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Tom Brady, Peyton Manning Prove It's A Quarterback's World03:18
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Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will go head-to-head Sunday for the 17th time of their illustrious careers.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will go head-to-head Sunday for the 17th time of their illustrious careers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This article is more than 3 years old.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have faced each other 16 times over the course of their exceptionally successful careers. On Sunday, they will face each other again.

Sort of.

Patriots quarterback Brady and Broncos quarterback Manning have never been on the field at the same time. They’ve faced each other’s teammates. The guys who play defense.

Over the long careers of the two quarterbacks, the members of those defensive units have changed annually. Check that: They’ve changed from week-to-week, depending on who’s been able-bodied.

The average NFL career of 3.7 years would be much lower absent the stats of durable and fortunate stars like Manning and Brady. It’s perhaps not coincidental that the big salary jumps come after year four, as does access to health care coverage that addresses the consequences of the injuries players accumulate in the work place. The lavish compensation of the stars also skews the average NFL salary number. Star quarterbacks make lots of millions. Lots of the men charged with protecting Manning and Brady or with throwing themselves into the gears of their respective offensive machines don’t. A few years ago, Sports Illustrated found that 78 percent of former players filed for bankruptcy or had serious financial problems within two years of retirement, which often happened long before they expected it to happen.

Star quarterbacks make lots of millions. Lots of the men charged with protecting Manning and Brady or with throwing themselves into the gears of their respective offensive machines don’t.

The NFL has become a multibillion-dollar corporation because a lot of people like to see long passes and long runs. The first transpires only when a half dozen men prevent a half dozen other men from reaching Manning or Brady before he can throw the ball. The second happens when a few men knock over a few other men just as the guy with the ball reaches the spot where the knocking-down has happened. There, to his great delight, the guy with the ball discovers the open space created by his blockers.

But people don’t go to games and buy the cable TV packages to see the blocks.

That’s why the people behind you in the line at the grocery store are talking about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and why the two quarterbacks are featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and on some of the other magazines you glance at while you’re waiting for the high school kids named Abby or Denise to slide your purchases past the scanner, except for the magazine with Tom Brady’s wife on the cover, and the one featuring the aliens who’ve possessed in the night the bodies of the guys who play center for the Patriots and the Broncos.

Nah, you know that didn’t happen, right? The aliens aren’t interested in centers. Why would they be? Throughout the universe, it’s a quarterback’s world.

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