Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was named the 2013 Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year Saturday evening.
The NFL had the news via Twitter:
Manning was given the award Saturday night, as part of the third annual "NFL Honors" celebration. The postseason awards, which used to be given out via a mere press release, have instead turned into a television extravaganza for the league.
Terrell Davis was the only other Bronco to ever win the award, capturing the honor in both 1996 and 1998. In the latter campaign, Davis won both the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
Sometimes viewed as the award designed to honor the best offensive player who isn't going to win the MVP award, Manning is the second straight person to sweep the awards.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won both last season, when he came just nine yards shy of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record. Overall, seven of the past 10 Offensive Players of the Year and MVPs have been the same—a minor historical blip.
But where Peterson came just shy of breaking records in 2012, Manning's entire 2013 campaign seemed designed to shatter as many as possible. Starting with an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the season's opening game, Manning went on a never-before-seen offensive tour-de-force.
At age 37, Manning set the NFL record for passing touchdowns (55) and passing yards (5,477) while leading Denver to a 13-3 record and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Throughout the season, Manning was typically coy when breaking the records—noting that it only means something because the team was winning.
"This only means something because it helped our team win games, and we won the division today in a competitive AFC West," Manning said, via ESPN. "That's a good thing."
Denver also set the single-season scoring record with 606 points, becoming the first team in NFL history to eclipse the 600-point mark. The previous mark was 589 points, set by the 2007 New England Patriots.
There is some debate among those who cover the sport about what those records mean overall. With the proliferation of pass-heavy offenses across the NFL, the entire passing record book seems destined to look archaic in a decade. When Dan Marino set the single-season passing yardage record of 5,084 in 1984, the mark stood for more than a quarter century before Brees broke it in 2011.
|1.||Peyton Manning (37)||5,477||2013||DEN|
|2.||Drew Brees (32)||5,476||2011||NO|
|3.||Tom Brady (34)||5,235||2011||NE|
|4.||Drew Brees (33)||5,177||2012||NO|
|5.||Drew Brees (34)||5,162||2013||NO|
|6.||Dan Marino (23)||5,084||1984||MIA|
Now, Manning's is the fifth season to surpass that once-hallowed total in the past three seasons alone. Nine of the 11 all-time best single-season marks have come over that span. It's a time of offensive innovation, record-setting numbers and adjustment as defenses relearn what they can and cannot do now and into the future.
One could easily see where some would be dismissive of the records. Using both Football Outsiders' DVOA metric and ESPN's QBR, Manning was actually better in his 2004 season—where he initially set the passing touchdowns mark with 49. His yards per attempt total was higher in that campaign, and the difference in era has made some hem and haw about which season was his best.
Either way, under the rules with which quarterbacks are currently governed, there is no question who the best player in football was in 2013. Manning was so individually brilliant that four Broncos pass-catchers finished the regular season with at least 10 touchdowns.
With the Broncos on the precipice of perhaps giving Manning a second Super Bowl title, there may be no better individual season in NFL history. Now Manning has the hardware to go with his statistics.
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