It’s the time of year again. I don’t mean the lead up to the Super Bowl, but the time when we talk ourselves to death about Peyton Manning’s legacy. We simply can’t help it, but to compare Manning to fellow great quarterbacks Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas and John Elway. The problem isn’t that we’re having this discussion, but the parameters to which we start and end this debate.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote that Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time no matter what the result of next week’s Super Bowl is and I find that to be utterly hilarious. Manning will go down as one of the 10 best to ever play the most difficult position in all of sports, but to say the result of his third and possibly final appearance in the Super Bowl doesn’t matter is a little silly.
We first heard proclamations like these back in Jan. 2010 in the lead up to the Super Bowl in Miami, Fla. between Manning’s Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. At that time after leading the Colts to a 14-0 start to the season and easy wins over the Ravens and Jets in the playoffs, Manning appeared to be on the verge of his second championship in four years. Just winning a second championship still seemed strange that anyone could elevate him over Montana, who was 4-0 in the Super Bowl and didn’t have commit a turnover in those games.
The coronation for Manning in South Florida was not meant to be as New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees dominated the Indianapolis secondary and Manning threw a soul crushing pick-6 with under four minutes to play to clinch the Saints’ first Super Bowl victory, 31-17. The loss would turn into the first of three straight playoff losses for Manning. Fast forward to Jan. 2014 and Peyton is back in the Super Bowl with a loaded offense and the narrative surrounding No. 18 is back.