Is Peyton Manning Done as an Elite NFL Quarterback?

Paul CatalanoContributor IIDecember 5, 2010

Some guys....well, the media just love to see them fail. They knock them when they fail and then question their success when they succeed. Peyton Manning is one of those guys.

First, at Tennessee, it was that he couldn't beat Florida. Then ESPN said that he was too cerebral and that Ryan Leaf was a better draft pick. Then, when he was successful in the NFL, it was he couldn't win the big one. So Ahe won the big one, and now, it's he failed to lead a dynasty. Right. s if the rest of the team had nothing to do with that.

The latest knock is that he's slipping; that Peyton Manning is not the player he once was. That he's living off his reputation.

Oh, please. Sure, he's not dominating like he once was. But let's look at all the facts before we start shouting that the sky is falling.

Let's start with a few stats. The Colts offense, in 11 games has 256 running attempts and 486 passing attempts. Why? Well, because the Colts can't run the ball. At all. The Colts are fourth-worst in the league at running the ball, with 82 yards a game.

In the five games in November the Colts earned, via the ground game, 340 yards in 102 attempts. That's 3.33 yards a carry. In the Colts' five losses, the running backs ran for a total of 3.1 ypc. In short, Manning rightly feels that to score points, he has to do it all himself.

And because of that, Manning has completed and thrown more passes than anyone in the league. Manning has thrown for 182 first downs, 13 more than second place New Orleans and 52 more than the league average. Indianapolis passing offense is rated first in the league all while defenses know what's he's going to do.

Well, so what, Manning has great receivers, right?

Well, the Colts' injury list looks like their regular season roster. Pro Bowl TE Dallas Clark and starter Anthony Gonzalez are out for the season as is backup TE, Tom Santi. TE Jacob Tamme is banged up as well, leaving the Colts relying on undrafted rookie Brody Eldridge, a fullback by trade, as a potential starting tight end. Oh, and he's banged up as well.

Starting WR Austin Collie has played three quarters in the last five games, leaving the Colts giving undrafted WR Blair White a lot of playing time. The running backs are in no better shape than the receivers. Joseph Addai, Donald Brown and Mike Hart are hurt with Addai and Hart out and Donald Brown—questionable—as the healthiest running back of the three of them. Undrafted Javarris James (2.0 ypc) backs him up.

Also, Manning's offensive line this year is a shambles. Former second round pick and left tackle Tony Ugoh was so awful he was cut before the season, leaving journeyman Charlie Johnson as Manning's main protector. According to, Johnson is the 28th rated left tackle in the league.

The rest of the line is composed of undrafted rookie and second-year players and banged-up regulars. The result is an offensive line who can't pass protect for more than two seconds and who haven't a clue about run blocking. And with Addai out, Manning loses his best blitz protector. 

As a result, Manning has to pass to get yards. And passing too much, with a banged up line, leaves opposing defensive lines salivating. They know Peyton has to pass, and they know the Colts offensive line can't hold them for long. So they can rush just four defenders and get to Manning, and leave seven in coverage and make it difficult for Manning to find anyone open.

Despite all that, Manning has completed a sixth-best 65.6 percent of his passes—and his 2.3 percent interception rating, amazing considering the amount of passes he's thrown—is down from last year, and is lower than Aaron Rodgers', Drew Brees' and Phillip Rivers'. Using guys like Blair White, Jacob Tamme and Gijon Robinson, Manning still is second best in the NFL with 22 TDs.

Is Manning not playing as well as he has? No question—he's not the world-beater he once was. Trying to do too much has made Manning less consistent and less effective. Yet despite his less-than-Manning-like stats, Manning may be having his finest hour. What other quarterback under similar circumstances could do what Manning is doing?

Take Drew Brees' weapons and offensive line away and would he have the Saints in playoff contention? If Ben Rothelisberger lost Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall, Heath Miller and Antwan Randle El, would he have the Steelers atop his division? We he take undrafted players and make them better than they could ever be? Doubtful.

To say that Peyton Manning is living off his reputation is not just foolish, it's willfully stupid. It's a writer with an agenda trying to take a shot against a player. A hack ignoring reality and attempting to conjure up an issue. Guys like that make me ill.

The facts are that Peyton Manning one day will decline. He wont take over the way he once could and make the throws he once could. But that day is not now.