It's weird to have to endure two annual rituals in the same day, but as the country bemoans the loss of an hour's sleep as our clocks spring forward, we also have yet another article from Kerry Byrne denouncing Peyton Manning as some sort of second coming of Babe Laufenberg.
For those unfamiliar with Mr. Byrne, he is a former blogger of the New England Patriots and now writes articles for the Sports Illustrated website. He also writes for a website called Cold Hard Football Facts which might as well be named Cold Hard Hatred for Manning.
Why am I singling Byrne out? It's not like the media isn't full of writers that use hyperbole to make outlandish points. Sometimes getting noticed comes from simply inciting the masses.
It's also not like he's the only pro-Patriots writer out there. Grantland's Bill Simmons has made a tremendous niche for himself in part because of his self-depriciating humor when it comes to his love of (nearly) all things Boston. But even he has a certain respect for Manning, although I suspect he'd rather be eaten alive by a badger than wear a Colts jersey for a minute.
Yet, Byrne's writing is skewed. His facts are presented in a way that are misleading. His dislike for Manning, and frankly other players in the league as well, is evident. How does someone with such a bias write for such a respected publication?
Byrne loves his latest point so much he had to write two articles about it within the space of a couple of days. You are welcome to pause here and read his material, but the summation is that Manning is washed up and has steadily declined since his record-breaking season of 2004. Then he reiterates this by writing an article about how old quarterbacks rarely perform well with new teams.
But let's look at Byrne's "cold hard facts" to see just how they stack up.
According to Byrne, Manning's pinnacle year came in 2004. Since then we have been witness to the eroding of Manning's skill set.
Byrne apparently forgot that since 2004, Manning has won two more league MVP awards, led the Colts to two Super Bowls and won one title. Talk about diminishing returns.
To emphasize his point, Byrne shows Manning stats from 2004 to his last full season in 2010. Byrne does this to point out the apparent decline in Manning's stats. Well, if you are taking Manning's 49 touchdown season as his high-water mark, then, yes, he has gone down since then. That must mean Tom Brady has been declining sine 2007 and Dan Marino went in decline after his second season in the NFL.
This argument is nothing short of asinine.
Manning may not have thrown for 49 touchdowns again, which went a long way to giving him a record 121.1 quarterback rating, but Manning has been a model of consistency in the seven seasons Byrne lists. His quarterback accuracy has been within two-and-a-half percentage points in those seven years and his interception percentage has never been more than three percent.
What Byrne doesn't point out is that the decline for Manning wasn't in his skills, but in the skills of the players around him. In 2007, the Colts had a top three defense. By 2010, they had dropped to 20th in yards and 23rd in points allowed. Since 2007, the Colts haven't had a rushing attack finish better than 26th in the league. Yet, Manning still posted impressive stats and led his team into the playoffs.
Has Peyton Manning been in decline since 2004?
Byrne doesn't seem to realize that Manning's departure from a team that for all intents and purposes was the same in 2010 as it was in 2011, dropped from 10-6 to 2-14. The talent around Manning was lacking. Wins are stats that simply don't lie.
Undaunted, Byrne looks at Manning's numbers at home and on the road and concludes that he is merely "above-average" on the road. Byrne states that he is "less accurate" outdoors. Those two statements make Manning sound like he is a bad road quarterback. The difference between Manning's accuracy at home and away? A whopping nine-tenths of a percent. That's all.
Byrne also points to the difference in records. Could the difference in winning percentages, which is about nine percent, be attributed to the fact that Manning is playing on the road? Aren't most quarterback's winning percentages better at home than away? I would take a guess that they are. Ask any quarterback. They prefer to play at home. That's why it's called home-field advantage. Just because Manning's road record isn't as good as his home record doesn't mean he's a bad outside quarterback. I seem to recall him winning a Super Bowl in the rain once.
Byrne brings up a few other points, all of which look at the issue through Byrne's tinted glasses. A new system? Have you seen Manning prepare? Playoff record? A Colts roster that Manning helped lead to a 14-0 start in 2009 was essentially the same roster that started 0-14 without him in 2011.
But then again, who am I to argue with Byrne? I'm just a part-time blogger. He's a highly respected, I presume, writer for a internationally known name brand. Instead, let me defer to the teams that have shown interest in Manning. Maybe Byrne knows something they don't know. I can't imagine John Elway has any experience in evaluating quarterbacks.
Despite his loathing for Manning, I can imagine Byrne and I will both be sad when Manning eventually retires. After all, what will Byrne have left to write about?