As Peyton Manning gets ready to lead his Indianapolis Colts into battle against the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, there is no question that he is an elite quarterback in the NFL. It would be a insult to consider him anything less than a first ballot Hall of Famer once he retires.
But is he the greatest of all time?
When you think of great quarterbacks, you usually think Namath, Unitas, Marino, Montana. They set the standard of what the position is today.
Comparing Manning to them, however, shines a new light on their careers.
Namath did win a Super Bowl, but he fell victim to injury and his teams struggled in the years following. Under Manning's leadership, the Colts have won the AFC South six out of the eight years they have been in the division—with Manning's durability being challenged by few players in the league.
Unitas also won a Super Bowl and threw for 40,000-plus yards in his 18-year career—Manning already has more than 50,000 yards and should eclipse the 400 touchdown mark, something Unitas did not do.
Even Montana, who won four Super Bowls, has had his numbers topped by Manning.
And, as great as Marino was, he never won a Super Bowl—a feat Manning has accomplished, and could accomplish twice.
One thing you can't argue, though, is this: Year in and year out, Manning has been the best at his position.
Say what you want about the Indianapolis defense, their poor running game this year, anything you want. But the man taking the snaps under center has done everything he can to get them to where they are right now. He has made the best use of what he has been given, even in a year without Marvin Harrison, his favorite target.
Some may think it a little bit of a stretch to consider Manning in the conversation of "greatest of all time." A Colts win Sunday, though, may change their minds.