We look at Peyton Manning and think he’s a pretty good quarterback, but truth be told, we get a chance to watch greatness on a weekly basis during the NFL season but tend to take him for granted, until today. There is no denying that Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks that the NFL has ever seen. For lack of a better term, Manning is the Colts franchise. Be honest, if the Indianapolis Star reported that he had been the team’s defensive coordinator for the past few seasons, would you really be surprised? That’s how much of a grip he has on the team; hell he owns the team more than Jim Irsay; and that’s saying something. I am reminded of the AFC title game back in January 2007, when the Colts failed to convert on a crucial 3rd and 2 play in their own territory and Tony Dungy sent his punt team in. Manning did his best Allen Iverson (in a good way) impersonation by waving off his coach and telling him not to interfere with his game. They went for it on 4th and 2 and the rest is history. Off the top of my head, here’s the list of active quarterbacks that could get away with such a move:
Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore has mentioned in the past that he sends suggestions to his quarterback instead of actually telling him which plays to run ; and Manning then scans the defense and finds the best possible play to run against his opponent. That's just how good he is. Look at what he has been able to accomplish as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts:
Peyton Manning Trophy Collection
2003 NFL MVP
2004 NFL MVP
2005 MFL Walton Payton Man of the Year
2006 NFL Super Bowl MVP
2008 NFL MVP
Now have a look at the milestones that Manning has been able to reach throughout his NFL career:
9 Pro Bowl Appearances
8th all time in pass attempts
4th all time in passes completed
5th all time in passing yards
3rd all time in touchdown passes
2nd all time in passer rating
1st all time in passing yards per game
1st all time in passes completed per game
3rd all time in passing completion percentage
Keep in mind, it goes beyond statistics. Numbers give you an idea of a player's production, not his greatness. Kerry Collins has more career passing yards than Troy Aikman, but does that make him a player worthy of the Hall of Fame? I say hell to the nah. So what else is there left to say about Manning to convince you? I'm glad you asked.
The New England Patriots have stood in the way of the Indianapolis Colts for this whole decade. Every Colts disappointment in this decade usually came at the hands of Tom Brady's Patriots. The Colts players as well as their fans made excuses about how New England kept bending the rules and how they were just a bunch of bullies that happened to always get the benefit of the doubt from the referees. Every year, Peyton Manning had to answer questions about his team’s toughness and his the losses to New England. Despite the pressure, Manning's teams just kept accumulating wins as the season went by; but he could never get past the Patriots in his quest to win a Super Bowl. Like others before him (will the real Dan Marino please stand up?), Manning had become the ultimate "Yeah but " guy:
-Yeah his teams win 10 games or more every year but he can't get past New England.
-Yeah he has cool commercials and all, but he watches the Super Bowl just like the rest of us instead of playing in it.
-Yeah he has tons of passing milestones, but he doesn't have any rings.
-Yeah he beat Tom Brady at Foxboro during the regular season, but can he beat him in the playoffs?
For those of you that are on the outside looking in; the rivalry between the Colts and Pats is very real and brings out a lot of heated discussions and debates. Want proof? During one of Sunday's NBC pregame show, Dan Patrick asked former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and former Colts head coach Tony Dungy about the rivalry. They both answered that it was always a great chess match and that the games were huge. Then Patrick asked both of them the question: If given the choice, would you pick Brady or Manning? Harrison answered that Brady was a better quarterback because he won with no name receivers whereas Manning had Pro Bowl receivers. Dungy then countered that Manning made those guys Pro Bowl receivers. Harrison then said that Brady had three rings and that the argument should end there. Dungy fired back that Aikman had three rings as well but was not a better quarterback than Peyton. That's just how things are when discussing Pats-Colts. Please understand this, I am completely biased when discussing this; I became a Colts fan around the year 2000 and saw the rivalry grow to where it is today. My opinion of Manning is probably more inflated than the next guy’s blow up doll, but I still feel I can judge him adequately. As a recent Colts fan, here are my top three memories of the Peyton Manning era (in reverse order):
3. Indianapolis defeats New England in Week 10 of the 2009 season
By the time you read this, you will have heard, read and dissected everything you heard about the game to the point that your girlfriend, wife, mistress and baby mother will be tired of hearing it. Nevertheless, for me this was the third biggest win in the Manning era. My fear going into this game was that Belichick would completely obliterate Jim Caldwell in the coaching match up and that the Colts depleted secondary would get exposed. Although it's debatable, I feel as though New England's coaching staff did a better job than Indy's staff (how else do you explain Moss getting singled up one on one with a safety at several occasions?); and New England was also able to take advantage of the secondary on their way to what seemed liked a blowout. Down 31-14 early in the fourth quarter, Manning was able to orchestrate a comeback that resulted in a 35-34 win. This was bigger than the Monday Night Football game a few years ago (against Tampa Bay) in which Manning conducted the same type of come from behind win. The reason? Because it was against New England. Every win against the Patriots provides a feeling that’s different than a win against any other team. The other day me and my friend Supreme were trying to figure out what was the equivalent for men of a woman receiving flowers. Give your better half some flowers and see her response: she’ll smile, start gushing to others about how awesome her man his, and might be on natural high for a few hours or possibly even a few days. Well beating New England is like receiving flowers. Who would have thought it?
Patriots @ Colts in Week 10
2. Indianapolis wins Super Bowl XLI
Pretty self-explanatory right?
Indianapolis wins Super Bowl XLI
1.Indianapolis prevails in January 2007 AFC Championship game
Leading 21-3 at the half, pretty boy Tom Brady (he had reached the point where he was the man crush of every American male over 35 years old) looked like a lock to go back to the Super Bowl. The Patriots defense looked ruthless and Brady was playing like the stud he was (and still is). New England looked so dominant that Colts fans were like the alleged father during a Maury paternity test show. We came out, made a bunch of noise, talked a good game and then Maury (with Brady playing the role of Maury) announced the results and we became silent to the point that we weren't sure what was happening. But then the third quarter started and Peyton took his offense down the field for a touchdown and the defense got going and the Colts came back from 18 points down to win the game thanks to a wonderful two minute offense conducted by Manning. The monkey was finally off his back, as well as the franchise's. Indianapolis had finally conquered Goliath when it truly mattered. All the abuse Manning had taken throughout his career had left him almost immune to criticism and gave him the hard shell required to shake off any possible doubts during the game. Turns out we were not the father, and the results were somewhat premature. For one Sunday in the calendar year, the Colts had bested Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the biggest national stage possible that was not the Super Bowl. I might actually go watch this game on DVD later tonight.
Colts defeat Pats in AFC Championship Game
Colts fans always knew what they had in Peyton Manning, but those three games made Colts fans realize just how truly special that Peyton Manning is. But I always wondered if other NFL fans fully embraced his greatness. But then, something weird happened last night. After coming back and defeating the Colts, I got a tweet from a Chargers fan. Sean loves his San Diego Chargers and despises the Indianapolis Colts. He usually throws good natured jabs at me about how Indy can't beat San Diego. Earlier this season, he lost a bet and was forced to have an image of Peyton Manning as his display picture on Twitter and it ate at him. He was pissed about it. And yet, at the conclusion of the week 10 match up between the Colts and the Patriots, here's the tweet I got from Sean: "sh*t the dude marched it down the field and won the game. He does it almost every weekend." And with that short line, my question was answered. Other fans see what I see. After Sean dropped me that line, I felt weird and creeped out and told him that we would act like he never said anything because it would change the dynamic of us ribbing each other. But then I realized that much like Neo in the Matrix; there was no going back. We have seen Manning over the years take the red pill and try to become the saviour. Sean was like Morpheus on Sunday, seeing the prophecy come to life and realizing that Manning is indeed the one. I'll let New Orleans (completely coincidental that he and Peyton are both for the N.O., it wasn’t my intention to get someone from the same place as him) rapper Lil' Wayne sum it up:
"And I am legend like Will Smith,
and that's how you let the beat build b*tch...."