Super Bowl XLIV: Peyton Manning Cements His Lore As THE NFL Legend

Casey Mabbott@@oregonsportsguyContributor IFebruary 3, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, these are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.

That’s right, undisputed. Your peers may quibble and quabble over who may have more rings or who played in a different era or who they like the best or who dresses the best, or who sleeps with more super models, but at the end of the day they will not be able to cover up the truth:

Peyton Manning is guilty. Guilty of being the greatest QB in the NFL, and holder of the records to prove it.

Not just in the present, as he has accomplished more than most even dare to dream up.

Not just in the past either, as he has surpassed or is on pace to surpass every major passing record that a QB could want (keep your INT record Brett).

There is no way to know for sure if we will ever see a better QB in the future, but I have my doubts. You would need a more physically gifted athlete, which will be tough. You will need to find a harder worker, which will be impossible. And you will then need to find someone smarter, which will make this mission even more…impossibler?

Yeah, you read that correctly. The only way I could finish a sentence on how to improve on Peyton Manning is create a new word that doesn’t even sound right.

Experts everywhere like to use the “prototypical QB” label when referring to a strong armed, accurate, pocket passer. This label could be used for a lot of players, including younger brother Eli, but not Peyton.

He is in a class of passer all his own. He can do it better, faster, and with more ease than most. Scratch that. He can do it better than all. Never have I seen a player who epitomized the position the way he does.

You can name me every major QB in league history, and none of them compares to Manning. Dan Marino had a very quick release and seemed to be two steps ahead of the defense, except in the playoffs. He never won a ring, and only appeared in one Super Bowl. Marino is probably the closest thing talent and stat-wise, and he doesn’t even come close.

Since the merger in 1970, Bradshaw, Staubach, Montana, Aikman, and Brady all have won three or more titles. I would not put any of them on the same playing field as Manning, even though he is in search of just his second title.

Manning is the closest thing to Michael Jordan the NFL has. He is easily its most recognizable player in the country. He appears in countless television ads, and works with a number of charities.

It is nice to see a player with the level of character necessary to work just as hard on the field as off of it.

Still not enough evidence for you? I can go all day.

Manning has been faced with a ginormous task all season long. His passing game has been “complimented” by the league’s worst-rated rushing attack. Doesn’t matter, he still never really lost a game, and he led—or was near the lead—in nearly every passing stat.

His longtime favorite target, Marvin Harrison, was forced out of the Colts for refusing to take a pay cut. This was in fact the right move, as Harrison’s production had clearly fallen off. With his once sure hands now only “semi-reliable” and his feet not moving as quickly, the Colts decided to turn to younger players.

They knew they had a great wideout in Reggie Wayne, who had long held second candle to Marvin. They also knew that Anthony Gonzalez was fast approaching superstar status. Toss in a couple of unknowns with a lot of upside, and you really have yourself a decent plan.


Gonzalez goes down in Week One with a serious knee injury, leaving Manning with a surefire receiver (Wayne), and two unknowns.

Wait, you still have Manning, right? Problem solved.

I would not have thought that there was a QB that could turn two unproven receivers into household names in just one season, and Manning pulled it off.

Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are now nationally recognized names. In 2008, they were nobody. Sure their friends and family knew who they were, but you couldn’t walk into any random sports pub, rattle off their names, and not get a quizzical look from just about everyone.

Now? They might as well be all-stars.

Manning didn’t do it alone, I am not going to be that ignorant. Both guys have immense talent or they wouldn’t even be a Colt. They are both athletes who are also very intelligent. You have to be to understand the Colts' complex offense.

No running game and a pair of wet-behind-the ears receivers? No issue there. Manning had 300-plus yards passing in six of the first seven games, tying a league record. His checks and audibles at the line are one of his calling cards, and he uses it to perfection. The defense rarely has time to make an adjustment, and gets to spend the next week watching film in awe of the QB that just ripped them a new one.

He broke the 4,000 yard mark for the 10th time, an NFL record. He tossed more than 25 touchdowns for the 12th consecutive time, another record. He is the only QB to have 12 wins in a season for seven consecutive seasons. He has the largest career TD-INT differential at 185, tossing 366 touchdowns and just 181 interceptions. He is one of just four QBs to throw for more than 50,000 yards, and he is in the top five or higher in every major passing statistic.

I had to sum up and choose the most relevant milestones, because his list of records goes on and on, and on. He has accomplished all of this in just 12 seasons, whereas guys like Favre, Marino, and Elway played up to 19 years. Imagine what he can accomplish if he plays five to seven more seasons.

Manning rounded out possibly his finest season under center being crowned league MVP a record fourth time. Brett Favre is the closest with three, and he is probably not getting another, even if he does return next season.

In his most recent game, Manning faced a tough task. He would be matched against Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, who just happened to feature a defense no offense had quite figured out.

And just how did that game turnout? The Colts won 30-17, while Manning rolled up 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Jets' vaunted defense was unable to secure a single intereception, which is exactly what killed Manning's passing game the two previous postseasons.

With Reggie Wayne enjoying his stay on "Revis Island", Manning routinely connected with Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie for big plays. Manning is now 5-0 against Rex Ryan defenses, save for the Week 16 anomaly.

A little something people may have been overlooking is the fact that Manning is undefeated in games he was allowed to play the entirety of in the 2009 season.

Another fun fact is that he was leading those same Jets 15-10 when he was pulled in the third quarter of their Week 16 meeting. The Colts did not score another point without him, which may have solidified just how important a player he is.

End result? Manning is en route to his second Super Bowl, which most experts have hime winning.

This Sunday, he will face off with possibly the second best QB in the league, Mr. Drew Brees. I think it is safe to say that despite how incredible a player Brees is, the gap between them is far and wide.

Brees does not control the field the way Manning does. He does not have control over the offense the way Manning does. Colts' offensive coordinator Tom Moore has been quoted as saying he does not call plays, he merely relays “suggestions” to Manning. Manning then studies what the defense is showing, and calls the appropriate play at the line.

The last QB I can remember calling his own plays was Jim Kelly, and he never had the long term success that Manning has enjoyed. Sure he went to four straight Super Bowls, but he won zero and never went back. Manning is entering his second, and if the stars are aligned the way I think they are, he will be hoisting his second Lombardi Trophy by the conclusion of Sunday’s game.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I believe I have given you just about all the compelling facts you will need to realize the truth:

Peyton Manning is the greatest because he wins, which is the way we grade our quarterbacks.

Peyton Manning is the greatest because he does his job better and in a manner no one else does.

Peyton Manning is the greatest because he will one day hold all major passing records.

He will cement his place in NFL lore this Sunday when he defeats the Saints, and collects his second Super Bowl Ring, a feat few have accomplished.

These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.

Peyton Manning is the greatest QB in the past, present, or future.


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