Is Peyton Manning underpaid?

November 23, 2009
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ESPN studio analysts Tom Jackson and Trent Dilfer said yesterday what I have thought has been obvious for the last three years. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the NFL signal callers.

Yes, better than Brett Favre, Drew Brees and even Tom Brady. Manning and Brady have been held up side-by-side in recent years as the quarterback gold standard. And I have always thought that was ridiculous. Other than being an avid observer of the game for better than 35 years, I have no particular expertise in the game of football or playing the quarterback position.

I did have a pretty embarassing career playing for St. Mark's in the rough and tumble southside CYO league, but that's a story for another time.

But in recent years I thought it was pretty obvious that no quarterback has propped up his offense or his team more than Manning.

Does he have good receivers, a super tight end and a very solid offensive line? No doubt. Does he make everyone around him better? It's difficult to argue against that. Has he had the coaching genius behind him that Brady has all these years? I like Tony Dungy a lot, but I’d have to say no. And I think you could make an argument that Brady has been backed by a better defense for the span of his career than Manning has.

But don’t take my word for it. After all, I’m just a business writer. Jackson and Dilfer, though, are two guys who played the game. And while no one would confuse Dilfer with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, he did play the position at the pro level. And his analysis of the game seems better than his ability to play it.

I was feeling pretty vindicated at Jackson and Dilfer’s admission, then they took it a step further. They agreed that Manning is not only the best active quarterback, but the best that ever played the game—by a considerable margin.

“When they evaluate [Manning’s] entire career, and you look at all the quarterbacks that ever played this game, I think you’ll have Peyton Manning on one level, then you’ll have all the rest,” Jackson said Sunday following the Colts victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Then Dilfer said something I could sink my teeth into as a sports business reporter. “And I think he’s underpaid,” Dilfer said.

That’s no small claim. Manning’s salary cap number this year is almost $19 million. That’s about 17 percent of the Colts’ entire roster. Manning’s cap number this season is more than $4 million higher than Brady’s, $5 million more than Carson Palmer’s, more than double Ben Roethlisberger’s and more than triple Kurt Warner’s.

Underpaid? Hmmm. I puzzled over that one.

Then I considered what No. 18 did to the Dolphins, Texans, Titans and Patriots this year, just to name a few.

And I concluded that Peyton Manning is a better value than any black Friday door buster. And more productive than all the elves at the North Pole combined.



  • Lets Be Real
    I think your letting your enthusiasm get in the way of logical business sense.

    Don't get me wrong,I appreciate Peyton Mannings skills, however giving a football player a long term contract of a least $18.7 per year is ludacris on many different levels.

    Don't forget most outrageous NFL salaries are not paid from ticket sales or broadcasting revenues, but taxpayer subsidies.

    Do you think the worst player on the team should get $295,000 a year to be a practice rushing dummy which sits on the bench most of the time?

    Get a look at the entire teams salaries.
    • Lets Really Be Real
      Nick -

      Seriously? Do you honestly believe that there is a "taxpayer subsidy" that pays salaries for professional football players? I defy you, while doing your "research" to find me one shred of certifiable, documentary evidence, or anything even credible, from any reliable source, that proves that any dollar from any subsidy funded by public money lands in the hands of Peyton Manning or any other football player. That is simply a ridiculous claim based on uneducated speculation and rumor.

      On the real topic of player salaries, there are definitely some ridiculous numbers on the Colt's salary roster but I do not believe Peyton Manning's to be the one (LOTS of money to players who haven't actually played in years, etc.) Looking just at Manning's number, however . . . considering he is one of if not the top quarterback in the NFL and has been for years AND is currently functioning, for all intents and purposes, as a QB, Offensive Coach, Offensive Coordinator, player mentor, and, to the majority of the World, the face of the Colts and sometimes the face of the City of Indianapolis . . . he's underpaid.
      • Just right
        i think he is paid - just right. he is not the only face of Indianapolis. There is also IRL, Bird with the Pacers, the rest of the colts, Bobby Knight, Simon Brothers, Tony Dungy, Lilly, and... and... you know what, your right. He is underpaid.
      • Lets Really Really Be Real
        Seriously? Underpaid? Ask any unemployed person if Manning is underpaid and I'm sure you'll get a resounding NO! I love football but there are more important things in the world right now than whether Peyton needs another few million dollars.
      • he should get
        At this point, Peyton should get part of Tom Moore's salary, and probably Jim Caldwell's too. No player in the NFL is more worth their salary than Peyton. As for where his salary comes from ... it's the national TV revenue stream plus the addition of in-stadium revenue. The stadium built on the backs of taxpayers is what allows a lot of these revenue streams, but it's not a direct link.
      • Do not agree
        When I think of the game's greatest quarterbacks, I always think of ones that won superbowls. The great ones always play great in the playoffs. Overall, Manning's playoff performances are not stellar.
        • Great Quarterback
          In reply to BN. Yeah think of all the great superbowl winners, the likes of Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Eli Manning, Mark Rypien, etc, etc.. All of these QBs are clearly on the same level as Peyton Manning...
        • Facts
          Here is the information you requested.

          #8 Indianapolis Colts Team Valuations

        • Nick is wrong
 valuation has nothing to do with how salaries are paid. That's simply a measure of what the franchise could fetch on the market if Mr. Irsay were to want to sell the team. It's an asset valuation, not a cash flow analysis.

          Fact is, better than 70 percent -- perhaps more -- of every team's salary cap hit is covered by the revenue sharing each team gets from the league's TV contracts.
        • Nick is Right
          The operating income calculations and other insights into cash flow are at the bottom of the Forbes Team valuation web page.

          NFL broadcast revenue sharing breakouts are closely guarded, but it is fair to plug in the standard $100 million documented in the following Washington Post link.

          After you have reviewed this information, call Ann Lathrop at the CIB and David Frick at the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority and try to get them to tell you the total annual taxpayer subsidy and debt service.

          I'm sure you will clearly see that the taxpayers are the majority stakeholder of the team with no ownership or revenue rights.

          Colts $100 million NFL Revenue Sharing

          Capital Improvement Board Financials

          Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority

          • Nick proved himself wrong
            Nick, this is your quote:

            "Don't forget most outrageous NFL salaries are not paid from ticket sales or broadcasting revenues, but taxpayer subsidies."

            Now, going with what you stated as the standard assumption of teams receiving $100 million per season from revenue sharing, and given the league's $128 million cap for 2009, then how can your quote be true?

            Furthermore, just what is this taxpayer subsidy to which you refer? The Colts new lease at LOS eliminated the annual payments the CIB was making to the Colts. True, taxpayers are covering the debt service on the building, but they also own the building.

            You're just trying to stir up dust without any factual basis.
          • Come on
            Peyton Manning is one of the few best quarterbacks today (maybe even the best), a first-ballot Hall of Famer and is in the discussion as the greatest QB ever. That should be enough. Don't discredit all the other great QBs by suggesting Manning is "head-and-shoulders" better. Stats don't lie. He's great, but there are others playing at his level.
          • Peyton is one of the greatest ever. Lets wait till his career is over and then look at the whole of his work, not just a segment to decide who is the greatest.

            Brady is good, but he benefits from a solid team as well. Brady goes down for a season and the patsys barely miss the playoffs. Manning goes down, the Colts are 4 and 12. Peyton much better QB.

          • Further comment on BN's quote "When I think of the game's greatest quarterbacks, I always think of ones that won superbowls." Peyton won a Superbowl, or did you miss 2006? Or do you not consider Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon, Jim Everett, Jim Kelly or Dan Fouts to be great QB's?

            If one is not enough for you, then I guess Favre is not a great QB?
          • Big Picture

            In the real estate business, the first thing you should know is that the building is a liability. The asset is the revenue from tenant payments plus building naming rights, parking, vending, advertising, etc..

            We own a $750 million dollar building that has only one tenant that uses it a couple months of the year. That tenant essentially pays no rent or operating expenses, yet gets ALL the revenue traditionally reserved for the landlord. In fact, the landlord (taxpayers) pay this tenant about $10+ million a year to use our stadium for free. Yes, we do pay annual fees to the Colts.(Look at the CIB financials)

            Now if they don't have to pay approximately $50 million in annual debt service, avoid another $50 million in annual operating expenses, and pocket another $35+ million annually in traditional landlord revenue, it frees up all that NFL revenue sharing and ticket money to go into the players salaries and into Jim's own pocket.

            Of course this is when the Colts claim the world surround them and take credit for all economic activity in the state during the NFL season calling it "indirect" economic impact.

            I would rather they pay us rent in cash.
          • Nick,

            Do you believe what you typed, or are you just trying to stir trouble?

            "only one tenant that uses it a couple months of the year." The facilty is used about 200 times a year, and that is before the CC expansion draws in more events. NCAA, IHSAA, Circle City Classic, FFA, FDIC, are all tennants who use the facility every year.

            "That tenant essentially pays no rent or operating expenses" The Colts paid $100 million towards the construction of the stadium, and pay $250,000 a year in rent. Sounds like more than nothing.

            "yet gets ALL the revenue traditionally reserved for the landlord" Not true, they half of all nonfootball revenue goes to the CIB.

            The experts, including Mark Rosentraub, the author of Major League Losers, would disagree with your ideas about what caused Indy to go from India"NO"place to a destination city that dozens of competitors are trying to emulate.

            Read his latest book, Major League Winners: How Some Cities Turned Subsides for Sports and Culture Into New Downtowns. It pretty much explains how Indy turned major league sports into an engine to drive downtown growth.

            Please get your facts straight and then post, it really makes life easier for the rest of us.

          • Funny
            "The Colts paid $100 million towards the construction of the stadium, and pay $250,000 a year in rent."


            The Colts put no money into the new stadium. The $100 million "Colts contribution" consisted of a taxpayer funded "break up" fee (because we wanted to build them a new stadium) and a loan from the NFL.

            $250,000 in rent is nothing. It isn't enough to pay a exterminator company to get rid of the rodents in the kitchen. Heck, they pay $295,000 to EACH of the 10 worst Colts players just to warm the bench.

            And YES, the CIB has to pay the Colts $3.5 million or 50% of all Non-Colts event revenue, which ever is greater, for doing absolutely NOTHING.
          • Unfortunately you have fallen for the old arguement that the Colts are paying nothing for the facility.

            The loan from the NFL is based on anticipated revenues owed to Irsay which is very similar to a bank giving you a loan for a house or car based on your expected earnings for a set period of time. So not sure how that is not putting money into the stadium.

            The "break up fee" is actually a negotiated agreement to get the city out of a costly contract.

            The city agreed years ago to pay the Colts make up money, out of the tax coffers, to keep the Colts at the middle of the pack of NFL teams in revenue. That payment was expected to be about $15 to $20 million a year for the life of the contract which I think had 6 years left on it. That means the City was legally on the hook for paying the Colts between $90 and $120 million dollar.

            If the City broke the contract for whatever reason, we would be liable not only for that money, but also damages as well. To keep from losing the guaranteed NCAA Final Fours over the next 30 years, we had to either majorly revamp the dome or build new. To keep from losing major conventions and to attract new ones, we had to expand the CC which could only be done feasibly on the Dome site. Thus the quandry. So a deal was made that allowed us to buy out the guaranteed contract from the Colts for $30 or $40 some million (thus the Colts were giving up $60 to $90 million in guaranteed money). In return, they agreed to add the contract buy out money to the loan money to equal the $100 million they gave as their portion. They could have played hardball, demanded the original contract be honored and not contributed a cent. Then the City would have had to pay millions and had nothing to show for it.

            So I think claiming "The Colts put no money into the new stadium" is patently false. You may think they got a sweet heart deal, but they did invest $100 million of their dollars to the project and gave up guaranteed money for the promise of additional money as a partner in the stadium.
          • To finish a long winded post, I think the city will gain with the Colts as a financial and marketing partner in the stadium. If the Colts draw more business, football and non football, they gain and so does the City.

            A good demonstration of this is the naming rights deal. Mayor Peterson gave them the rights assuming they would only bring a million or so a year. Instead we should have parnterned and with them for a percentage. Due to the Colts marketing prowess, what RCA was paying $1 million for, Lucas Oil paid $6 million. I am doubting the City could have pulled off that deal.

            The city may have given too much to keep the Colts, hindsight shows Bart was very eager to not be the Mayor to lose them. But no matter what we spent, the last decade has shown their importance to our city pride, our marketability and to our bottom line.

            Finally, your last paragraph sure contrasts with this quote from your previous post. " yet gets ALL the revenue traditionally reserved for the landlord."

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