Peyton Manning was recently voted the 8th best football player in NFL history by the NFL Network. He's on pace to own or at least compete to own most of the all-time passing records in the NFL. He's a perennial Pro-Bowler and is often thought of as the greatest quarterback of his generation. Yet I feel like Peyton has been very underwhelming in the playoffs for his career.
As great as Peyton has been in the regular season, he's been as mediocre in the playoffs. Of course Colts' fans and Manning' fans will tell you that it's because of the defense, or the lack of running game, or that you shouldn't judge players for the playoff performances. They would argue that what Peyton has accomplished in the regular season outweighs all of his playoff letdowns.
A lot of Manning and Colts' fans would argue that if Peyton had a great defense like the Pittsburgh Steelers for example, he would have multiple Super Bowl rings by now. This is one of the biggest myths about Peyton. 12 times Peyton's defense has given up 21 or less points in playoff games. In those twelve games Peyton and the Colts are 6-6. That's .500. That's average.
It's also very mediocre when you consider other great quarterbacks records in the same situation.
Records for quarterbacks when their team gives up 21 or less points:
- Dan Marino 7-1
- John Elway 10-1
- Tom Brady 12-1
- Joe Montana 12-2
- Steve Young 4-1
- Brett Favre 11-1
- Bart Starr 8-1
- John Unitas 6-2
- Terry Bradshaw 13-2
- Bob Griese 6-2
- Roger Staubach 11-4
- Fran Tarkenton 6-2
- Troy Aikman 10-1
- Ben Roethlisberger 6-0
This is a staggering indictment of Peyton. After a first round loss to the New York Jets Saturday night, in which the Colts defense gave up just 17 points, put Peyton as 9-10, below .500, as a starter in the playoffs. For someone that many consider the greatest of all-time, that's unacceptable. He's also thrown multiple interceptions in five playoff games and the Colts have lost three out of those games.
Manning is now the only quarterback that is considered an all-time great that has a career postseason winning percentage below 500. Manning has never been a big-game quarterback. Do you remember when Manning threw four interceptions and one touchdowns in the 2003 AFC Championship game? How about last year's Super Bowl, in which the game was 24-17 and Peyton threw a pick six to seal the loss.
Manning apologists will say that it's his team. Has any player played around more pro-bowlers than Manning. Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, the list goes on. In 2005 the Colts finished 14-2 and had the second best defense in the league. The Colts lost in their only playoff game that year and Peyton's defense only gave up 21 points.
The only Super Bowl that Peyton has won, was won by his team in spite of him. In the 2006 playoffs, Peyton had three touchdown passes and seven interceptions and the team somehow won the Super Bowl. The won all four playoff games because of great play by the defense and a very good running game. They even won a playoff game that year against the Baltimore Ravens in which Peyton had zero touchdown passes and two interceptions, and completed just 50 percent of passes.
What is the point of all this? It's simple, Peyton has regressed in the playoffs. In the regular season he's a different quarterback. In the regular season he's elite. I'd even argue that either he, Brett Favre, or Dan Marino is the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time. Unfortunately for Peyton, what you do in the playoffs is what you're remembered by. That's when everyone plays their best and hardest. Peyton hasn't done that.
Peyton is a great quarterback but because of his shortcomings in the postseason I'll never consider him the greatest of all-time, and it makes him a tad overrated.