When it comes to debating sports, one of the more popular and overdone questions is, “Who’s the best quarterback in NFL history?”
Ask a group of people for their opinions and you’re bound to get answers ranging from Joe Montana to John Elway to Johnny Unitas to Tom Brady. Dan Marino? Maybe. Brett Favre? You could make an argument. But what about Peyton Manning?
While the NFL continues to transition and evolve into a pass-first, point-oriented league dominated by efficiency, Manning and the Denver Broncos seem to be the ones paving the way for the NFL’s new future.
Through just five games this season, the Broncos are undefeated and are averaging a mind-blowing 46 points per game, a full 15 points better than the next best team. Most, if not all, of that success is due to the dominant play at the quarterback position from Manning.
Considering he’s in his 16th NFL season, one might expect Manning to start to show signs of aging and slowing down. Instead, he’s doing the exact opposite as he seems to be improving day by day, which is a scary thought for a four-time MVP.
In the history of the NFL, we’ve seen some pretty outstanding individual seasons from quarterbacks – but nothing quite like this. What Manning is doing this season is almost beyond human; he’s playing chess with opposing defenses and he’s beating them every single time.
Well, maybe not every time. After all, there was that one, single interception he threw against Dallas. Outside of that interception, he’s been flawless.
Consider the following stats from Manning (in just five games): 20 touchdown passes, one interception, 376.8 passing yards per game, 75.8 completion percentage.
As gaudy and absurd as the stats look, believe me, they don’t do Manning nearly enough justice. And if you think those statistics have your mind spinning, imagine what opposing defensive coordinators are thinking. Manning is torturing opposing defenses, forcing them to lose sleep and question their every move. Not only does Manning affect the defenses he lines up against, but also the opposing offenses he’s playing against.
Any quarterback that’s facing the Broncos immediately feels an immense amount of pressure to not just put any kind of points on the board, but touchdowns, specifically. Because, frankly, if you don’t score a touchdown when you have the ball, you can almost be guaranteed that Manning will score one when he has the ball. This, in turn, instantly turns every game into a shootout between Manning and his opponent. Manning forces you to play his game, and he doesn’t lose often. That’s the real beauty of it; Manning is dominating the quarterback position so completely and utterly that he’s dictating every phase of the game.
Perhaps the craziest part of Manning’s success this season is not just the fact that he’s 37 years old, but that, as of two years ago, some people thought we would never see him play again.
Manning underwent numerous neck surgeries in 2011 and many began to doubt whether or not he’d ever return to his old form, or whether he’d be able to come back at all. To put it short and simply, I think he’s silenced all of those critics – and then some.
After spending 14 seasons in Indianapolis, the last of which he missed entirely due to injury, Manning signed with the Broncos in March 2012. In his first season back from injury and at the helm for the Broncos, Manning tossed 37 touchdowns – the second-highest single season mark of his career.
This year, Manning is currently on pace for 64 passing touchdowns and 6,016 passing yards – both marks that would completely shatter the current records of 50 and 5,476, respectively.
While I certainly understand that “on pace” almost never extrapolates to those numbers, I’m certainly not ruling out the possibilities with Manning. With a plethora of offensive weapons on his side, it’s easy to see why Manning is having such a phenomenal season – but no one, probably not even Peyton himself, foresaw a season like this.
It’s early yet, but Manning’s 2013 campaign could go down as the single best season by a quarterback in the history of football. Let that sink in for a second, but not too long, because while you’re taking time to comprehend all of this, Manning is probably two steps ahead and throwing a touchdown against your team.