Peyton Manning’s Legacy

January 29th, 2014

Peyton Manning never fails to amaze me.


He’s certainly succeeded in wowing me, and the rest of the nation, with his special 2013 season.


Critics decrying a lack of Super Bowl jewelry on Manning’s fingers have been silenced by his record-busting season.


But with a win on Super Bowl Sunday, does Manning enter the  company of legends, such as former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, as one of the best quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (1966-present)?


Ever since I can remember, I’ve been watching Peyton Manning tear apart opposing offenses. His outstanding abilities and one-of-a-kind football mind leaves me at a loss for words.


Maybe part of my respect for him stems from the lack of a superstar quarterback on a Browns roster since 1999.


Growing up, he was one of my favorite NFL players not wearing orange and brown.


In all my years of watching the University of Tennessee product, this is the best he’s ever been.


Manning set NFL single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) in 2013 while throwing just 10 interceptions, his lowest total since 2006.


There are many possibilities for his off-the-charts season. He has dangerous weapons such as Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. He’s beginning to become accustomed to the Denver offense.


Whatever the reason, this shouldn’t be happening. In most sports – especially in a physical sport like football – player performance declines with age. Quarterbacks are not like fine wines.


So, at the age of 37, Manning’s performance is remarkable.


Playing for the Chiefs in 1993, Montana threw for 2,144 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions at age 37. Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and former Steelers signalcaller Terry Bradshaw, who have seven Super Bowl victories between them, were both done by age 35.


Manning was in the spotlight for much of the season. But now, ironically, as the biggest game of his career approaches, the spotlight shines elsewhere.


The media circus surrounding the Super Bowl has swirled around Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.


What many are missing is that this game will define Manning.


There is no guarantee that the Broncos will make the big game next year. This might be Manning’s last shot at another ring.


I personally don’t think it’s completely fair, but many football fans will judge Manning solely by his number of Super Bowl wins.


Should Manning lose this game, most will forget his Super Bowl XLI victory over the Chicago Bears. It will be brushed aside as a fluke. Manning will likely be thought of as a quarterback who lost his last two Super Bowls and couldn’t win clutch games.


Should Manning lead the Broncos to victory, he’ll be one of the best quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era.


Sunday will decide his legacy.