Many suns have risen above the eastern horizon and over time, slowly sunk beneath the distant pacific vista on the eras of the NFL‘s most reckoning quarterbacks. But are any of the league’s presiding offensive commodores as decorated as Denver Broncos chief signal caller Peyton Manning?
It is a debate that has generated heated rhetorical volleys from the collective efforts of professional NFL analysts and not-so-informed fans, all claiming that Manning is either the most mysterious Super Bowl choke in the history of the game or the most formidable offensive Houdini to ever don an NFL helmet. Both arguments have merit hanging in the balances — to a point — so let me see if I can shed a little light on this age-old gridiron dispute and put it to bed.
Is Manning the greatest signal caller in the history of the game? Well, you’re not likely to field much of a debate from the Mile High Country. You’re really not going to field much of a dispute around the league, for that matter. Nor should you. Manning’s reputation encompassing the NFL as harboring an extraordinary mastery of offensive brilliance most definitely precedes him.
So to whom will we compare this decorated offensive magician? Brett Favre? That’s not going to work. Don’t get me wrong. He was the Legend of Lambeau for 15 seasons, has eight division championships under his farmer’s belt, five NFC Championship games and two Super Bowl appearances, winning one. The gunslinger made a league benchmark 321 consecutive starts and was the only quarterback to throw for over 70,000 yards and over 500 touchdowns — the most ever. Favre is, furthermore, the only player in NFL history to win the AP MVP honor in three-consecutive seasons.
OK. So maybe Favre is a ranking quarterback, playing second fiddle to Manning. But you can’t dispute the glorified dynasty of New England Patriots deity Tom Brady. Actually… You can park that Cadillac Escalade somewhere else. Brady’s so-called Hall of Fame career is questionable, at best, clouded by a monstrosity of a thunderhead known as the Spygate Scandal. You have to earn your stripes in the NFL to be rightfully placed among the league’s chief athletes. Brady rolled the dice, took Bill Belichick‘s hand and pulled a February 2013 Harvard. Defective intelligence just plagues us all. Only someone as sharp as Brady would do something so stupid.
A five-time NFL MVP, which is in and of itself a league record, Manning has eight (seven AFC South and one AFC West) division championships, two AFC championships and three Super Bowl appearances, winning one Super Bowl championship. He has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls and has 13 4,000-yard passing seasons.
Nicknamed The Sheriff by his teammates for his pre-snap routine and ridiculous work ethic, Manning also holds league single-season records for most passing touchdowns in a season with 55, passing yards (5,477), most four-touchdown passing games (nine), two-touchdown passing games (15), 400-yard passing games (four) and most 90-plus passer rating games (13).
Manning’s Mile High aeronautic detachment scored 606 points during the team’s voltaic 2013 season, splintering the quondam milestone of 589 set by the Patriots in 2007, archived 76 touchdowns, exceeding that set by the Patriots in 2007, posted 293 first downs, superseding the record stamped by the New Orleans Saints, and erupted for three games with 50-plus points in 2013, besting an NFL benchmark that had stood untouched since 1969. And the David Copperfield of the NFL still hasn’t arrived.
Is Manning the greatest NFL signal caller of all time? I suppose that largely depends on what constitutes greatness. If all-time greatness is contingent upon the number of Super Bowl rings that preside the trophy case in your man cave, then The Sheriff’s legacy is haunted by lingering asterisks. But materialism is merely the tip of the iceberg when defining an athlete’s legacy. It’s what your scouting report suggests about your game and who you are when the stadium lights aren’t illuminated and the magnified eyes of TV cameras have been packed up. And Manning’s is off the charts. He really is an elite offensive coordinator who can throw a football extremely well… that’s nigh on cheating.
The likes of Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III can dream about filling Manning’s shoes one day. And that’s about all they can do. As it stands, Manning is completely peerless.