How much more valuable could Peyton Manning be?!

January 11, 2010
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I had to chuckle when a reporter at Peyton Manning’s press conference Saturday asked Manning if this year’s MVP honor meant more because of the stiff competition he outgunned for the award.

In case you live in a cave, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback was named National Football League MVP for a record fourth time.

Manning is no fool—on or off the field. His answer to the question was as spot on as the spirals he throws between the white lines on Sundays.

He praised Drew Brees, Brett Favre and the rest of the MVP candidates. But c’mon. The disparity between Manning and the rest is greater than the beat down the Baltimore Ravens put on the New England Patriots Sunday.
It’s like comparing Johnny Unitas to Bert Jones. Both fine former Colts quarterbacks who piloted their teams to the playoffs, but really, no comparison.

I said on this blog earlier this season, that in time, the tellers of history who know anything about football will call Peyton Manning the best quarterback ever to lace up the cleats and don a helmet. I stand by that, but I’d add this: It’s by a very wide margin.
There’s no Mount Rushmore of Quarterbacks. It’s simply Manning … then everyone else. Manning will never ever say that, but that’s the way it is.

Then I get to listen to Mike Greenberg wax poetic on ESPN Radio this morning, and he unleashes this pearl: Manning might … (might!) be considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, who knows, maybe even the greatest … especially if he can win a second Super Bowl. No less an authority than Mike Golic firmly agreed.

C’mon Greenberg, I know you’re just a fan, but get in the game. Yes, I know. Brady 3, Manning 1.

But really. How much more valuable could Manning prove to be? Didn’t we all see what the Colts are without him. For more on this, see: Colts last two games this year. Good grief, Brady was replaced in Bill Belichick’s system quite nicely last year by Matt Cassel. And we all saw how well Cassel did in Kansas City this year.

A guy—any guy—can have a bad game. That doesn’t diminish his greatness over an entire career. Manning could lay a complete egg against Baltimore Saturday night (or in any other playoff game this year), and that still wouldn’t change this reality. He has lifted not only his team, but this league to a higher plateau, with his act in the locker room and with the press. And don’t forget his splendor as a pitchman.
For the record, I’m not saying Manning is as perfect off the field as he is on it. But he certainly plays the part well. And he keeps any distractions to a bare minimum.

That aside, it’s Manning’s play on the field that is truly remarkable.
Manning’s salary cap number this year is almost $19 million. That’s about 17 percent of the Colts’ entire roster. He’s worth every penny, relatively speaking. Not one player in the Colts locker room has ever grumbled out loud about Manning’s paycheck. And remember, every dollar Manning makes in this salary cap era is a dollar less for the rest of the Colts’ 52 players.

Manning isn’t so much a look at the future of quarterbacking as he is a glimpse into the past.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach was once knocked because he didn’t call his own plays. He could never be compared, football experts said, to the likes of Namath, Tarkington and Griese because his coach, Tom Landry, shuttled in the plays.
But at least Staubach didn’t tape a cheat sheet to his wrist during games. For that trick, look no further than Brady, Brees, Romo et al. I’m not saying those gentlemen aren’t good quarterbacks. But to compare them to Manning is absurd. Completely absurd.
There simply is no comparison to Manning. What he does is completely out of context. That’s why so many people don’t understand what they’re seeing.
Manning, like the great quarterbacks of the 1960s and 1970s, is calling his own plays. But instead of scratching them in the dirt back in the huddle, he’s calling them on the fly at the line of scrimmage.
It’s not an audible. There’s a big difference between changing from play A to play B because there's one more of less man in the box as opposed to assessing the defensive set-up, its strengths and weaknesses and instantly computing that against the abilities of your own personnel, putting them in place and calling the perfect play (one of dozens to choose from), then executing it nearly perfectly.
Half the stuff the Colts do on the field is only possible because the team’s game-day offensive coordinator wears a helmet and cleats.

He’s doing things that have simply never been done. Manning’s ability to take mass amounts of information, crunch it up and spit it out in one mind numbing performance after another is enough to make Bill Gates green with envy. If only Windows could harness such horsepower.

And here’s the happy part if you’re a Colts fan, and the scary part if you’re an opponent. Manning, who is in his 12th season, could play another eight seasons if he wants.
Yes, a concussion or two, or a blown knee could change all that. But Manning doesn’t take lots of hits. He’s simply too smart for that. Besides, the mind ages much more slowly than the body, and Manning's mind is his greatest weapon.

The odds of Manning playing effectively into his 40s (again, if he so desires) is greater than for any other quarterback currently playing the game. OK, Favre obviously must be included in this part of the discussion.

Still, I laugh at the notion that Favre is putting the all-time quarterbacking records out of Manning’s range by hanging around so long. Nonsense. Manning will break every one of Favre’s records (except interceptions) and it won’t even be close. Unless he has a mid-life crisis and decides to join the Ricky Williams School of Island Living and Relaxation.

Manning, valuable? You bet.
So how much more valuable will another Super Bowl ring make him?
Well, that measuring stick is easy to compute. Manning needs one more to equal Ben Roethlisberger, two more to equal Brady and former Dallas QB Troy Aikman and three more to tie Terry Bradshaw.

Anyone can understand those numbers. They’re enough to make the biggest bandwagon fans stand up and cheer.

But when that cheering dies down, consider this: The real relative value of what Manning does? Impossible to compute.
Because Super Bowl rings or no, there simply is no comparison to this piece of history we’re watching.

  • Manning
    As soon as Manning gets four Super Bowl rings maybe I'll read the last 2/3 of this article.
    • Peyton Manning and Willie Mays
      George: Counting Super Bowl rings as the measure of a football player's greatness is as footless as counting World Series rings for baseball players. Few people question that Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player of his era, even though he had only 1 championship ring and Mickey Mantle had 7. Mantle was a great, great player; but he was not the best. Mays was the greatest because, like Peyton Manning, he understood the game better than anyone else on the field. He would set the defenses and even call the pitches. But, no matter how great his ability, he could not win a team game by himself. Neither can Manning. That the Colts have even 1 championship is as much of a miracle as the 1954 Giants beating the Indians. The people in Indianapolis are as lucky as we Giants fans of the 1950s and 1960s were. They get to see someone who will never come this way again.
    • to put into Dolphin terms...
      Peyton Manning has the brains of Bob Griese and the passing ability of Dan Marino. That is indeed scary.
    • Ridiculous
      I love how the author of this article thinks that Manning is better becasue he doesn't "tape a cheatsheet to his wrist". That is straight stupid. The "cheat sheet' that those other QBs wear doesn't help them with the plays at all. It is the method in which the coach relays the plays to the QB. To say that Manning is better because the Colts don't use that method to relay the plays to the QB is ridiculous.

      And Superbowls do matter. The Colts can go 14-0 every year if they want. What is embarrassing is how many times those fantastic records have gotten them into the big game.
    • Cheat sheet
      Jason, you just made the author's point. Manning doesn't need a mehanism to have plays called into him. He's calling the shots all by himself. And what to you mean, it doesn't help them with the plays. It's a memory mechanism. If they can't remember what the plays are, what else can't they remember. These other boys are mere desk top PCs. Manning is the mainframe computer.
    • Cheat Sheet 2

      Just because Tom Moore calls the name of the plays over the helmet speaker instead of a code which Manning then uses to look up the play on his wrist doesn't make him better. In the end, they both get the same information. One is just said audibly (through the helmet speaker) and the other is read off the wrist. But they both get the play name.

      And Manning doesn't call his own plays. Tom Moore sends 3 plays into him (1 pass and 2 runs) and Manning decides which to run. So when it comes to passing, Manning is doing what all the other QBs are doing, running the play that the coach called. Why does this make him better than the others?
    • Losers
      I agree Peyton is an incredible QB, maybe on of the best. However, he is not God, nor is he perfect. He had similar stats to Favre and Brees, and both had slightly better with INT's (for Favre) and TD's (for Brees). To say the others don't compare to him, is idiotic. Favre for example. Had better stats in the categories of INTs and Passer Rating. And he did it on a complete new team. He also complete 40+ receptions to 6 different receivers. While Manning passed the ball mainly to Wayne and Clark (100+ receptions each) so for people to say he had all new receivers is also idiotic.

      The MVP award is clearly a popularity contest and therefore holds no weight to me any longer. Brees got it yanked from him last year, and Favre got it this year because the press only enjoys writing about him everyday, but won't give him votes.

      Manning is excellent, and any team would be lucky to have him, but he still had the same team minus a few key players. His offensive line was great and kept him alive.

      Favre turned no names into stars, with Rice, Harvin, etc. Brees did the same with others such as Thomas, etc.

      As for the thing on the others arm. Who cares, is that a reason why you think Manning is better? He is just good as kissing the media's butt. So they love him and vote for him. But if they actually went off stats, it would be a different matter.

      And don't give me the crap that while Manning played they were 14-0. He did great, but half of those 7 4th qtr comebacks were his defense.

      Also, Favre and Brees both sat alot in the 4th qtr this year, so their stats may have even been higher. Not bad for a 40 year old and a QB that plays for the Saints.
    • I heard Tom Moore
      I heard Tom Moore say he sends in "suggested" plays to Manning. Peyton is the only NFL QB who gets suggestions and not mandates. There's no Favre-Childress like disputes in Indy. There's a reason for that. Seriously, Tom Moore is a solid offensive mind, but I'm not sure I would argue that he's a greater offensive mind than Peyton Manning.
    • Peyton
      Interesting rendition while P. Manning is absolutely the best there is currently, winning a 2nd Super Bowl puts him on a plane with 5 others that have that distinction (Starr, Staubach, Griese, Plunkett and Elway) and yes I know when Starr won the intial 2 it was not called the Super Bowl but they are included in all list of Super BOwl winners. Also I am sure Joe Montana would find it interesting that he didn't even make your list even though he guided the 49ers to 4 Super Bowl wins.
      Instead of getting all wigged out on Manning being the greatest enjoy the run because when he retires it can be an ugly period. If you don't believe that just ask anyone who has followed the Chicago Bulls post MJ.
      Good luck this week.
    • not all inclusive
      Sorry, Tony, the list was intended to give examples, and not be an all-inclusive list. Point taken, though, Montana definitely should be included in any discussion of great quarterbacks.
    • Just curious
      Just curious, who you fellas would chose to build your team around? Age notwithstanding is there a quarterback in the league right now that you would even consider trading Manning for straight up? If you have a rational mind, I think the answer is solidly "no."
    • I am surprised there are this many Ravens fans on the IBJ website. still can't get over the move huh? Let it go guys.
    • He's been with us ... a reference to MJ (Michael Jordan), there was one of those columns where there's a list of 1-2-3 sentences of brief thoughts. One of them was very appropriate to our situation with Peyton:

      "He'll be with us less than he's already been with us.

      We shouldn't be in a rush to squeeze everything to a point of panic, but I'd hope there's something beyond one SB: I'm not talking about the owners & front office executives saying, "3 consecutive" is our goal.

      Question: should the day come where the Colts have the ability to sign a high-caliber rusher, even as a bargain sale, would they?

      And there's one last, stupid question:

      What happens if Peyton gets hurt? I'm not talking about career-ending, but if he were to go out, even at the last minute of the SB, what will happen?

      Is Painter in a good spot? He can't be very motivated with the treatment of the fans. He has to be a good sport, knowing it's not him they're booing & hissing.
    • like all the greats...

      No, We should not listen to Manning because he does not have 4 rings (like you said), but we should also not listen to that small business owner down the street because his company (or he) isn't worth millions. Just because someone hasn't received the Ultimate goal of their career, doesn't mean they know the game the best and knows how to command their company or team in a fashion that is well respectable and can hit their mark over and over again (in good times and in bad).

      For that matter, shall we credit Bill Gates (only) for the success of Windows (regardless the ups and downs of each version *cough* vista *cough*). The Super Bowl win is the success of the whole team out performing everyone else, just like the success of Microsoft is the success of the whole team and not just the Iconic person of the team (Gates or Manning).

      To be honest, we shall also credit all of Manning's teammates to his success. If it wasn't for them, it wouldn't matter how he tries to get play the ball. Manning's success shows that it doesn't matter who he gets the ball to, as long as the person is aware and awake during the game.

      Yes Super Bowls do matter to an extent, but not completely. If you remember, the season before Colts won Super Bowl, Manning won the MVP. How many people can win MVP without winning a Super Bowl first? I seriously don't know that one.

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