Can Tom Brady Emulate Peyton Manning? Six-time Super Bowl Champion's Move to Tampa Bay Echoes Star QB Signing for Broncos

Since entering the NFL as a relatively unknown six-round draft pick 20 years ago, Tom Brady has rewritten football history and records almost at will.

No other player has won as many Super Bowls as he. No other quarterback has played for the same franchise for as long as he. No other player holds as many individual records in the NFL as he — 15 in the Super Bowl alone.

This week, however, Brady signed on for his greatest challenge yet, leaving the New England Patriots after two decades to sign for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

From playing in a new offense, under a new coach and in a completely different environment, Brady is entering uncharted territory. There is, however, a major point of reference for him and one which he will undoubtedly compared to ad nauseam over the next two seasons and it comes in the shape of Brady's long-time friend and rival Peyton Manning.

As has been the case for Brady this year, Manning left the franchise that had drafted him and with which he had established himself as a bonafide NFL great. The first overall pick won just one Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts compared to Brady's six rings with the Patriots, but his departure from Indianapolis after 15 years carried the same end-of-an-era feel of Brady's decision not to return to New England.

Like the new Bucs quarterback, Manning was the most highly-sought after free agent in the offseason and met with both the Arizona Cardinals and the Denver Broncos before opting to sign with the latter.

Both Brady and Manning joined teams that were not regular guests in the playoffs. Since winning Super Bowl XXXVII, Tampa Bay missed the playoffs in the following two seasons and only reached the postseason twice in the next three years. The last of those appearance came 13 years ago and the Bucs have missed the playoffs ever since.

To put the drought into context, Brady has reached six Super Bowls, winning three and making the playoffs in all but one season since the Bucs last played football in the postseason.

The scenario was slightly more promising for Manning, who joined a team that had reached the Divisional Round the previous season — when, ironically, they were swept away by the Patriots. Prior to that, however, the Broncos had gone five consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance and their Super Bowl drought stretched to 14 years.

The similarities don't end there. Both quarterbacks joined teams that run an offense different from what they had become accustomed to since their arrival in the NFL. As former Lindsay Jones noted in The Athletic, the Broncos embraced Manning's offensive approach when he first arrived in the Mile High City.

Crucially, however, head John Fox stuck by the playbook he had implemented the season before, to make sure the offense was as familiar to returning players as possible, trusting Manning's talent would allow him to get up to speed with the rest of the team.

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. Ezra Shaw/Getty

Brady will find himself in a similar situation. Under Bruce Arians, the Bucs colors were firmly tied to a pass-heavy offense last season, with Jameis Winston leading the NFL in passing yards with 5,109 — the only quarterback to pass the 5,000-yard threshold last season. While Winston's 30 interceptions undid most of his good work, he also led the league in yards gained per attempt with 8.2, while Brady ranked 27th in that particular category with 6.6, as per Pro Football Reference.

Only 4.6 percent of Brady's pass plays last season resulted in completions that were at least 20 yards downfield, but signing for the Bucs should guarantee him an upgraded receiving corps compared to the 2019 version of the Patriots.

The main difference between Tampa Bay's new quarterback and Manning is the scenario they faced in their last year with the Patriots and the Colts. While Brady started every game last season, Manning spent the entirety of the 2011 campaign on the sidelines with a serious neck injury.

If Brady has the upper-hand in terms of fitness, when it comes to age the pendulum swings sharply in Manning's direction.

The latter was 36 by the time his first campaign in Denver kicked off, while Brady will be 43 by the time his first season with the Bucs begins — provided that's not delayed by the coronavirus outbreak. Manning is 43 at the time of writing and has been retired for four years.

Brady has made a habit of defying Father Time, but last season he had the fewest touchdown passes since 2008, when he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1, and his passing yards total was the second-lowest since 2010.

Vinny Testaverde is the only quarterback to have attempted at least 100 passes in a season after turning 43, when he started six games for the Carolina Panthers in 2007.

The Bucs will hope the parallels between Brady and Manning continue and that their new quarterback can deliver a Super Bowl title as Manning did in his second season in Denver.