Opinion Article: Peyton Manning is the Greatest of All Time
In 2000, Rapper LL COOL J released an album called GOAT which stands for Greatest Of All Time. The album wasn’t the best argument for that self-proclamation, but I do want to use it for the NFL QB I consider to be the Greatest Of All Time. I know that the argument is as old as time, or at least as old as the NFL. There are a couple names already closely associated with the argument including Montana and more recently Brady. These players are two of the best ever to play the game, one is already enshrined, and the other has a spot waiting for him. As we draw closer to another Super Bowl, Tom Terrific could further his claim with an unprecedented 5th Super Bowl win. I make my argument now because it stands regardless of the outcome. The best to date solidified his claim at Super Bowl 50. That’s right, my pick for The GOAT is none other than…. Peyton Manning.
Many of you want to abandon ship on me already. Some of you likely think there are other names you would throw in the argument for the best (Elway, Marino, Bradshaw, etc.) Most of you are likely ready to tune me out purely because Brady has more hardware on one hand than Thanos. For the sake of this argument I am going to focus on the contrast between Manning and Brady. I hold the opinion that the best QBs fall into two camps, the stat monsters and the bowl monsters. The guys who have the individual numbers, and those that have the rings. Peyton and Brady represent the best of both. Arguing any QB against Peyton based on numbers is going to be difficult as is true with Brady and his Bowl wins. There are three big reasons why Peyton Manning is the greatest NFL QB of all time.
The Most Valuable Player
There is only one 5 time NFL MVP and his name is Peyton Manning. The next closest MVPs are Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas and Brett Favre, each with 3. Tom has a more than respectable MVP tally with two, but five times is unheard of. The AP MVP Award is the most illustrious award for individual performance, and Peyton is the clear cut winner here. Brady has more Super Bowl MVPs you might say which is true and will be touched on later.
A good way to measure value is to see how well the team does without you. In Brady’s case, the Patriots have a 52% rate of victory without him and Manning’s teams combined have a win rate of 38% without him. One team is above .500 one is below. Interestingly enough, both of them missed one entire season in their primes and not much else. Let’s compare those years. In 2008 the Patriots went from 12-4, 16-0 in the previous 2 seasons to 11-5 without Tom Brady… not a steep drop. In fact they went 10-6 the season he came back. The Colts lost Peyton for the 2011 season and went from 14-2, 10-6 the previous seasons to 2-14 without him. One team was still in contention with roughly the same performance and the other one fell apart. That is the definition of value.
Defense wins championships, consistency makes dynasties
Football is the ultimate team sport. Nobody wins without buy in from the entire team, coaches and ownership. Having the same chemistry and pieces in place year in and year out is key to not only winning a title but even more so in winning several. In Super Bowl history, of all repeat QB champs, only four have won with two different coaches: Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning. All other repeat winners have gotten all their victories with the coach that got them to their first which includes Brady. He has always had Bill Belichick, a HOF bound coach that has been with Brady every step of the way. Peyton on the other hand has had five different head coaches (Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, John Fox and Gary Kubiak). Of those five, he has taken four to Super Bowls. He has won two of those Super Bowls with two different coaches. Only 1 of those coaches is a bonafide Hall of Famer in Tony Dungy. Manning’s best and longest coach, Tony Dungy retired from the league after they won their only title together.
The cast of players is also key and in the older days of the NFL played a larger role when groups of players could stay together for a solid decade. Those previously mentioned QBs who won with different head coaches did so with Hall of Fame teammates that were with them the entire ride. However in recent years free agency has done a lot to even that out. There are 50 Super Bowls to date and 32 franchises. 37 of those Super Bowkls belong to only nine teams. Tom Brady has always had the backing of Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, the Patriots organization and all the phenomenal players that front office has accumulated during his time in New England. Peyton Manning not only had the parade of head coaches I previously mentioned but he also played for two different franchises, which brings up the final point.
The Claim no other NFL Quarterback can Make.
Peyton led two different franchises to Super Bowl wins. As I said, consistency is a key ingredient to success in the NFL for both head coaches and quarterbacks alike. Super Bowls victories are team victories, period. No Quarterback or coach has ever done it all by themselves and those that have won multiple times did it with some form of familiarity surrounding them. Despite lacking consistency, Peyton accomplished something in Super Bowl 50 that gives him his greatest claim of all. He won a 2nd title as starting QB for a completely different franchise.
Did he have a great performance in Super Bowl 50? No, but at his best we already knew he was virtually unstoppable. At his worst, he proved he could still lead a team and bring home a championship against a staunch defense.
Several other quarterbacks have attempted this feat in the twilight of their career. Joe Montana in Kansas City, Kurt Warner in Arizona, Brett Favre in Minnesota for example. It is challenging enough to win one or several Super Bowls with the same coach on the same team with a consistent locker room of players. Winning in two completely different situations is so rare in the NFL, it has only been done ONCE to date. No starting quarterback had won a Super Bowl with two different franchises until 2016. We still do not have a head coach that can claim that accomplishment. Peyton Manning is the lone common denominator with his two Super Bowl wins.
If Tom Brady wins another title, he will stand alone as the only QB to have 5 titles, but even if that happens he likely will not have done it without Bill Belichick, who has already proven he can plug in just about any player he wants and not skip a beat. Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett for example. Belichick is also in the argument for greatest Head Coach of all time. Who was more important to the Patriots success? Brady or Belichick? That’s all before we even consider the scandals associated with that franchise.
5 League MVPs. 4 Super Bowl appearances with 4 different Head Coaches. 2 Super Bowl Titles with 2 Franchises. Ladies and Gentlemen, to date… The Greatest of All Time is Peyton Manning.