The Reality of Peyton Manning's Legacy in the Wake of Super Bowl XLIV

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIFebruary 8, 2010

Has Peyton Manning reverted back to the "choke-artist" he was once labeled to be?

Or has Peyton Manning simply fallen from the discussion of "greatest ever" back into the realm of simply being "great" but not great enough?

Much will be talked about in the wake of Super Bowl XLIV, but when it comes to discussing Peyton Manning, the most likely topic of conversation is bound to revolve around his infamous "pick-six".

The situation was perfect; almost too perfect.

With just over five minutes left in the game, Peyton Manning had the opportunity to lead yet ANOTHER fourth-quarter comeback and force the Super Bowl's first ever overtime showdown.

The hopes and dream of Manning and his Colts faded away when Tracy Porter stepped into the pass intended for Reggie Wayne and brought it back for a 74-yard touchdown.

Manning had the opportunity to "get the job done", but the culmination of his efforts resulted in euphoric satisfaction for the city of New Orleans; not Indianapolis.

The prodigal son, the native New Orleanian finally helped lead his hometown Saints to their first ever world championship; only he was wearing the opposing uniform.

You've got to tip your hat to the Saints.

They played an amazing football game that was anchored by some fantastic coaching.

An attempted fourth-down conversion, a successful onside kick, and a successful two-point conversional challenge were all led by the man they call Payton.

Only when we're talking about New Orleans, we're not talking about their most decorated native athlete.

We're talking about the head coach who came to the city nobody wanted to work for and transformed their S"aints" into an offensive-powerhouse.

Four years later, he helped transform them into champions.

But he wasn't alone.

“Drew Orleans Loubreesiana” they call it.

And why not?

Brees tied a Super Bowl record by completing an astounding 32 passes and was nearly flawless for most of the game.

Take it from a Colts fan watching: we all knew that he simply couldn't throw an incompletion.

I don't blame our defense too much; this appeared to be more an instance of the Saints playing well than the Colts playing poorly.

We refused to give up the "big-play", and we found our mission accomplished.

Instead, we let Brees carve us up slowly but surely every step of the way to securing a World Championship.

And then we have the other Peyton.

The "e" not the "a", and the loser, not the winner.

What about his legacy?

Wasn’t Super Bowl XLIV supposed to be the coronation of the most polished resume in NFL history?

Was Feb. 7, 2010 not the night in which Manning was destined to ascend to the pinnacle of NFL immortality?

You heard the media prior to Sunday.

Peyton Manning was their golden-child.

Peyton Manning was the poster-boy for NFL greatness who was awarded far before accomplishing that which his praisers valued the most:

A second Super Bowl championship.

You see, prior to Super Bowl XLIV, Manning become the recipient of post-championship over-glorification before he ever had the chance to earn it.

That's why we started to hear the discussion of "greatest-ever" in favor of Manning simply being "great".

The media so wanted to anoint their latest savior that they awarded the man before he ever had the opportunity to become what they wanted him to be.

Peyton Manning didn't walk away from Super Bowl XLIV a champion; Drew Brees did.

And rightfully, we will now begin to hear discussion of Drew Brees becoming the NFL's latest "it-guy".

Drew Brees' status has finally ascended to the upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks.

The problem is, he was already there prior to Sunday.

His body or work from 2004 to 2009 speaks for itself.

His past two seasons speak even greater volumes.

We have bared witness to a man who has epitomized productivity; not just become a winner through circumstance but a player who has contributed to his team's getting there by actually moving them up and down the field and putting points on the board; that is the Drew Brees way.

It's also the Peyton Manning way.

Over the past 12 seasons, Manning has managed to become the most productive player in the 90-year history of the sport.

Not quite as difficult as one might imagine given the current "pass-happy" generation we're all living in; but it's so much more than that.

Manning was productive in the 1990s, the 2000s, and will continue to be next decade as well.

It's not simply the career totals; it's his consistency.

People say that it's "impossible" to compare quarterbacks of different generations, but sink your teeth into this…

There has NEVER been an NFL quarterback who has continued to produce at the respective elite-level associated with their current generation, more frequently or consistently than Peyton Manning.

You could point out the ten Pro Bowl selections during his 12-year career (the past eight years in a row), but look closer at the consistent level of production within the context of his era and realize that there has never been another quarterback to have done what he's done.

3,000 passing yards may have been enough to lead the league in the 1960s; go find me a quarterback who did it for a decade straight.

It's impossible; impossible of course, unless we're talking about Peyton Manning.

Winning Super Bowl XLIV would have certainly impacted Peyton Manning's legacy a great deal.

It's what the media needed and in-turn, it's what the people needed.

It's what we're instructed to believe, therefore; perception often equals a deluded sense of reality.

Super Bowl XLIV equated to just over five percent of Manning's 2009 season.

Within that five percent's time-span, he fell just short of destiny.

It's disappointing.

It's disappointing to Manning, it's disappointing to the Colts, and it's disappointing to the fans.

But our resolve shall never waver.

As fans, we've been through this before.

I've been there for the "one and dones", and I've been there for our year of championship glory.

From the highs to the lows, THIS is reality.

I could stand to be bitter and I could wallow in my sorrow, but that's not me.

I'm not only a realist; I'm an optimist.

I couldn't thank the Colts enough for their 2009 season.

It was an amazing year that delivered far more satisfaction than disappointment.

We won 84 percent of the games we played; 94 percent of the games we actually tried to win.

How could I be disappointed?

Because I wasn't delivered the fairy-tale finish?

I'm not that petty.

I'm thankful.

There are fans of 30 other teams in the NFL that would love to be in the position I'm in now, and if they wouldn't, it's only because of the perception that has been built around losing Super Bowl teams.

My Colts are not losers; we've won in more ways than most could know.

We have a winning organization, great players, great coaches, greater fans, but most importantly...

We have a reason to get excited every Sunday.

That's what Peyton Manning has done for us; that's what the Colts have done for Indianapolis.

I say to each and every Saints fan, go to sleep happy tonight.

New Orleans deserves to have something to be excited about.

As a Colts fan, I'm not going to go to bed disappointed.

I'm going to go to bed optimistic.

Optimistic about 2010; that's what I'm excited about.


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