Denver Broncos

Sorry Folks, Peyton Manning Is Not The Greatest Quarterback Of All-Time

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos

As the confetti got swept off of MetLife Stadium late Sunday night, two concepts revolving around Super Bowl XLVIII became extremely clear:

First, the Seattle Seahawks put together one of the greatest team efforts in Super Bowl history. They were better than the Denver Broncos in every aspect of a resounding 43-8 win.

Secondly, Peyton Manning cemented his legacy on Sunday night…and it’s not as the greatest quarterback of all-time. Don’t be sad Peyton supporters. The history of the NFL will not be able to be told without referencing Peyton Manning’s records and accomplishments.

Ultimately though, Manning will be (and should be) defined by his incredible statistical success in the regular season and…his disappointing postseason runs.

After Sunday’s loss, no quarterback in NFL history has lost more playoff games than Manning’s 12 and he is 1-2 in Super Bowls.

Yes, Manning ran into one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history as the Seahawks managed to hold the highest scoring offense in NFL history to a measly eight points.

John Elway, Manning’s boss, can certainly sympathize with his star quarterback’s plight on Sunday. Elway lost three Super Bowls early in his career in decisive fashion each time to tremendous teams.

However, not only was Elway stopped short of a Super Bowl victory but during his first three appearances, he ran into all-time performances.

In Super Bowl XXI, Phil Simms set the Super Bowl record for completion percentage (88%) by hitting on 22 of 25 passes en route to winning MVP honors in a 39-20 Giants victory.

A year later, Doug Williams and the Washington Redskins put together the greatest quarter of football in postseason history during a 42-10 thrashing of the Broncos.

Then, in Super Bowl XXIV, the ultimate insult arrived. The San Francisco 49ers set a Super Bowl record in scoring during their awe-inspiring 55-10 beatdown of Elway’s Broncos.

Elway eventually recovered by winning back-to-back Super Bowls during the 1997 and ’98 seasons during the latter stage of his career.

Historically, Elway obviously saved his legacy’s bacon with those two Super Bowl wins. Right or wrong, he is remembered for how he went out, not necessarily as the quarterback who looked woeful against the 49ers 25 years ago.

The reality is for most quarterbacks, one ring might be more than enough to satisfy their career. However, this isn’t just anyone we are talking about.

As I prepared to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday and ventured across the street to my local grocery store, I recalled one of my favorite football quotes ever from Pittsburgh Steeler great Dwight White.

During America’s Game on the 1975 Steelers, White explained his philosophy on Super Bowl teams.

“There are two categories of Super Bowl participants that nobody remembers: One, the team that lost the game. Two, the team that only one won.”

White’s quote is a streamlined way of how I look at Peyton Manning’s career. I’m not saying that because he won just one Super Bowl, he is irrelevant throughout the annals of NFL history. That would be foolish. He is an all-time great but to me, entering the mythical “greatest of all-time” status requires more than one Super Bowl ring and a certain level of play when the stakes are highest.

For example, here is a look at Manning’s game-by-game Super Bowl numbers:

GAME

COMP-ATT

YDS

TD-INT

RATING

RESULT

SB XLI vs. Chicago

25-38

247

1-1

81.8

W

SB XLIV vs. New Orleans

31-45

333

1-1

88.5

L

SB XLVIII vs. Seattle

34-49

280

1-2

73.5

L

Does that strike you as numbers from the G.O.A.T?

Without multiple rings, you can’t have a place at the dinner table in the G.O.A.T. discussion. History is always going to be ghostwritten by the winners in essence or in the NFL’s case, those who walk around with multiple Super Bowl rings.

Sadly though, it seems people are determined to give him a title of some sort just because they like him or feel that he is deserving of the title. 

While NFL Network’s Deion Sanders kept it real on Sunday night during the game’s aftermath and called Peyton out for his disappointing effort, colleague Michael Irvin admitted he hoped Manning would win so all of the “legacy talk” would drift away.

In this day and age, where people are creating stats like “playoff byes equal playoff wins” (don’t get me started on this), the media is also creating titles for Peyton. Just take a look the following paragraph that appeared in a USA Today article about Manning’s latest Super Bowl defeat: 

“If Peyton Manning comes back next year and hoists a Lombardi Trophy, all the stink from Super Bowl XLVIII disappears. If he retires with only one Super Bowl title to his name, Super Bowl XLVIII will go down as just another disappointing playoff performance for the greatest regular season quarterback in history.”

The greatest regular season quarterback in history?

Quick quiz.

Who is the greatest regular season player in baseball history?

What about basketball or hockey?

You know why someone would strain to answer these questions? Because it doesn’t matter. We live in a results-based society where winning championships is ultimately what you are judged by.

No one is sitting at a bar trying to create tags for the players that were exceptional during the regular season against inferior competition on many days.

But alas, this is where folks are at with Manning; hoping he’ll finally validate some ideology created by the media and fans.

He is not going to though. He’ll give you a couple of moments against the undermanned and understaffed teams in the playoffs. But when it comes to money time against an opponent who is equipped with the personnel to hit back, he hasn’t answered the bell in many cases.

Leading 10-0 over the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV? Threw a devastating pick-six to Tracy Porter…game over.

Home against the Chargers as defending Super Bowl champion with Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson injured?  Loss.

Home against the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens as the AFC’s number one seed? A brutal overtime interception and a loss.

Once the score became 15-0 at no point did I feel as if Manning was going to engage the game and battle through the rough start.

Surely, it’s easy to blame other entities for those losses (and rightfully so) but eventually, if we’re so quick to praise him for being football’s Mozart, he needs to shoulder a lot of blame for his postseason issues.

Lastly, almost every quarterback brought up in the “greatest ever” discussion has a career blackmark.

Montana lost his first playoff game in three straight seasons from 1985 to 87 (and almost lost his job as a result) and fell to the Giants at home in the 1990 NFC title game; Brady lost two Super Bowls to the Giants and most notably, a chance to finish a season 19-0; and Elway lost his first three Super Bowls by the combined score of 136-40.

It happens to the great ones.

Yet, to be the greatest, you can’t have the postseason resumé that Manning has accumulated over the years and have people laying claim to him being the greatest ever.

He has been one and done in the playoffs eight times; lost more playoff games than any quarterback ever, and now, lost his last two Super Bowls by a combined 52 points.

Peyton Manning will go down in history as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time…just not the greatest.

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2 replies »

  1. If the postseason record has that much influence on the Greatest of All Time, then Terry Bradshaw needs to be in the discussion. His postseason winning percentage is better than: Tom Brady, John Elway, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, and Steve Young. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger’s postseason percentage is better than all of those except Aikman.

    Even though I am a huge Steelers fan, I would not put Bradshaw in the discussion for the Greatest of All Time. I would put Peyton Manning in there.

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