MORRISSEY: Time to accept Peyton Manning as the best
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org | @MorrisseyCST February 1, 2014 12:20AM
Peyton Manning has built his legacy without a coach like Bill Belichick or a legendary receiver like Jerry Rice. | Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:31PM
I usually don’t root for anybody or any team. Journalistic impartiality and all that.
I’m rooting for Peyton Manning.
The death of the overworked narrative that the Denver Broncos quarterback needs another Super Bowl victory to reach Joe Montana/John Elway/Tom Brady status can’t come soon enough. Same with the talk that Manning can’t win in cold weather or that he throws passes that quack.
He is everything you or Vince Lombardi would want in a quarterback, seeing as how he’s the best to ever play the position. Your eyesight is not failing you: Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in NFL history.
I’m rooting for the Broncos to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday so that the blind will see. But the truth is that Manning, with one Super Bowl ring to his name, shouldn’t need another one to win over anybody. His numbers say everything that needs to be said. His career completion percentage is 65.5. He has thrown for about 65,000 yards, or about the distance from Chicago to Plainfield, though why he would want to repeatedly toss a ball down I-55 is unclear.
This season, he threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes to go with 10 interceptions. Did I mention he is 37? That shouldn’t matter except for the fact that, wow, a 37-year-old dude did all that. All of it with a surgically repaired neck and an arm that doesn’t work like it once did. Hard to get one’s head around that.
During his 15-year career, he has played for some very good, not-great teams. His regular-season record as a starter is 167-73. His playoff record is 11-11. He lifted his teams with a combination of talent and intelligence the league has never seen. He did not have Bill Belichick guiding him or Jerry Rice catching his passes.
It’s silly to think that another Super Bowl title somehow will make him whole or better or more worthy of a seat at the table with the all-time greats. Do the Broncos strike you as an overly talented team? When the Indianapolis Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, did you think the Colts were the second coming of the 1970s Steelers? If you answered no to both questions, give yourself a pat on the back.
Manning is coming off the best regular season a quarterback has ever put together. Given the state of sports, this would be the time someone arches an eyebrow and wonders out loud whether a 37-year-old might be getting some pharmaceutical help. I’d be more concerned that he has had a computer chip implanted in his head. It’s not necessarily that he studies tape more than anybody, though he likely does. It’s that he looks at tape differently than anybody else. He’s playing chess; everybody else is playing Go Fish.
The problem with the best-ever discussions is that they invariably turn into a tearing down rather than a raising up, and that’s not fair. Elway was surrounded by decent talent for the first half of his career but still managed to get to three Super Bowls, losing all of them. He finally won two at the end of his career, when the Broncos found a running back and an offensive line. Nobody had a better arm than Elway.
Montana was brilliant the way Manning is. When his San Francisco 49ers pounded Elway’s Broncos 55-10 in 1990, it was like a high school powerhouse taking on a Pop Warner squad. That’s how talented Montana’s 49ers teams were.
Brady was/is great, and he has three rings and a 148-43 record to prove it. Brett Favre? Johnny Unitas? Otto Graham? You can’t go wrong with any of them.
But they happen to share the same shortcoming. They’re not Manning. Nobody has been able to break down an opponent the way he has. I feel sorry for the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, who is a hood ornament on a Cadillac. Give this guy something to do.
It has been this way throughout Manning’s career. He has made everybody around him better, and he has made coaches obsolete. He has made defensive backs look silly, and he might do it again Sunday against the mouthy Richard Sherman.
Dan Marino can’t be considered the best quarterback in league history because he never won a Super Bowl. OK, I get that. A second Super Bowl, though, shouldn’t be required.
If it takes a Broncos victory over the Seahawks to push public sentiment in Manning’s favor, then bring on a Broncos victory. He has earned it.