts and his final year in the NFL with Brady's New England Patriots. In 2022, he sat down with KSL's "Unrivaled" podcast to explain the differences between the two legends."Tommy could zip it. He could flick it," Collie said. "He threw a tighter spiral and had a little bit more velocity behind his ball. Peyton, I'd say there wasn't a person that threw a more catchable ball than Peyton, right? Just in the right spot and maybe it was a little bit wobbly but man, it was like catching a watermelon." Technical stuff aside, Collie also acknowledged how big of a deal it is to have worked with both of these football stars, noting that he learned a lot from them both on and off the field. 

Retired wide receiver Wes Welker also knows what it's like playing with the two QBs, so naturally, when he appeared on "NFL Total Access" in 2016, he answered a series of questions about the pair that had nothing to do with football. Perhaps most notably, he said he'd rather get stuck on a deserted island with Brady. "Peyton would just boss me around, like, 'Hey go to this, go do that, fix that meal for me,'" Welker said. "Tom I think would actually help out with the chores a little bit."