If you’ve turned on your television during the past 24 hours then you know that Peyton Manning is now the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown passes with 510. With yet another record setting feather in his cap, the conversation once again shifts to whether the elder Manning brother is in fact the greatest of all-time when it comes to the quarterback position. Peyton Manning is a great, GREAT NFL QB. In fact he is no doubt ONE of the greatest to ever play his position. But unfortunatley, in the game of football stats aren’t the be all and end all in measuring greatness. Peyton Manning will most likely finish his career with more than 100 more TD passes than Tom Brady, while also doubling the total of Joe Montana. Yet, that number is never near the top of the list of arguments that people make when debating the careers of elite QBs. Think about it, if I were to ask you 2 weeks ago who had the most touchdowns in NFL history, could you answer Brett Favre with 508? I don’t think so, but also few would seriously argue that Brett Favre is “The Goat” over Peyton Manning or Tom Brady right?
Baseball is the only sport in which statistics are held on a pedestal to trump each and every fun sports argument. But other sports don’t work like that, we talk more about playoff appearances and championships. We talk about clutch moments and what you do when it matters most. That’s what separates good players from great players and great players from being The Goat. Lets not get this confused, Peyton Manning is definitely in the conversation and is no doubt in the top percentile of his profession. But with the stakes at that high of a level, the only thing left to debate is “What you do in Winning Time” (shouts to Ahmad Rashad in that Reggie vs the Knicks doc for that one). And I’m sorry an 11-12 record in the post season including 2 disappointing losses in the Super Bowl just don’t cut it when we’re talking about the God level status of being named The Goat.
In fact while we’re here, did we all forget about Peyton’s historically bad Super Bowl embarrassment? I mean, it was only in February that most would admit that at least Tom Brady showed up for his two losses in the title game (not to mention losing on arguably two of the best catches in Super Bowl history). I mean, for me anyways Joe Montana (like Michael Jordan) are disrespected every time we have this debate because they took care of business when they got to within striking distance of winning a ring. I know that sounds harsh, but the stakes are just that high when we’re talking about the all time greats.
To me Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in the history of the game. That sounds like a back handed compliment (truth be told, I guess it kind of is) but think about it for a second. He has the most regular season MVP’s and he’ll probably end his career in at least the top 3 for most of the major QB statistical rankings. But to me the best argument in terms of Peyton’s legacy is in how he changed the game. Truth be told we’ve never seen someone step to the line while “Conducting Thangs” like Peyton Manning does. He is a quarterbacking genius, he knows what the defence is going to do before he even snaps the ball. His preparation and work ethic is unmatched and because of that he’s changed the way the game of football is played. He ushered in this era of the QB first NFL. Rules have been changed to make the league more passer friendly and the overall success and popularity of the league has grown as the faces of star quarterbacks have been pushed into the forefront. Think about it, while looking at the list of most TD passes in NFL history did you notice that Drew Brees and Tom Brady are in the top 5 all time? That’s not a coincidence, this is just a different era in the NFL in which quarterbacks benefit more than any other players on the field. So for playing in this era, should Manning’s regular season achievements mean more than say his boss John Elway or Joe Montana? I don’t think so, but that’s just me. In my opinion the GOAT debate will always come down to not only championships, but what you do in the big games. That’s why there’s that extra level of romanticism in how we look back at Joe Montana and Michael Jordan. Montana never lost in the big game, in fact he never even threw an interception in his 4 Super Bowl wins. And Mike, well we all know his resume.
That’s just how I see it, but at the end of the day, rings will always be the deciding factor of overall greatness. It’s the reason why we compare Michael Jordan to Magic and Larry, but not to Barkley and Malone. It’s the reason why Montana is compared to Brady and Elway, but not as much to Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. It’s just the way things work when we’re talking about the best athletes to ever compete in their respective sports. One thing to remember is that there’s really no right answer to “who’s the best MC Biggie, Jay Z or Nas” its just always going to be more of a subjective instead of an objective opinion and that above all, the key word is OPINION. And that’s why we love sports, because it allows us to have such interesting, yet meaningless debates over and over again.
In the end, the eras and style of play may change, but the one constant is that at the end of the season they hand out the Vince Lombardi trophy and to me until Peyton adds a few more to his mantle, I just can’t define him as “The Greatest of All Time”
Just my thoughts. Right or wrong, just how I’m feeling at the time.