What Do We Really Think About Peyton Manning?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 21, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks on from the sideline against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Ravens won 38-35 in the second overtime.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

One of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

One of the most overrated quarterbacks in NFL history.

A Super Bowl champion.

A choke artist who folds like a cheap suit when the pressure is at its highest.

All of those terms have been used at one time or another to describe Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and, after yet another Manning-led team fell short in the playoffs, the debate rages anew albeit with a different franchise.

Would the real Peyton Manning please stand up?

Manning's many supporters point to a phenomenal NFL career that will certainly end with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Over 15 NFL seasons, Manning has thrown for 59,487 yards, which ranks third behind Dan Marino and Brett Favre. His 436 career touchdown passes trails only Favre. His career quarterback rating of 95.7 is fourth all-time,

According to Pro Football Reference's weighted career value metric, there has been no more valuable player in NFL history than Peyton Manning.

Apparently the NFL agrees, since no player in the league's history has more MVP awards on his mantel than Manning, with four.

Manning's detractors will nod solemnly as those impressive statistics are rattled off and then point to his record in the playoffs.

In 20 playoff starts, Manning's teams in Indianapolis and now Denver have gone an unimpressive 9-11, which ties Manning with Favre for the most postseason losses in NFL history.

Over those 20 games, Manning has thrown 32 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions. That 1.52 to 1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is considerably lower than Manning's 2.09 to 1 ratio in the regular season.

So which is it? All-time great or all-time goat?

The truth, as it usually does, lies somewhere in between and we need look no further than Manning's last playoff start to demonstrate why that's the case.

Yes, Peyton Manning threw a pair of interceptions in that game, including a backbreaker in overtime. For a player widely regarded as one of the most cerebral quarterbacks ever to lace them up that throw across his body was an incredibly boneheaded decision.

With that said though, Manning never should have been in that position to begin with.

Manning had the Broncos in position to win the game, completing over 65 percent of his passes and tossing three touchdown strikes. I'm also pretty sure that he didn't tell the Denver secondary to take the last minute of regulation off.

Yes, some of the blame for those 11 playoff losses lies with Manning, but to put it all on his shoulders is just nonsense.

Therein lies the rub with calling Manning a "choke artist." Manning has never played on a team that had a truly dominant defense (last year's Denver team may have been the best defense that's backed him up to date) and, for much of his career in Indianapolis, the Colts were also unable to run the ball consistently.

In spite of those facts, Manning has played in two Super Bowls, winning one.

Is Peyton Manning the greatest quarterback of all time? In my opinion, no. That would be Joe Montana, who was even more clutch than he was talented.

Manning is, however, a world champion, four-time MVP, and mortal lock first-ballot hall-of-famer.

Sure, the playoff losses may be maddening, but believe me the alternatives can be much worse, and most NFL teams would take that sort of "choke artist" in a heartbeat.