In an announcement that has almost seemed predestined for the entire season, Peyton Manning was named the 2013 Associated Press Most Valuable Player, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
This comes as no surprise, though Jamaal Charles, Russell Wilson and other worthy candidates had remarkable 2013 campaigns. The award was handed out as part of the third annual "NFL Honors" ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 1. Manning's victory was determined by polling of 50 Associated Press sportswriters who cover the league.
However, SportsCenter notes that the vote was not unanimous:
Peyton Manning was NOT a unanimous choice as NFL MVP, receiving 49 of 50 votes. The other vote went to Tom Brady.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 2, 2014
This is Manning's fifth time winning at least a share of the award, the most in NFL history. He won the award in back-to-back years in 2003 (shared with Steve McNair) and 2004 and again in 2008 and 2009. No other player has won the award more than three times.
Manning, who won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award and finished second in the MVP balloting in 2012, made it clear from the opening snap of Week 1 he was on a mission. The 37-year-old quarterback tied a single-game NFL record with seven passing touchdowns in a 49-27 win over Baltimore, setting the stage for the best statistical season in league history.
Manning set the single-season passing touchdowns (55) and yardage records (5,477), leading the league in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. Only in his magical 2004 season did he have a higher yards-per-attempt average than in 2013 (8.31), and a whopping four Denver receiving targets had at least 10 touchdown catches.
Behind Manning's vaunted passing attack, Denver set a single-season scoring record and became the first team in NFL history to score at least 600 points. The Broncos finished 13-3, good enough to earn them home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Two years removed from undergoing neck surgery that ended his time in Indianapolis and jeopardized his career, Manning also worked to dispel any and all criticisms of his performance. Only Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton attempted more downfield passes in 2013, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Manning trumped both of them, though, by accumulating the most downfield yards in football and finishing second behind only Nick Foles in overall passer rating.
Those credentials made Manning the obvious choice for MVP. Even though Wilson, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady each got some MVP consideration at different points of the season, by the end only the most stubborn critics were holding out.
"I don't think it's close, personally," Broncos coach John Fox said of the MVP race in December, per USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones.
Manning is the third winner in Broncos team history, joining John Elway in 1987 and Terrell Davis in 1998. Davis' MVP season finished with a Super Bowl victory for Denver—its second of a back-to-back titles.
With Denver a day away from a chance at the Lombardi Trophy and questions about Manning's future looming, it's safe to say Broncos fans hope history will repeat itself.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: