Let that title sink in for a moment, process it.
You mad? You shocked? Or are you nodding your head in agreement? Yeah, I thought so.
Let me be perfectly clear on what I'm about to say, because the ability to misconstrue this message will be easy to do. Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the game of football today, no question. Peyton Manning is ONE of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, no question.
However, I will not sit here and let the media, other pundits of the game of football, and bandwagon, "oh, I only watch the Super Bowl" football fans sit here and preach this gospel that Peyton Manning plays the game of football like no one ever before in history, and that he is the greatest quarterback of all-time. It is disrespectful to others who have played the game before him, and we cannot let our present day memory erase things we've seen and/or heard in the past.
Reason #1: The man, along with his team, is reminiscent of the Atlanta Braves.
14-2, 12-4, 13-3, 12-4, 14-2, 12-4, 12-4, 10-6, 6-10, 10-6, 13-3.
That's the record of the Indianapolis Colts each season since 1999; since the ascension of Peyton Manning as an elite QB. Truly an awesome display of winning regular season football games. The Atlanta Braves in baseball won 14 straight division titles in the National League East. Very similar right?
How many championships to the two teams have? One apiece.
Now, I'm not that stupid. I know that you cannot force all of the blame on Peyton for not winning more championships, but I feel like at Ed The Sports Fan I can keep it 100 with you all. Peyton Manning and the Colts got the easiest game for a Super Bowl that I've ever seen in Super 39 against the Bears. Manning throughout his career has struggled MIGHTILY in the playoffs. He's never been able to beat San Diego in the postseason, and for the simple fact that Norv Turner put in possibly the worst game plan against the Jets makes me infuriated. It took 3 tries to finally get over the Patriots hump, with the 38-34 battle AFC Championship game in '06 going down as one of the greatest games of all-time.
You don't want to be like the Atlanta Braves, trust me I'm a fan of ATL, so the feeling is (Charles Barkley voice) turrible.
Reason #2: He's not even the best QB of his generation.
Tom Brady, 3 rings. Peyton Manning 1 ring. Pretty simple, right?
"Oh well, no. Peyton's been successful statistically longer than Brady. He's just better."
Here are some all-time stats to compare.
Single-Season Passing TDs: #1. T. Brady, 50 ('07) #2. P. Manning, 49 ('04)
Single-Season Passer Rating: #1. P. Manning, 121.1 ('04) #2. T. Brady, 117.2 ('07)
Single-Season Passing Yards: #4. T. Brady , 4,806 ('07) #16. P. Manning, 4,557 ('04)
Career Pass Comp %: #4. P. Manning, 64.8% #9. T. Brady 63.3%
Career Yards/Game: #1. P. Manning, 261.1 #7. T. Brady 239.1
Interceptions: P. Manning 181 in 12 seasons (15/year), T. Brady 99 in 10 seasons (10/year)
Playoff Record: Patriots are 2-1 over the Colts in the playoffs.
Oh, and as a reminder.
REPEAT: Tom Brady, 3 rings. Peyton Manning 1 ring. Pretty simple, right?
Reason #3: Peyton Manning isn't the best all-time quarterback of his own franchise.
That, my friends, would be Johnny Unitas.
Football is different than other sports, where time can adjust the progression of a sport so that the game can progress. In baseball, dimensions of a baseball field have shrunk. Baseball bats have improved, and they have this stuff called HGH...yeah. In basketball, the evolution of athletes and an "above-the-rim" style of play, plus the advent of defensive restrictions have made offense easier in basketball.
In football? They would kick people out of the league on the defensive side of the ball if folks did in games what they did back in the 1960's.
Think about it, you could clothesline, jam receivers all the way down the field, and pass interference was only called if someone got mauled while attempting to catch the ball. Mind you also that Unitas was the preeminent quarterback in his day, called all of his own plays, and played in cleats that nowadays would resemble something along the lines of Chuck Taylor's with spikes on the bottom. Peyton Manning's game is a direct mirror image of Unitas, and Unitas was the original holder of all the records. Take into the account that teams initially only played in 12, then 14-game seasons and you realize how handicapped statistically he is.
Then there is one other important factor in this.
Johnny Unitas - 3 NFL Championships (1 Super Bowl)
Peyton Manning - 1 NFL Championship (1 Super Bowl)
You pay homage to the legends and respect your elders for a reason, and it applies in the same manner here. Unitas > Manning
So what am I saying here on the precipice of Super Bowl 44 in Miami as the Indianapolis Colts face the New Orleans Saints? Peyton Manning has the chance to make history on Sunday night.
However, its not for the title of best quarterback of all-time. Of course, its not something that he's pushing for, but if you listen to the media this is what's on the line. Right now Peyton Manning is just above Dan Marino for greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Dan Marino's run as a quarterback is parallel to Manning's minus a Super Bowl, even though some will argue to this day that Marino is THE BEST quarterback of all-time, rings or not. Peyton still has time to ascend, his career isn't up any time soon, the problem is you can't crown the man until he's earned the crown. Where is Denny Green...
There's still an upper echelon of all-time great QBs that he has to get up to. Unitas, Bradshaw, Elway, Montana, Favre, and Tom Brady. With a win Sunday he leaves the Aikman, Steve Young, Kurt Warner, Phil Simms pack and moves into the elite, but if he doesn't win...then he elevates his opponent, Drew Brees, into the same tier of QBs with him. Will that happen? Well, we've got two days left to find out.
(Ed's pick to win Super Bowl 44: Heart says Saints, Mind says Colts. Colts 30, Saints 20.)