Bill Belichick is no stranger to Canton, Ohio. The longtime Patriots coach, who has attended numerous Hall of Fame induction ceremonies over the years, was on hand Saturday to congratulate the members of the 2020 Hall of Fame induction class. Belichick was pictured celebrating the inductions of coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher.
"He is definitely the best quarterback I've coached against," Belichick recently told the Boston Globe's Ben Volin, via NBC Sports. "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 went 12-8 against teams that were quarterbacked by Manning. Manning, however, went 3-1 against Belichick's Patriots in AFC championship games. In 2006, the Colts overcame a 21-3 deficit to defeat the Patriots, 38-34, en route to franchise's first title since moving to Indianapolis in 1984. With the Broncos in 2013, Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in Denver's 26-16 win over the Patriots to clinch the AFC title.
It was only fitting that the final game between Manning and the Patriots was a classic. Ahead 20-12 with under two minutes remaining, Manning could only watch as Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on two crucial passes, the second connection making it a two-point game. Denver's defense was able to come up with the critical stop on the Patriots' two-point attempt, however, as the Broncos held on for a 20-18 victory. Manning famously embraced Belichick after the game while telling him that it was likely the final time that they would face off on the gridiron. Manning would ultimately retire after the Broncos defeated the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
"It is with great admiration that I congratulate Peyton Manning for his tremendous career in the National Football League," Belichick told ESPN following Manning's 2016 retirement announcement. "Peyton raised the bar as a performer and as a competitor and with a personal class in which he carried himself off the field. My relationship with Peyton is special, it is unique and it is one that I value greatly.
"For 18 years, we battled fiercely but regardless of each game's outcome, I always walked off the field with the utmost appreciation for the highest level of competition in which those games were prepared for and played. Peyton's immense contributions to the game reflect how genuinely passionate he is about it. I can honestly say that I never 'enjoyed' our meetings, but the respect I have for Peyton Manning as a competitor was, and will likely remain, second to none."
Belichick tabbing Manning as the greatest quarterback he's faced is an easy answer now. But that answer may get complicated when asked next time, as the Patriots are slated to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 4.