History is riddled with examples of leaders toppled by their own mistakes. Napoleon had Waterloo. General Custer had Little Big Horn. President Clinton had Lewinsky.
None have apparently fallen farther or quicker than Peyton Manning.
Before the Super Bowl, there was a lot of talk that Peyton Manning could be crowned as the greatest quarterback ever to play should he be victorious against the Saints.
After the Colts' defeat, Manning's legacy fell like a rock. He was suddenly ranked somewhere between Billy Joe Tolliver and Babe Laufenberg.
Every columnist, beat writer, or average joe with an axe to grind against Manning came flooding onto the Internet. He's overrated. He chokes. He makes too many commercials.
Soon, there was a rally cry among Manning supporters, eager to point out his impressive stats and his Super Bowl victory.
It's important to note that I'm not writing specifically to rank Manning's historical impact on the NFL. If Manning's stats, records, and Super Bowl championship aren't enough to get you to put him into a discussion of the greatest quarterbacks, then there's no way you can handle a reasonable discussion.
And that, really, is the point to my writing.
Homerism is a necessary evil in NFL terms. The massive popularity of the league can be attributed to the rabid support of its fans.
Fans generally pledge a strong allegiance to their team, but outside of supporting the team as a whole, fans are quick to throw their support around their quarterback.
No other position in the league can say that. Some wide receivers may entertain or irritate with their antics, but it's quarterbacks, not wide receivers, that usually get the majority of the glory after a win or the blame after a defeat.
Where homerism goes awry is how asinine the arguments can get in either direction for a particular quarterback.
Take the arguments against Manning. Manning was quickly attacked for his interception in the Super Bowl. His legacy was supposedly tarnished because of the loss to New Orleans. How could be considered the greatest with a mere 9-9 record in the playoffs?
Those that wish to bring Manning down focus on the nine defeats and ignore the nine victories. Stats can be a great barometer to determine the worth of a player, but only when all the stats are used.
Berating Manning as a failure because of Super Bowl loss means you have to ignore his stellar performances in the 2009 and 2006 AFC Championship games. It means ignoring the fact that he's a Super Bowl MVP.
Manning is one of three quarterbacks to have won a Super Bowl and be ranked in the top five in career passing yardage, touchdowns, and completions. The others are Favre, who has a similar post season record at 13-11, and John Elway.
It's impressive company no matter how you look at it. Those who ignore Manning's accomplishments are really making futile arguments.
Still, to take Manning and claim he's the quarterback messiah is just another way of playing the stats in your favor.
Even with a Super Bowl victory over the Saints, it's impossible to put Manning head and shoulders above every other quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Manning has his faults to go with his abilities. In his nine playoff losses, there have been times Manning hasn't played particularly well. His four-interception game in the 2003 AFC Champion could be categorized as downright awful.
Manning has been brilliant in his career, but he hasn't played well in every single game.
What quarterback has?
And that's really what homerism avoids. No one wants to admit that their hero has made mistakes, but every quarterback has his faults.
Favre has a playoff record like Manning. Brady's just 5-4 in his last nine playoff contests.
Even Montana, who has a flawless championship record, spent the years between his Super Bowls losing three straight playoff games without throwing a single touchdown pass.
I love debates as much as the next person, but a debate is when both sides of a position can be argued. It's not a debate if you blindly ignore half the facts.
I know homerism can't be taken out of the equation. A little homerism is a good thing. It defines us as fans of the league.
But just like society in general, there's a few out there that tend to take things to the extreme. Losing, and even winning, can bring the ugly side of people out sometimes.
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