Peyton Manning has been one of the best players in the NFL since he came into the league as the no. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft. Since then, he’s rewritten the passing record book, won a Super Bowl and defined what it means to be a franchise quarterback in general in the modern day NFL.
The scary thing for the league is that he seems to be getting even better with age.
In 2012, he threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both the second-highest single-season totals he’s put up in his 16 year career. And he did all at the advanced NFL age of 36, playing on a new team in a new city and coming off a year lost to multiple neck surgeries.
Conventional wisdom says that football players shouldn’t get better as they head into their late 30s, but today NFL quarterbacks are relying more and more on their brains then their brawn. The strong arm used to be what mattered most to them, but players like Manning are proving that reading defenses and getting their teams in the right plays before the snap are more important.
Manning excels at those more than any other player at his position in the history of the NFL. His timing is impeccable, and he knows what a defense is trying to do before they do. He gets his team in the right looks to make plays and finds ways to turn those looks into results, even with his decline in physical skills.
Now a full year removed from the neck injury, Manning has dispelled all notions that he doesn’t still have what it takes to be one of the best signal callers in the league. And the Denver Broncos gave him even more weapons to play with in 2013 then he had last year.
The Broncos signed Wes Welker, one of the best slot receivers in the league, to play with Demaryius Thomas and Erik Decker at wide receiver. They also added rookie Montee Ball out of the University of Wisconsin to replace the aging Willis McGahee at running back. Those young legs will solidify the running game, and the addition of Welker to an already top-tier receiving group will make Denver once again one of the most dangerous offenses in the league in 2013.
Peyton Manning has had plenty of great years during his 16 year NFL career, but 2013 might just be his best ever. He’s at the top of his game, maybe not physically but certainly mentally, and the team around him has what it takes to go all the way to the Super Bowl.
If Manning builds on his 2012 success with the Broncos and takes them even deeper in the playoffs this winter, 2013 will go down as the best year of his Hall Of Fame career.