Less than a year ago, many feared Peyton Manning’s playing days were behind him.
Fast-forward to 2012. Manning is not only playing again, but he’s leading the discussion for the National Football League MVP race.
The Denver Broncos were floundering in 2011, and head coach John Fox turned to Tim Tebow to turn things around. Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs and a 29-23 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, but Denver faltered in the Divisional Round against the New England Patriots and Tebow’s time in Denver was up.
Tebow wasn’t enough to make the Broncos perennial playoff contenders, and John Elway was quick to pull the trigger on what may be the biggest free agent signing in NFL history. He signed Manning to a five-year contract worth up to $96 million—a huge sum for a player coming off a serious neck injury.
Any speculation about Manning’s health is in the past. He looks as good as ever.
This is Manning’s 14th season and his first with a new team, yet his numbers are staggering. Manning has completed 68.3 percent of his passes this season, and were the season to end today, it would be the second-best completion percentage of his career. He’s also on pace for 4,692 passing yards, which would also be his second-best mark to date.
The numbers are all there. Manning has thrown 30 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 104. He’s averaging 7.89 yards per attempt.
None of those numbers as are important as the “10” in the Broncos’ win column.
Manning has turned Denver around. That’s not to say the Broncos were a bad team last year, but they certainly weren’t anywhere close to this year’s edition. The roster has remained largely the same, except for the name of the quarterback at the top of the depth chart.
One can argue that the league’s MVP should go to the best offensive player or the guy who puts up the gaudiest stats. Manning is in the running for the latter category as well. Taken literally, “most valuable” means “Manning.”
Manning has turned the Broncos into one of the best teams in the NFL, and he’s also going to carry them deep into the playoffs as he did so many times with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning is the most valuable player in the NFL this season, and when it’s all said and done, he should hoist the trophy that signifies him as such.