Aaron Rodgers vs Peyton Manning: Which NFL legend has had the most impressive MVP season?

Green Bay Packers v Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning (l) and Aaron Rodgers (r) - Green Bay Packers v Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers lead the pantheon of great players who have won multiple MVP awards. Manning has won five, which is a record, and Rodgers has won four, including back-to-back over the last two seasons. They stand alone as first and second and are peerless.

If we are to compare who had a better NFL MVP season, we must first determine which one of their MVP winning seasons was their personal best. We can take it on from there.

Peyton Manning won the NFL MVP award in the 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2013 campaigns. The first four of those awards were with the Indianapolis Colts and the last one was when he was playing with the Denver Broncos.

In those five seasons, he crossed the 4,500 passing yards mark twice - the2004 and 2013 seasons. In 2013, he crossed the 5,000 yards mark too and nearly reached 5,500 yards. In 2004, he scored 49 touchdowns and had nine interceptions. In 2013, he had 55 touchdowns, an NFL record, and 10 interceptions.

But in 2004, he had a higher passer rating of 121.1 compared to 115.1 for the 2013 campaign. The main reason for that is that in 2004, he had just five fumbles and one lost, whereas in 2013, he coughed up six possessions to the other team on 10 fumbles.

Despite that, we feel that it is better to consider the 2013 season as a high watermark for Peyton Manning because it was a record-breaking season. Second, he was with the Denver Broncos and playing a newer system compared to what he was familiar with at the Indianapolis Colts. This was also his second season after returning from neck surgery, which would have ended most other NFL careers.

Looking at Aaron Rodgers, he has played his entire career with the Green Bay Packers, starting initially behind three-time MVP winner Brett Favre. He has won the NFL MVP award in the 2011, 2014, 2020 and 2021 seasons. Rodgers has only breached the 4,500 passing yards barrier in the 2011 campaign.

That season, he also threw for 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions, giving him a passer rating of 122.5. Statistically, this is his best season and that has to be the benchmark for comparison.

Comparing NFL MVP seasons: Peyton Manning's 2013 to Aaron Rodgers' 2011

Comparing the two seasons for Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, some stats stand out. In terms of passing yards and passing touchdowns, Peyton Manning in 2013 wins handily.

They were both starters in those seasons, but Manning played 16 games, whereas Rodgers played only 15. Manning had 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards. That gave him an average of 342.3 yards per game and 3.44 passing touchdowns per game. Aaron Rodgers had 45 touchdown passes and 4,643 passing yards. On average, that calculates as 309.5 yards per game and three touchdowns per game.

The interception numbers skew the other way when we get to compare them. Manning had 10 interceptions compared to six for Rodgers. Both of them had less than one per game but Rodgers was slightly better. That is also reflected in his quarterback rating, which was 122.5 in 2011 compared to 115.1 for Manning in 2013.

When we look at the whole scenario (and given that passing numbers are the premier currency through which quarterback play is measured), we would have to say that Manning's campaign was better.

Manning's 2013 season still stands as an NFL record for the most passing touchdowns and yards. It remains the flagpole that every other quarterback is seeking to touch in their careers. Unless Aaron Rodgers reinvents himself in his final years and has an even better season in the future, Manning will always win this matchup.

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