For 15 years, the Patriots had no bigger rival than Peyton Manning, first with the Colts and then with the Broncos. Between 2001-15, either Tom Brady or Manning represented the AFC in 10 of 15 Super Bowls. Brady and Bill Belichick went 11-6 against Manning’s teams, but Manning came out ahead in the postseason, 3-2.
Now Manning’s former rivals will be among his biggest supporters at this weekend’s Hall of Fame ceremony. Brady is flying up to Ohio for Sunday’s ceremony with Buccaneers coaches Bruce Arians and Clyde Christensen, who coached Manning with the Colts. Brady will also sit in Manning’s section along with all of the former Colts.
Belichick, meanwhile, lavished praise on Manning in comments he gave to the Globe.
“He is definitely the best quarterback I’ve coached against,” Belichick said. “There have been quarterbacks who called their own plays, but it was nowhere near the same as what he did. He basically called every play by adjusting and/or changing the play once he saw what the defense was doing. He excelled at using the cadence and recognizing blitzes, and more than any one single offensive player, he forced us to change and adapt defensive game plans.”
Belichick also offered praise for two of his close friends being inducted – former coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher.
“Jimmy’s command of personnel, coaching, trades, and the draft made him one of the all-time master team builders,” Belichick said. “He took a team from 1-15 and turned it into a three-time Super Bowl champion. Jimmy’s defenses – his 4-3 split safety scheme - were as good as I have coached against. Jimmy is a great friend who has given me a lot of good advice throughout much of my career.”
As for Cowher: ”Bill had a tremendous NFL career that encompassed a lot – player, assistant coach, coordinator, and head coach,” Belichick said. “Schematically his teams were one of the very best over the course of two decades. Our teams had some fiercely competitive battles that made me a better coach. I admire and learned from his complete mastery of coaching essentials – motivation, strategy, fundamentals, and physical play. Bill and I have been close friends for 35 years and I couldn’t be happier for him.”