Peyton Manning might be the greatest regular season NFL quarterback in the history of the game. That isn’t really something that’s ever questioned at this point in his exemplary 16-year career. The only knock on No. 18 has been his postseason success.
However, with a huge win over the New England Patriots today in the AFC Championship Game, 26-16, Manning has a chance to be viewed unanimously as the greatest QB overall ever in any part of the football season.
Now, it’s true that this is just his third Super Bowl appearance, but that’s no small task. In the NFL, making it to the big game is a team accomplishment. Obviously, the amount of rings a signal caller accrues has real impact on a QB’s legacy, but it truly is a team accomplishment. Just ask Dan Marino, who’s probably a top five or six quarterback to ever play talent-wise, about how much it hurts to not have a strong enough team around you to get those feats accomplished.
In Manning’s case, he’s never been on a “great,” well-balanced team. Rather, he’s had to make his teams that good — great enough to win a championship. All those years with the Indianapolis Colts, rarely did he have a defense to compare to his offense’s productiveness. However, he still made it to the big game twice and was able to come away with one victory.
Even now with the Denver Broncos, that defense — despite having a terrific performance against Tom Brady and the Pats today — isn’t anything special. They’re actually pretty mediocre, ranking in the bottom third of the league against the pass and points allowed. But Manning and his star-studded offense have led Denver to the only NFL game played in February.
With this opportunity, Manning has a chance to be the unquestioned greatest quarterback of all time if he can find a way to win. Making it to three championship games and winning two is as good as any quarterback even if it’s a couple of wins shy of the leaders in that category. Of course, who are those guys? Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, and neither of them dominated quite like Manning at the quarterback position, but they played on fantastic teams with some of the best offensive and defensive squads in the history of the game of football. I don’t mean any disrespect to them, I’m just trying to provide the context of how truly fantastic Manning’s career could be viewed as whole if he finds a way to win his second Super Bowl two weeks from now.
So, Manning may not have the best record in the postseason. He may not have the most Super Bowl wins. But with the best single season a QB has ever played now on his resumé, as well as four (and most likely five) MVP awards, leading his team to countless 10-plus-win seasons, throwing for well over 400 touchdowns while keeping a two-to-one TD-to-INT ratio as well as tossing the second most yards (so far) and now potentially having two rings in three attempts, it’s hard to argue anyone should be put ahead of him as the most accomplished quarterback of all time.
Sure, there’ll always be haters who won’t admit it, but everything above points to him being considered the GOAT. With a victory on Feb. 2, Manning will undoubtedly be the Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods (or Jack Nicklaus if you’re one of those people), Babe Ruth, Dale Earnheardt, Wayne Gretzky, Pelé and Muhammad Ali of the NFL.