Joe Montana, John Elway, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham, Sammy Baugh. These are names that tend to be brought up anytime there is a discussion or debate of the greatest quarterback of all time.
The recent thoughts have been whether or not Peyton Manning deserves to be considered the best of the best or not.
There have been pros and cons brought up by the media and common fans alike. And as in most arguments, the facts are only used to validate which side is being defended. I am sure I will be accused of that as well, but that is what makes this my opinion.
With Manning at the helm, the Colts set an NFL record with 115 regular season wins in the 2000's. There are those that will discount this record since the NFL didn't always play 16 games a year and there are teams that missed out on potential games due to strike shortened seasons. Those are both valid points.
However, Donovan McNabb's Eagles, Tom Brady's Patriots, Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers, and the Drew Brees/Phillip Rivers led Chargers all played the same number of regular season games that the Colts did.
And shouldn't Manning be given credit for what he did based on the rules and schedules at the time he played as opposed to being penalized for changes to the schedule and missed games from strikes that he had no control over?
You can also point to Manning's playoff appearances. The Colts have made the playoffs nine of the last ten years. That achievement by itself should warrant much more praise than it is currently getting.
Although this is only his second Super Bowl appearance, sometimes just getting to the postseason is an accomplishment in itself. While Manning may not have the best playoff stats, the fact that the Colts' defense did not perform well should be taken into account as when looking at the seven playoff losses attributed to Manning.
The biggest point that leads to arguments seems to be the number of Super Bowl rings. While this is important, the overall impact of the number of rings seems to have been blown out of proportion.
Some say that Manning cannot be the best because he only has one ring and Tom Brady has three. So if it just just about the number of rings, why isn't Terry Bradshaw and his four rings considered head and shoulders above everyone else? Or how about Otto Graham with four AAFL and three NFL Championships in a ten year career which took place before the introduction of the Super Bowl?
It has been mentioned that only if Manning gets his second ring by beating the Saints, then he can be considered the best. If Manning does not get the win at Super Bowl XLIV, then does than mean that Peyton is only as good as Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, and Brad Johnson?
If greatness is only measured by rings, does that mean that Trent Dilfer and Doug Williams should be regarded as being better than Dan Marino, since the Dolphin great never won the big game? I have a hard time thinking anyone would win that debate.
There are also intangibles that pure statistics cannot give a true measure. Poise in the pocket, reading defenses, game management, adjusting your play during the game, taking advantage of what the opposing defense gives you , and many others.
Peyton Manning would rank at or near the top in each of these, and probably most other intangible categories that can be thought of to help determine what makes a great quarterback.
This is a topic that will be debated for years to come. There are always going to be people that look at different aspects of a particular quarterback's career to call them the best.
Some will look at Favre's stats and records, Brady's rings, Montana's poise, Marino's talent, and so on and so on. Peyton Manning still has plenty of years left to surpass each of these great players in almost every statistical category. He can also have all of his intangibles looked upon as favorably compared to, or be better than, anyone that has ever played the game.
Whether he plays another 15 years and wins four more Super Bowls, or if he hangs it up after possibly losing to New Orleans, Peyton Manning has already had a great career. Whether you look at statistics, or look at what he brings to the game that cannot be defined by numbers, Manning can already be called arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.
Sometimes the argument is the best part of an ambiguous title such as this since everyone has their own criteria to determine their own winner.
Once he does decide to wind down his career, there will most likely be a new up and comer that the media and NFL experts will say can be better than Manning. As time goes on, the game will continue to change and the position will continue to evolve.
There will be records broken and the unmeasurable intangibles will be compared. This will only make it tougher to determine who the best is, who the best was, and who the best will be in the future.
But that will be a rant for another day.