With a victory in the Super Bowl, Peyton no longer is The Manning Who Would Be King.
Peyton’s Peak will be a mile high.
Move over, Pike. Say it’s so, Joe. Accept it, Dan, Brett & Bart, Tom & Terry, Slingin’ Sammy and Automatic Otto and John Elway and Johnny Unitas.
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If Manning and the Broncos win, No. 18, all things considered, will be the No. 1 quarterback in the history of the NFL.
The argument should end.
Five months ago, during training camp, I point-blank asked Manning to respond to the characterization that he could be the greatest regular-season quarterback of all time. Even though he chuckled, he knew the assertion wasn’t a compliment. “Everyone can have an opinion,” he said with a rare hint of defiance. “I have my own.”
I then asked about his legacy. As he always does after winning a coin toss, Peyton deferred.
A few days later, Peyton began the most spectacular regular season a quarterback has produced.
The “regular season” scarlet imprint can be removed forever on Sunday with a victory in the Super Bowl.
It has been debated, discussed, declared, and determined, by most, that Manning couldn’t be the king.
Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw own four Super Bowl title rings. Tom Brady had the advantage in Super Bowls and in games played against Manning, and he broke Peyton’s touchdown record. Brett Favre had the most victories; Dan Marino had the arm; John Elway had the comebacks, the natural talent and the two Super Bowl titles; Johnny Unitas had the legend. Peyton’s younger brother had two championships.
So, how could Peyton Manning be the best and above the rest?
In the NBA, Bill Russell finished with the most championships. Was he the greatest? No. Michael Jordan is the king … because he is.
Wayne Gretzky was nicknamed “The Great One.” Was he the greatest? Yes, we all know that Gretzky was the king … because he is.
What about baseball? Although he didn’t have the numbers or the titles, Willie Mays was the king … because he is.
Here’s what Manning has accomplished:
At age 37, after recovering from four neck surgeries (and a risky surgical procedure he doesn’t talk about), and after coming to a new team and a new town, he has won 28 of 35 games and set every season passing record in the league’s annals.
He will earn an unparalleled fifth NFL MVP award this week. He has been selected to more Pro Bowls (13) than any other quarterback. He has won the second-most games of any quarterback in league history. In 13 of 15 seasons he has been to the postseason, won division titles and finished with double-digit victories. He has the highest number of game-winning drives. He holds or shares 55 regular-season and postseason records. He is the smartest quarterback and the hardest-working man in football.
He is, alas, 1-1 in Super Bowls.
He won’t win the most postseason games and Super Bowls. He probably won’t pass Favre in victories. He never had the strongest arm, or the most mobility.
But, you know what? Beat Seattle, and he will be King Peyton The First.
Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Willie Mays and Peyton Manning belong on sports’ Mount Rushmore … because they are the four kings.