Peyton Manning confuses us. He’s undoubtedly one of the top two or three regular-season quarterbacks in history with just silly numbers.
In 240 career games, Manning has passed for 64,964 yards, just a tick over 270 yards per game. He has 491 touchdown passes to 219 interceptions. He has a 65.5 percent completion percentage and a 97.2 quarterback rating.
He ranks second all-time in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating and is tied for four in completion percentage. As a starter, he is 167-73.
We haven’t gotten to the confusing part yet. But you problem know where we’re going.
Manning threw 49 passes Sunday in Denver’s 43-8 Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks and completed 30 for 280 yards and one touchdown. His numbers were pretty good. Denver’s were not.
And the question becomes: How much of the loss is on Manning?
He couldn’t escape Seattle’s front seven, which put pressure on him from the outset. He didn’t have a lot of time to throw, so most of his 30 completions were to receivers who hadn’t advanced very far down the field.
And with the loss, Manning’s postseason record drops to 11-12, including 1-2 in Super Bowls.
As a postseason passer, Manning has completed 64.3 percent of his passes (572 of 889) for 6,589 yards, an average of 286 yards per game. He has thrown for 37 touchdowns and been intercepted 24 times. His QB rating is 89.2. All of those numbers are a tick below what he’s done in the regular season, which is understandable. The competition is better.
Still, how great is the great Manning? And how many levels of greatness are there? Is he kind of great, pretty darn great, the greatest of all time? How do we quantify greatness among quarterbacks in the NFL?
I think we have to start with Super Bowls, right?
Manning has now quarterbacked in three of them. And he is nowhere close to being among the top 10 quarterbacks when it comes to overall rating among those who have played in at least two Super Bowls.
Here’s the Top 10 list:
1. Joe Montana (4) 127.83
2. Jim Plunkett (2) 122-83
3. Terry Bradshaw (4) 112.80
4. Troy Aikman (3) 111.93
5. Bart Starr (2) 105.98
6. Brett Favre (2) 97.61
7. Roger Staubach (4) 96.33
8. Tom Brady (5) 96.02
9. Kurt Warner (3) 95.94
10. Eli Manning (2) 94.90
Peyton Manning’s quarterback rating in three Super Bowls is 81.0.
And don’t pretend that doesn’t matter. It does.
Who amongst those Top 10 would you take ahead of Manning? Montana, probably. Maybe Brady? Anyone else?
How many on that list qualify as great quarterbacks? Plunkett certainly doesn’t, yet he had two outstanding Super Bowls on football’s biggest stage. Even Manning’s brother, Eli, was able to win a couple of Super Bowls and performed at a high level in both. He’s no Peyton, though.
The argument for Peyton Manning being one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play is an easy one. Critics point out his 11-12 postseason record. Proponents point out his 23 postseason games. He makes teams better. He sometimes makes them great.
But Manning will be 38 next season. He barely missed taking Denver to a Super Bowl last season when the Broncos were beaten on a long touchdown pass by Baltimore. This season, the Broncos were clearly the class of an inferior AFC.
Can Manning win a Super Bowl in Denver? Is that the only way to judge him?
Probably not, but the legacy of quarterbacks isn’t made in the regular season.
Manning does have one Super Bowl win. He does have three Super Bowl appearances. But that 11-12 postseason record sticks out. It’s impossible to ignore. And while it’s valid to point out that teams, not quarterbacks, win and lose games, it’s also true that QBs are judged most by their postseason successes and failures.
Look at Brady. New England hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 10 years. And while Brady has three titles, it’s the long void that is discussed most these days.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson is 1-0 in Super Bowls. He’s the hot commodity among quarterbacks at the moment. He’ll be signing all of the lucrative sponsorship deals during the offseason.
Manning, meanwhile, will stew about another opportunity gone awry. Badly awry.
While Wilson was escaping trouble Sunday, using his legs to create space and time, Manning appeared to be stuck in mud. The contrast was stark.
Manning had one of the greatest regular seasons in NFL history at the age of 37. He passed for 55 touchdowns, for goodness sakes.
But in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of professional sports, Manning gets low marks. Being the best in the regular season is nice. But it’s not the measuring stick.