This record-setting quarterback is the greatest quarterback the National Football League has ever seen.
On February 7, 2016, Quarterback Peyton Manning won his second career Super Bowl by defeating the Carolina Panthers 24-10 with the Denver Broncos. Many speculated that this would be his final game in a National Football League (NFL) uniform. Understandably, Manning refused to give a straight answer on whether Super Bowl 50 would be the last time he steps foot on an NFL field. All he was focused on was that he was able to celebrate his second championship and bringing the city of Denver their third Super Bowl championship.
On March 7, 2016, speculation finally ended when Manning formally announced his retirement from the NFL. After 18 seasons, he finally decided it was time to walk away from the sport while he is on top.
Many football analysts and fans alike argue that Manning should have retired a year or two earlier. As a huge Peyton Manning fan, I agree with the majority that he should have retired earlier. Statistically, the 2015 season was his worst season since he joined the league in 1998. In his final three years in the league, he has been battling nagging injuries that have limited his play and production on the field. It was so bad, he found himself on the bench for a good portion of the 2015 season in favor of an inexperienced Brock Osweiler. While Osweiler played well in his starts, he eventually lost the job to the experienced, yet fragile Manning for the remainder of the season.
Disregarding his 2014 season onward, Peyton Manning has had seasons where he broke many records. His most notable season in recent memory is his 2013 season, where he broke the record for passing touchdowns in a season with 55 and passing yards in a season with 5,477 yards. He went on to lead the Denver Broncos to 13-3 record and to Super Bowl 48, where they would eventually get blown out by the Seattle Seahawks. The 2013 season would be the season where Manning earned his record 5th Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the regular season.
Manning also has spent the majority of his career setting and breaking all time records held by the likes of Brett Favre. Along with being a 5 time MVP, he is a 14 time Pro Bowler, tied with the most with Tony Gonzalez, Bruce Matthews, and Merlin Olsen. He is also the all time leader in touchdown passes wit 539 career touchdowns and passing yards with 71,940 career yards. He also passed Brett Favre with the most career wins with 200 (including postseason).
Many will have an issue with labeling Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time based on his performance on where it matters: the postseason. His career postseason record is 14-13, with a 2-2 record at the Super Bowl and having 9 “one and done’s.” While he has struggled with winning in the postseason, he wins with authority when he does. In the 2006 postseason where he won his first Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, he had his worst touchdown-interception ratio with 3:7. In the 2009 postseason where he lost the Super Bowl with the Colts, he had his best touchdown-interception ratio with 6:2. Quarterbacks are ones that are leaders of the football game. When he performs well, the team usually plays just as good. When he performs poorly, the team usually has to step up in order to succeed: his recent postseason speaks truth to that.
While his postseason statistics leave little to be desired, he has overall made the NFL very entertaining to watch. He was given the nickname, “The Sheriff” by ESPN analyst and former coach Jon Gruden for his audibling abilities. When a quarterback audibles, he is changing his play based on how he reads the defense. Manning has made a career of doing that and has been successful in making the audibles work. Just look at a Peyton Manning clip and listen for him say “OMAHA!” Before snapping the ball.
He has also made the NFL entertaining with his duels with his greatest competitions, notably his brother, Eli Manning, and Tom Brady. Manning and Brady have played against each other 17 times with Brady coming out on top 11 times. Many would argue that Brady is better than Manning because he has beaten him multiple times and is a 4 time Super Bowl Champion. While championships are great accolades to have, they are not the most important. The person with the most championships are usually not the greatest ever. Manning makes everyone around him, teammates and opponents, better. His matchups against Brady and Eli made them better after each game they played. While each of them have better postseason success than Peyton, neither of them impact the game or influence others as much as him.
Peyton Manning is the reason I am a diehard Indianapolis Colts fan, even after he left the team in 2011. While it made me sad to see him leave my favorite team, I still rooted for him to be successful while he was with the Broncos. Shortly after he retired, the Colts decided to retire his #18 jersey, stating “No Colt will ever wear the number 18 again.” Considering he spent the first 11 years of his career energizing and exciting Colts fan, this was extremely appropriate. No one deserve this much credit as much as he does.
Thank you, Peyton Manning for the greatest 18 years the NFL has witnessed and for going out on top as the reigning Super Bowl champion and the greatest quarterback of all time.