Peyton Manning's 5th MVP Award Strengthens QB's Case to Be Best Ever

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2014

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:   Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos prepares for their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Is Peyton Manning the best quarterback ever? That's still up for discussion. But winning a fifth NFL MVP Award will only boost his chances to be remembered as the greatest of all time.

It was merely a formality for the NFL to announce that Manning was the 2013 AP MVP:

The Denver Broncos star was a near unanimous selection, winning 49 of the 50 first-place votes, per SportsCenter:

Few could have been surprised to see that Manning took home the honor. He broke the single-season record for passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55). If that wasn't enough, he helped the Broncos finish with an AFC-best 13-3 record in the regular season and earn a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII.

While much of this discussion will hinge on Manning and Denver's performance in the Super Bowl, this MVP award is just more evidence to the case that the 37-year-old is the greatest quarterback of all time.

Peyton, the humble star that he is, wasn't drawn into the argument.

"Me and my buddies don’t discuss that," he said on Super Bowl media day, per The Washington Post's Cindy Boren. "We have other things to talk about."

Now it's very likely that Manning will always be in the shadow of Tom Brady and possibly Joe Montana. Nothing short of winning three or four Super Bowl rings will convince the doubters who rank their legends by their team's success.

Gregg Doyel of paralleled the careers of Ken Anderson and Terry Bradshaw to demonstrate how winning Super Bowls can greatly affect your legacy and career narrative:

Playing in the exact same era as Bradshaw, Ken Anderson had as many MVP trophies (one) and All-Pro picks (one). He had more Pro Bowl appearances (four to three) and a significantly higher passer rating (81.9 to 70.9) and completion percentage (59.3 percent to 51.9 percent). His ratio of TD to INT also is significantly better (197-160, compared to 212-210 for Bradshaw). By almost every measure, Ken Anderson was Terry Bradshaw's equal -- if not superior.

But Bradshaw had those Super Bowl titles. Anderson did not, not even one, and without a ring his legacy isn't what it should be. Bradshaw made the Hall on the first ballot. Anderson has been a finalist just twice, and not since 1998. His ship has sailed. Because of that loss in Super Bowl XVI.

But let's talk about this a little bit.

Even if he doesn't win, Manning will have led two different teams to the Super Bowl. That's an impressive accomplishment in a league rife with parity. It's hard enough to get to multiple Super Bowls, let alone with different franchises.

You also have to consider how he's come back from the brink.

A couple of years ago, some wondered if he would ever play again. Others, like myself, thought that should he return, he wouldn't be the same player, and the risks of signing him outweighed the potential rewards.

I mean the guy was coming off two neck surgeries. That's kind of important when you need to scan the field, and, oh I don't know, live, in general.

Not only has he made me and all of his doubters look rather foolish, he's done so in historic fashion. At 37 years old, Manning is playing some of the best football in his life.

Winning a second Super Bowl and going out on top a la John Elway will make this talk much easier.

There will never be a conclusive answer to this conundrum. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everybody has a different way to gauge whom is the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

But Manning sure is narrowing the field of contenders.