5 Things We Will Remember About Peyton Manning
Arguably the most transcendent football player of this generation officially announced his retirement in Denver Monday.
In a tearful, heartfelt, tribute to all who influenced him throughout the course of his 18 year career, Peyton Manning put down the final signature on what’s been one of the most magnificent careers in professional sports.
Peyton Manning — the Volunteer, the Colt, the Bronco, the Papa John’s spokesman … excluding the occasional pizza and Oreo spot, the ride is finally over.
Previous all-time quarterbacks such as Unitas, Bradshaw, Montana, Marino and Favre, are all remembered for certain traits or qualities, some more flattering than others.
In my humble opinion, there’s only a small handful, albeit very important, things Peyton Manning will always be remembered for…
Going out on top
The modern Elway? No. But possibly more impressive.
At 39-years-old, it was obvious from the beginning of the 2015 season Manning had nothing left. Not only did he have no zip on his passes, the dude was a walking a mummy — an expose revealing the Broncos quarterback couldn’t even bend over to take off his own cleats. Remember when he got benched in favor or Brock Osweiler? Ya, that was just two months ago.
Still, with Father Time not just knocking on his door but busting it down, and with an arm that couldn’t out-throw your local high school football star, Manning, with the help of a stellar Denver defense, still defied all odds and took home his second Super Bowl title last month.
The win over Carolina wasn’t just a huge upset, the win gave Manning his 200th career win, a new record in which he surpassed Brett Favre’s 199 wins.
For a guy who continually got beat up in the playoffs by Tom Brady and got embarrassed in Super Bowl XLVIII by a dominant Seahawks team, Manning couldn’t have chose a better exit.
The last quarterback to retire going out on top? John Elway. However, Manning is the first to do it with after winning a Super Bowl with a previous team (Indianapolis). How fitting that it was Elway (the current Denver GM) who took a chance on Manning four years ago following a risky neck surgery that could have meant the end of the quarterback’s career.
But, he wasn’t clutch in the playoffs, right?
He was clutch enough to grab two Super Bowls titles … but he wasn’t Tom Brady.
Although Manning owns most, if not all, the major quarterback NFL records, the media has painted a picture that Manning hasn’t ever been as clutch in the playoffs as he should have been.
Although a young Manning wreaked havoc on the NFL, it took him nearly a decade to get to his first Super Bowl, the one where his Colts beat the Bears 29-17. But by that point, the impressions of Manning not being clutch had already set in — six playoff appearances, only once did Manning lead his Colts to the AFC championship game where they lost to, you guessed it, Tom Brady and Patriots.
Which brings us to …
The Manning vs. Brady Rivalry
Brady won each of the first six games in which he faced Manning from 2001-05. In fact, Brady went 11-6 against Manning during their careers. But Manning is actually 6-5 over the last 11 games and holds a 3-2 edge over Brady in AFC Championship games.
The debate over who was better will live on for generations. Some will look at Manning’s 2-2 record in Super Bowls and say he was inferior to Brady, while others will see Manning’s jaw dropping video-game-like numbers and declare him the best quarterback of all-time.
In reality, both Manning and Brady have had different personnel and management that have contributed to their paths to success. They’re both amazing. They’re both transcendent. And each of the 17 times they met, it was magical.
The offensive mastermind
Manning was such an offensive guru that he literally changed how the quarterback position is perceived and developed.
Maybe he had a head start because he’s the son of Archie Manning, or maybe he really is a magical wizard, but Manning transcended the sport because of his work ethic before the ball was even snapped.
Manning was the first quarterback to master the art of reading defenses, calling the correct audible (sometimes more than once before a snap) and executing the best play that would exploit the defense … again, all of this to perfection. It’s the reason there’s a Peyton Manning Quarterback Camp that has helped develop players such as Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford and Marcus Mariota.
Need more proof he dominated every defense for the past 18 years? Below is a list of all the major NFL records Manning holds as he retires, courtesy of SB Nation:
NFL career passing touchdown record: 539
Most passing yards, career: 71,940
Single season touchdown record (2013): 55
Most passing yards, season (2013): 5,477
Most wins (including playoffs): 200
Most games throwing for 300+ yards: 93
Most passing touchdowns in a single game (tied, 2013): 7
Most games with a passing rating higher than 105: 97
Most games with a perfect passer rating of 158.3: 5
Most seasons with 350+ completions: 10
Most games completing 80-percent passing: 19
Most game-winning drives: 56
Most comeback wins: 45
Highest completion percentage in a postseason game with 450+ yards (2005): 81.8
Highest yards-per-game, season (2013): 342.31
Most games with 4+ touchdown passes: 25
Most seasons passing for 4,000+ yards: 14
Most consecutive seasons with 25+ touchdowns: 13
One of two quarterbacks to ever beat all 32 teams (along with Brett Favre)
First quarterback to beat 31 franchises: 2007
Most Associated Press NFL MVP awards: 5 (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013)
But even after all the numbers and influence, there may be a blemish …
Being the ‘ah-shucks’ kinda guy
Close your eyes …. well, read this sentence first — Imagine Manning hanging out and talking to everyone in the room … Okay, now close your eyes and vision it ….
Whether you envisioned Manning in the locker room or in his most recent Papa John’s commercial, you likely saw him with a calm but fun demeanor, talking in that home-grown, affable country accent. It’s charming as hell. And it could also be a facade.
The timing is questionable, but the re-release of news into Manning’s sexual assault allegations while at Tennessee in 1996 have raised eyebrows. Also does the possible delivery of HGH in his wife’s name.
Whether Manning simply mooned a former UT trainer or took human-growth-hormone to get through a final season in which he couldn’t even put on his pads unassisted, shouldn’t be of huge concern. However, if there’s more to those stories, which is certainly possible, then it’s also likely we’ll be hearing more news on Manning long after his last snap on the football field.
The likeliest scenario? People want to like Manning, so they will.
He’s been such a beloved figure in American sports for so long and has a such a tight PR shield wrapped around him that nothing is likely to damage his legacy. After all, we all see the ‘ah shucks’ kinda guy who just wants to drink Budweiser after big wins. We all want Manning to be that guy — the simple country boy who lived the dream. We all want to BE that guy.
So Manning will go down in the books as one of the greatest sports figures in American history, who possibly has some dirty laundry. But who doesn’t?