Peyton Manning's Legacy is in the People's Hands; That's the Problem

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIJune 7, 2009

I must have heard it a thousand times, but it never quite sunk in until someone whom I respected a great deal said something logical about the situation.

The issue being the popular belief that players such as Peyton Manning will always take a back seat to less qualified individuals who have accomplished more while contributing less.

That is my opinion, and it's not meant to single anyone out either.

While the speculation might run rampant, the above made statement could apply to a great many quarterbacks in comparison to a great many others.

One of the responses I've heard most often is that I need to understand that until Peyton Manning wins multiple Super Bowl and manages to "get the job done" in the playoffs, he's always going to take a back seat to the "proven winners" of the National Football League.

Never mind that Peyton Manning's Colts (noticed I'm talking about the entire team) have won more games in a single decade than any team led by any single quarterback in NFL history.

It doesn't amount to much because he has only one ring to show for it, I'm told.

Am I just falling behind the eight-ball as society progresses forward?

Or is my point of view simply the minority that hasn't been accepted by the rest of society?

11 seasons, 124 total victories, six division titles, but the only number that really matters is the lone Super Bowl ring, right?

Using that logic, wouldn't the Baltimore Colts of the 1970's be considered a greater than the Vikings teams that went to four Super Bowls and lost every one of them during that time?

If true winners are the gauge by which we truly measure greatness...


Why isn't Terry Bradshaw considered to be greater than Tom Brady?

Why isn't Troy Aikman considered to be greater than John Elway?

Why isn't Jim Plunkett considered to be greater than Brett Favre?

Why isn't Trent Dilfer considered to be greater than Dan Marino?


As often as I hear the value of the league's "proven winners", I also hear about the undefinable value of the "intangibles" a quarterback possesses.

When I was younger, intangibles seemed to be a word people would apply to players less productive to somehow fill the gap between where they stood and how well greater individuals produced.

The most ironic part is, people use the term intangibles to somehow insinuate that it is the intangibles that Manning lacks and others possess that prevents him from being the true winner that the others have become.

The term "willing your team to victory" is something that people often apply to less productive players to explain why their team may have achieved greater success than the more productive players who have less to show for it.

I suppose that if a quarterback has a lower completion percentage, throws for less yards, fewer touchdowns, and more interceptions, you have to come up with something to explain why their teams won in spite of such performance and succeed to a greater degree than players such as Peyton Manning.

But the ironic thing is, Peyton Manning has arguably more "intangibles" than any of the quarterbacks he's been compared to.

That is, if your accounting for the things we know he does do that isn't reflected on the stat sheet, beyond the fact that he's become the most productive player in NFL history.

He's helped incorporate a signal system that enables him to make on-spot adjustments quicker and even call plays directly from the line of scrimmage if necessary.

Quarterbacks used to call their own plays but that was during an era when the playbooks did not possess the same depth as they do today.

If Manning is not as talented, exceptional, intelligent, or driven as the quarterbacks who are said to possess more intangibles, than why is he the only quarterback in the NFL doing these things?

I've heard that he's fortunate to have a coaching staff who trusts him enough to allow him that courtesy and that other quarterbacks could do the same if given the opportunity.

If that is so, don't you think that at least one of the other 31 one teams at some point during the entirety of Manning's career would enable the other quarterbacks to do the same and reap the benefits of what those who possess more intangibles could do with more control at their discretion?

For every quarterback who is said to possess these intangibles, tell me how many of them have won Super Bowls without defenses ranked in the top-ten?

Honestly, please list them.

But I'm told that it is these other quarterback who "will" these otherwise average to poor defensive squads into formidable top-ten forces that are better equipped to shut their opponents down.

I respectfully disagree with that assumption.

But that's okay, even if it isn't the popular or accepted opinion.

After all, it's not I or the minority I represent that have total control over Peyton Manning's legacy.

If he retired today, he's be judged by the majority and have his fate decided by popular opinion.

Unless his team manages to accomplish what society dictates is required for him as an individual to become the greatest in their eyes, Peyton Manning will always take a back seat to more successful quarterbacks, often times regardless of the circumstances they played under.

But just because society has dictated a certain criteria, does that make it accurate?

Is it possible that the popular belief that has been adopted by so many might possess some inherent flaws that leads to better players being underrated while others become overrated?

Surly you can't say that there have never been instances in which the public perception and terms of judging people have been incorrect?

But then again, it wouldn't really matter if it was because the reality rarely comes to light until people are willing to accept it.