I have spent the last 10 years watching Peyton Manning play as the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. During this time I have always tried to argue the merits of why Peyton might just go down as the greatest QB in the history of the game.
In an attempt to see the other side of the argument I decided to write an article that might help to illustrate the counter argument to Peyton's greatness.
My research was certainly enlightening, and led me inevitably to a most unsuspecting conclusion, Peyton Manning really is the most overrated quarterback in the NFL.
Allow me to explain...
Criteria No. 1: Talent at the WR Position
Peyton Manning has been spoiled by talent at the wide reciever position. Sure we all know about Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but let's assume most other quality teams also have a reliable, productive wide receiver.
Where Peyton Manning is truly spoiled is in the tremendous depth the Colts have had at the position over the last 10 years. Big-time players like Craphonso Thorpe, who was highly regarded coming out Florida State, Aaron Moorehead, who unspeakably went undrafted out of Illinois before he fell into the Colts lap, and Anthony Gonzalez, who everyone knew was going to be a star in this league—except apparently the 31 teams in the NFL who picked ahead of the Colts that year.
To further the point about how Manning has been spoiled with WR riches, look no further than this years crop of new talent.
The Colts lost stud receiver Marvin Harrison and replaced him. They replaced him with Pierre Garcon, the best receiver from Division-III powerhouse Mount Union. I mean how many teams out there just wish they had a guy with Garcon's pedigree waiting in the wings to step on the field and make their QB look like Gold.
Criteria No. 2: Coaching Stability
Peyton Manning has been the benefactor of coaching stability within the Indianapolis organization for the entire 10 years he has been the starting Quarterback.
He was spoiled with Jim Mora to start his career, was fortunate when the Colts brought in offensive guru Tony Dungy, and has been remarkably lucky that they had a proven winner like Jim Caldwell waiting in the wings for Dungy's replacement.
Everywhere Tony Dungy has gone the starting Quarterback of that team has benefited. When Dungy became head coach in Tampa just look what he did for Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson
- 1995 - Dilfer passed for 2774 yards and 4 TDs (Without Dungy) 1996 - Dilfer passed for 2859 and 12 TDs. (With Dungy)
- 2000 - Johnson passed for 2505 yards and 11 TDs (without Dungy) 2001 - Johnson passed for 3406 yards and 13TDs (With Dungy)
Clearly, having Tony Dungy at the helm for Colts gave Peyton Manning an unfair advantage over most other QBs. In fact, it might not be a stretch to assume that, had Tony Dungy stayed in Tampa, its entirely possible we could have been talking about Brad Johnson being the greatest QB to ever play the game.
Criteria No. 3: Peyton Was Drafted By a Team That Was Already Winning
Most days, the No. 1 pick goes to a terrible team. In today's NFL a bad team is one that might win one game, two if it is lucky.
Peyton Manning was fortunate enough to go to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had three wins the year they drafted Manning, which clearly put him in a better situation than say Jamarcus Russell, or Mathew Stafford.
I sometimes wonder if Ryan Leaf had just gone first overall to the Colts how different the NFL would be.
I just don't know if I can see Leaf pitching MasterCard, or hosting SNL, but had he gone to the Colts that year, it's hard to argue that Ryan Leaf, not Peyton Manning, would be the poster boy for the NFL.
Criteria No. 4: Manning Pads his Stats in a Weak Division
Since the realignment, only two teams have won the AFC South. Tennessee and Indianapolis. The fact that no other team has won the division since it was created just screams out that Peyton owes much of his success to the fact he plays in a division filled with teams that can't compete.
Jacksonville can't sell out its games, so it must be garbage. Houston is the youngest team in the NFL, so it must be garbage. Tennessee is so hot-and-cold it couldn't possibly be a good team, could it?
Take the AFC East for example, now there is a division with parity. New England, Miami and New York all look like .500 teams, and Buffalo probably should have beaten New England the first time the teams played this season.
In fact, if the Colts hadn't moved out of the AFC east in 2002, there is probably no way they end up being the team with the highest winning percentage over the last 10 years.
Criteria#5: The League Office Favors the Colts
Although I have been unable to factually verify this, my final point, it stems from what everyone who watches the NFL already knows to be obvious.
The NFL alters the results of games the Colts play to favor Peyton Manning and the Colts.
This is usually done at the expense of much bigger TV markets like New England, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and New York because the league has determined there is more money to be made by having a championship team in Indianapolis, rather than one of the traditional larger markets.
This is something that Peyton Manning couldn't have known when he was drafted by the Colts, but rather he just lucked into by sheer circumstance.
It took the league a few years to get its system down pat. I suspect the fix has been in since at least 2004. I mean, how else do you explain Brandon Stokely morphing into Wes Welker for a season?
Unfortunately, the Patriots wouldn't play nice with the league mandate to lose to the Colts. They even found a creative way around this by secretly buying the Raiders from Al Davis.
That transaction has allowed the Patriots to make incredibly one-sided trades, and keep the Raiders at the bottom of the standings to ensure they always have a high draft pick to trade to New England should the sister club require it.
There was also that whole ugly Spy-gate affair, but don't blame the Patriots, they were just trying to level the playing field because they knew the NFL had rigged games in the Colts favor.
So, as you can see, I am turning in my Peyton Manning fan club card and starting up the new "Bring on the Jim Sorgi Era Club."
Hey, everyone knows that the QB doesn't matter. It's the wide recievers, the tight ends, the head coach, the NFL, the weak division, and the Colts' systems.
If the Patriots can start their backup and go 11-5 surely the Colts can to.
Bring on the Jim Sorgi era, Peyton Manning you have been exposed.