Ladies and gentlemen, we have our king.
NFL players crowned their No. 1 on NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2011" on Sunday night, completing a 10-week voyage that generated as much controversy as it did consensus before coming down to yet another battle between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
This time, it was Brady's hour. The Patriots' three-time Super Bowl-winning QB edged out Manning (No. 2), with Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 3) and two Ravens — LB Ray Lewis (No. 4) and FS Ed Reed (No. 5) — rounding out the top five.
Few can deny Brady's career arc, but last season's NFL MVP himself suggested that Manning is the game's best passer.
"To me, he's the greatest of all time," Brady told NFL Network's Lindsay Soto by phone on the "Top 100 Players of 2011 Reactions" show Sunday night.
"He's a friend of mine, and someone that I always watch and admire, because he always wants to improve, he always wants to get better, and he doesn't settle for anything less than the best. So, when you watch the best and you're able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better."
NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders had Brady ranked as his No. 1 and applauded the players' vote, saying: "This list here, the players got the No. 1 pick right. ...He does it with less."
Brady talked about his No. 1 ranking, saying it was an honor to be recognized by his teammates and the players against whom he competes.
"It's very flattering," Brady said. "I've been, I think, very fortunate over the years to play with an incredible organization and an incredible group of players. And this year was, really, a great year for our team, you know, in the regular season, and we accomplished some great things.
"The thing that I love about football and I've always loved, which I think draws each player in the NFL to this game, is that it's a team sport. So, you know, every teammate that I've ever had, the teammates that I've had this year...nobody would really accomplish anything without the help of every single guy on that team and every coach.
"It's very flattering, like I said, but ultimately, I give all of the thanks to teammates past and present. They're what really makes this game special for me."
Steelers SS Troy Polamalu (No. 6), Texans WR Andre Johnson (No. 7), Jets CB Darrelle Revis (No. 8), Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 9) and Bears DE Julius Peppers (No. 10) completed the top 10.