RedEye

Peyton Manning's legacy is assured, regardless of Sunday's outcome

If I hear one more time in a talk-radio discussion that Peyton Manning's legacy will be tainted if he can't win another Super Bowl, my head might explode.

Peyton Manning has nothing left to prove. Period. His legacy is established at least as one of the best quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL. You can make an argument that he is the best.

What he did during the regular season defies description. Fifty-five touchdown passes, 5,477 passing yards, a 115.1 quarterback rating, for a 37-year-old quarterback after his fourth neck surgery? Please, Peyton Manning is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.

True, Manning's teams have won only one Super Bowl. You'll notice I said Manning's teams have won only one; I didn't say Manning has won only one. There's a reason for that: Quarterbacks, no matter how good, can carry their teams only so far.

The argument that quarterbacks have to win Super Bowls to be considered in the highest echelon historically doesn't make sense; there are too many other elements out of the quarterback's control: defense, a running game, line play, running game, etc.

Manning has historically played — and won — with teams that had suspect defenses. Only twice in his 13 playoff seasons has his team's defense been ranked in the top 13 in the league; and the year he did win the Super Bowl, in the 2006 season with the Indianapolis Colts, he was good enough to help overcome a defense that was ranked 19th.

The Times' national NFL columnist Sam Farmer, whose sense of perspective and breadth of knowledge on the league rank with anyone covering the NFL, also bristles at the idea that QBs are defined by their winning percentages.

"It's a marketing tool for the NFL to attach wins and losses to the value of a quarterback," Farmer said. "I don't think that's accurate ....

"Some people have grown to accept that quarterbacks should be rated the way pitchers in baseball are, with wins and losses defining them. It's farcical."

Manning won two playoff games in the 2009 season with a rushing game that was ranked last in the NFL and a defense that was ranked 26th.

Tom Brady, whose Patriots have won three Super Bowls with him at quarterback, isn't facing the same absurd legacy questions that Manning is right now. But Manning and Brady have individual playoff statistics that are very similar. Of course, in Brady's 11 playoff seasons, the Patriots have had a top-10 defense nine times.

And had Manning operated his entire career with one extraordinary coach as Brady has with Bill Belichick, and operated with a defense as strong as the Patriots have had, it's safe to assume his Super Bowl victories would have been substantially higher.

It's really pretty simple: Manning should be evaluated for his performances, which have been extraordinary, not for the shortcomings around him.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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