Tom Brady and Peyton Manning recently reunited, more than three years after Manning won the last installment of their rivalry. Since then, we’ve been waiting for another rivalry of that type to emerge.
It hasn’t. And perhaps it never will.
The planets lined up perfectly for Brady and Manning to develop a relationship that resulted in 17 contests in the 15 years that their careers overlapped. Both played for teams that dominated their divisions, ensuring that they’d play each other virtually every season. By making it to the playoffs so consistently, they also increased the chances of crossing paths in the postseason.
Other quarterbacks will have a hard time doing that. It’s a given that they need to be roughly the same age. If they’re in the same division, however, the quarterback rivalry easily will take a back seat to the broader rivalry between the teams. Also, they become less likely to meet in the postseason, where quarterbacks rivalries take on greater significance.
But whether it’s Russell Wilson vs. Cam Newton (which briefly seemed like it could become the new Brady-Manning a few years ago) or Patrick Mahomes vs. Baker Mayfield or Mahomes vs. Deshaun Watson or Watson vs. Mayfield, their teams need to dominate in their divisions the way that Brady’s Patriots and Manning’s Colts/Broncos did.
Currently, that’s going to be hard to do. There are simply too many good teams in both conferences, and Brady continues to be the only guy with a clear chance to continue to win his division every year. And it’s clear that, with Manning gone, Brady has no real rival.