Peyton Manning Legacy Tarnished After Super Bowl XLVIII Loss
By Nick Zelano
BU News Service
Peyton Manning jogged onto the field with his head held high. He had made it to his third Super Bowl and he was more prepared than anyone. He was calm, cool and collected per usual for the Manning quarterback. He had studied the Seattle Seahawks defense for hours and hours over the last two weeks and he knew he could handle anything. The script was written for the perfect evening. Even the February New York weather was cooperating for Manning. All was left was to play the game and cement his place as the greatest quarterback of all time.
America watched as the MVP stood behind the line of scrimmage, analyzing the Seattle defense and making audibles in a way only Manning could. The matchup was perfect, the Seahawks’ immovable defense versus the Denver Broncos’ unstoppable offense. Viewers didn’t have to wait very long to see which side would give. The very first snap of the game soared high, wide and over the head of Manning and into the end zone for a safety. Just 12 seconds into the game and Seattle was already up 2-0. This trend continued for four whole quarters for a finishing score of 43-8, in favor of the birds.
Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdown-best-ever-MVP-season for a quarterback ended with a game in which he threw just one touchdown (well two if you count the pick six to Super Bowl MVP Malcom Smith). Manning’s legacy was talked about over and over again in the two weeks prior to this game. He is revered among all NFL players, current and former. He is one of just three quarterbacks in NFL history to take two different teams to a Super Bowl. He now has the record for most touchdowns (55) and most yards (5,477) in a season for any quarterback in NFL history. He is the only player ever to win five regular season MVP awards.
Manning has the numbers, the awards, and the records to back up the argument that he is one of the greatest to ever play the game. I have always argued that Manning, as an individual player, is the greatest quarterback of all time and that includes being better than Tom Brady. And why shouldn’t I have? Manning just beat all of Brady’s records from the “best season ever”. The 18-1 Patriots of 2007, whom only lost in the Super Bowl due to “dumb luck” if you ask a Pats fan, had the greatest offense of all time prior to this Manning led Bronco offense flying right past them. Manning has more touchdowns, more wins, more MVPs and better individual statistics than Brady. The only point that Patriot fans and Brady lovers had against my argument was that Brady had a better post season record, and three measly rings he won over a decade ago.
With that argument in mind, I was all prepared to write this great, long, detailed argumentative story today explaining why Manning’s legacy was no longer in doubt after a winning his second ring. I was going to prove all Manning haters wrong, using his second ring as my leverage to argue that over the last 10 years, Manning has been the better quarterback both in the regular and post seasons. He would have won two Super Bowls in three tries compared to Brady’s 0-2 record in two trips. Manning would have had the best regular season ever, and a winning record in the playoffs at 12-11. I was ready to cement his legacy as the #Greatest.To.Ever.Play.
Before last night I always said that rings, overall win-loss record and even post season win-loss records were all team accomplishments and therefore should not be attached to an argument regarding best individual player. The game is a team sport and therefore team achievements, like wins and championships, cannot be credited to one person. To give a single player all of the credit for the hard work and dedication of a team is simply wrong. The same can go for losing. With that in mind I understand the entirety of Manning’s legacy does not lie solely on losing big games or Super Bowls. The losses are not entirely his fault just like wins are not entirely his fault. However last night changed my opinion on him in a way that forced me to admit something I never wanted to admit.
I still don’t think that having a ring, or even two for that matter, means a whole lot when discussing how talented or skilled an individual player is. Team accomplishments cannot measure the greatness of one player or his talents. Much like the Lebron James comparison many people make, greatest NBA player of his time but for years he couldn’t win in the playoffs. It doesn’t take away from how good of a player he was before he finally won a ring and yet that is all people knocked him for. As for Peyton, he won it all once before, he has all of the individual records and he has all of the talent in the world. It was hard for me to knock him for a lack of winning in the playoffs and only one ring.
Last night could not have better illustrated just how wrong I was. In a game where Manning was pressured, knocked down, twice intercepted, and embarrassed he was able to still achieve some individual greatness. Peyton Manning is now the proud owner of yet another record, the most completions in a Super Bowl game with 34. Demaryius Thomas shared in the wealth of almost half of those completions by catching 13 passes, a Super Bowl record for catches, for 118 yards and the only Denver touchdown. Even in the third worst defeat in Super Bowl history, Manning still was able to somehow show individual greatness, and it was all for nothing.
Manning was not the lone reason that the Broncos lost this game, in fact he was one of many reasons they lost, however he didn’t help very much. His 34 completions look great on paper, just like every other record owns in his amazing career. However what last night proved, is that even in the face of greatness, even when breaking records, even when the lights are the brightest, winning is everything. We will never be able to know if the Patriots could have won Super Bowl XLVII, and we won’t know what could have happened if you gave Brady this roster, but one thing we do know, is that Manning lost again. He is now 1-2 in Super Bowls, 11-12 in the playoffs. His 12 losses in the playoffs are the most by a quarterback ever. Brady’s 18 playoff wins, are the most ever.
I have been forced to now concede my “Manning is better than Brady” argument due to the one fact I thought didn’t matter, wins. Like I said before, losing games are not solely due to one player. Manning is not to be blamed for any of his losses in big games because without him, you don’t get to the there. I want to be very clear about this, Manning is still one of the greatest to ever suit up for the NFL, he is still a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is extremely talented and beyond intelligent when it comes to the game of football.
Yet, the truth of the matter is that Manning simply cannot win the big games, he never has and he never will. Brady has always been a winner and he will continue to give his team a chance to win when it matters most, the playoffs. It is for that lone reason that I have to finally admit that Brady is a better quarterback, a better NFL player, than Manning. Both are all time greats, but it is finally proven that Brady is better.
As for the Broncos, I do not know what will happen in the future. I do not know if another 13-3 season is in the balance for us next year nor can I tell you if they will reach another Super Bowl. What I can tell you is that as long as Manning is the quarterback, the Broncos will not win a Super Bowl.