An argument could easily be made for either.
Manning was my choice for reasons NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas included in his piece breaking out ESPN.com's Power Rankings for the position. My take:
"Brady has the better stats over the last couple seasons, but the Colts would undoubtedly be far worse off than the Patriots if both teams had backups under center. Once that was established, Brady's recent postseason struggles became a deciding factor. These quarterbacks have, to an extent, switched roles recently. Manning has won a championship more recently than Brady has won one. Brady has seven touchdowns, seven picks and one victory in his last four playoff games. Manning has seven touchdowns, two picks and two victories in his last four."
It was a close call. The second part of my reasoning seems debatable. The first part -- that Manning is in a different category based on how much his team relies upon him -- has been well-established for years. I think it's enough to differentiate Manning as long as he's playing at a Pro Bowl level.
"I'm not sure why everybody needs to consider career achievements when filling out a Power Rankings ballot," AFC East blogger Tim Graham countered for the piece by Yasinskas. "Power Rankings are a snapshot of the moment and are expected to change regularly, not encompass years of work. But if the reason for selecting Manning ahead of Brady is recent playoff performances that go back a few years, then Ben Roethlisberger should be ahead of Manning with that logic. Roethlisberger has been to a pair of Super Bowls and won his second title more recently than Manning's only championship."
It's fine to consider career accomplishments to the degree they enhance a player's credentials. Brady and Manning did not rank first and second based solely on what they accomplished this past season. If we were taking snapshots, Aaron Rodgers would be the No. 1 quarterback of the moment, without question.
The Roethlisberger argument arguably applies to one aspect of my case for Manning, but focusing on it at the expense of weightier points doesn't advance the conversation. If we did go down that path, we would acknowledge that Roethlisberger, though clutch quite a bit of the time, has three touchdowns, five interceptions and a 69.9 rating across three Super Bowls.
Back to the broader discussion. It's the first part of my thinking -- the part about Manning's unquestioned value to his team -- that carries the debate from my perspective. It doesn't make Manning the only choice for the top spot, but it makes him a reasonable one. It's not as if Brady was far behind.