Either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning will advance to the Super Bowl, but do not tell Phil Simms that what happens in the AFC Championship Game will affect either man's legacy.
"I don't care what either one of them does in this game," said Simms, who as a CBS analyst will work the Patriots-Broncos game alongside Jim Nantz. "It will never change what I think of them. So if one of them goes out and has the worst game of his career and is the sole reason why they lose, it will not bring them down one single bit in my eyes."
Simms spoke on a preview conference call Tuesday that naturally was dominated by questions about a dream quarterback matchup that Nantz compared to Ali-Frazier, Palmer-Nicklaus and Bird-Magic.
"I defy anyone to say there's ever been anything bigger in this league," Nantz said.
Like Simms, fellow CBS analyst Boomer Esiason declined to choose sides when asked which player is better.
"The longevity, consistency and success they've had, they're going to go down as all-time greats," he said. "They are going to be first-ballot Hall of Famers. I'll leave the arguments for the bars."
Simms said he was struck in watching a game from the 2003 season between the two how little has changed more than a decade later. "You can't tell the difference in them from all that time ago until now, physically," Simms said. "I don't know if Peyton Manning's arm is still the same, but Tom Brady, I can say this without question: He throws it better now than he did early in his career. Usually it's the mind grows and the body weakens. Well, they've continued to let their bodies still be a big part of what they do and that's very impressive."
Simms rejected the notion that a new, more athletic breed of quarterback will make more traditional passers such as Brady and Manning passe.
"It's an interesting debate, but when it's all said and done, if you want to have a long career at quarterback, you better learn how to stand back there, read a defense and throw it to the open guy," Simms said.
One of the marvels of the 2013-14 versions of Manning and Brady is how both have adapted to changing times, changing teammates and changing styles.
Simms and Esiason noted how Manning has lifted his set of receivers to new heights. "You've heard it many times on telecasts: Peyton Manning might be the best wide receiver coach in the NFL,'' Simms aid. "I watch him with the players there in Denver and how they've all gotten better, sharper, smarter, and more into the game."
Brady has evolved with an offense that relies more than in the past on the ground game.
One of them will lose Sunday. But he won't be a loser.
Said Esiason: "I think I speak for Phil and every other quarterback who's ever played the position, maybe with the exception of Joe Montana, that what you're watching here is you're watching two guys who will go down as two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time."