It’s every player’s dream to go out on top. How fitting is it for an all-time great player to go out a winner, with their lasting image of them hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Fortunately for all of us, that is happening with Peyton Manning.
We all know that Manning had a terrible 2015-16 season, at least for his standards. But all of that will be forgotten because he rides into the sunset a Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
He owns the NFL record in pass yards and touchdowns, has the most wins in NFL history with 200, won the most MVPs in league history with five, was comeback player of the year at age 35, and was a remarkable 14-time pro bowler.
People like to point out his postseason record and compare it to Tom Brady’s, but Manning still won 14 playoff games and four AFC crowns. And while his overall record against Brady wasn’t the best, Peyton went 3-1 against him in AFC Championship games, winning when it truly mattered. The 2007 AFC Championship game is still one of the best NFL games ever played and was the biggest comeback in conference championship game history.
The Manning-Brady rivalry is one of the all-time great rivalries as well. There have always been great matchups between legendary quarterbacks, but not at the frequency of Manning and Brady. They met an incredible 17 times, a record that probably will never be touched. And it seemed like each game was special. Brady won the first six games, but once Manning got over the hump, the series was 6-5 Peyton. 12 of the 17 games played between them were decided by 10 points or less. The six rings between the two speaks for itself.
In 2011, he had major neck surgery that would’ve ended most player’s careers. And honestly, if 2010 had been his last season, he still would be considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. But he came back with the Broncos, and went 45-12 in 57 regular season starts with Denver. His numbers were awful this past season, but he still went 7-2 in his nine starts before his injury. He also went 3-0 in the playoffs.
But maybe 2015 was his greatest year of his career because he adjusted his style of play to help the team. He realized that there wasn’t much gas left in the tank, and he took a backseat and let Gary Kubiak direct the team it needed to go to win the Super Bowl. The greatest gun slinger in NFL history became the greatest game manager in league history, and he got a second ring because of it.
Manning changed the way the position was played. He was the ultimate in-game adjuster, constantly yelling audibles at the line. He elevated the likes of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Demaryius Thomas, and so on and so forth. From 2003-2006, he only threw 39 interceptions. He had 137 touchdowns in that time frame.
Simply put, Manning will go down as a top five quarterback of all time. I wrote a blog over a year ago, calling Peyton the greatest quarterback of all time. And while we tried to be as objective as possible in our formula of the GOAT, it doesn’t really matter who the GOAT is. Whether you pick Montana, Brady, Manning, Favre, or even Otto Graham, all of those men have one thing in common: they’re winners.
Manning’s legacy was cemented on Sunday, February 7, 2016, when he redeemed himself from the embarrassment of Super Bowl 48 by getting a victory over the Panthers, giving him two Super Bowls and letting him leave the game right where he should be: on top.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.