It is such a letdown for a sports fan the day after the Super Bowl. February is maybe the 2nd or 3rd worst sports month on the calendar, right up there with July and August. And let’s be honest, those months most of us are golfing or at the lake so it doesn’t really matter. February…gross. Good news though is at least the economy is doing good….
Peyton Manning is really the first legendary career that I’ve watched start to finish in the NFL. I started watching the NFL in 1997, Manning was of course the 1st overall pick of the 98 draft. I remember where I was the day he was drafted. West Edmonton Mall, then the Oilers played the Leafs that night in the NHL regular season finale, got to meet Ron Low after the game.
Of course going into that draft it was heavily debated, Manning or Ryan Leaf? I watched Manning a lot that last year at Tennessee, really liked him. I couldn’t stand Ryan Leaf, and I didn’t really know why. Washington State was really good that year (went to the Rose Bowl), and he had an elite arm. There was just something about Leaf that I didn’t like. I think I liked the right guy.
Optically, that was a terrible game. I actually pegged it while writing in my preview (for once). If the Broncos were going to win, it was going to be ugly. For those who try to argue that, I’m sure even the Broncos would disagree. That’s how they want to play. One of the toughest things in sports is to get your athletes with their massive ego’s to buy into playing a boring, disgusting to watch style of play. But if they buy in, it works. So the Broncos bought in and it worked. The New Jersey Devils used to buy into that, and it worked. The 01-04 Patriots bought in, and it worked. All season people believed the Broncos were doing it all on smoke and mirrors because there was nothing pretty about how they were getting it done.
You’ll never get detractors to admit something else. Most of us are dudes, and dudes have ego’s, and have trouble admitting if or when we’re wrong. So the people who hate Peyton Manning will point to him doing nothing to win that game yesterday. It’s fair, Manning was just a game manager. But those people then have to realize that while Manning was that, Tom Brady was just that for the Patriots when they won 3 in 4 years. And if you’re a Manning hater, you’re likely a Brady apologist (Bill Simmons). When Brady was winning, the argument for Brady is that he wins. Well, right. And now Manning won. You can’t change that argument now.
It was clear when Manning came back in week 17 that he came to the realization that he wasn’t needed to be the old Peyton Manning. That’s what he was trying to be in the first half of the season. Even if he could have still been that guy, this team didn’t need him to be that guy. Just don’t lose the game, and the D will win it.
Terry Bradshaw was that guy for the Steelers in 74 and 75, and Bradshaw was a 1st overall pick who had a gun at the time. That is how you have to win sometimes. Bob Griese, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler, to a lesser extent Russell Wilson, to a lesser extent Troy Aikman, the formula works. And it isn’t good for football because the game is better when QB’s are throwing and points are being put up, but if you want to win and you have an elite D then you simply let them win the game.
Years from now though, much the same with John Elway’s 1st Super Bowl, nobody will care. Peyton Manning won 2 Super Bowls and has cemented himself as one of the all time greats. All the records. The Brady apologists won’t like this but he was 3-2 vs Brady in the playoffs (3-1 in the AFC title game). I’m a pretty massive Tom Brady fan too, but give Manning his due.
As good as Tom Brady? Joe Montana? John Elway? Probably not, he doesn’t have as many big/memorable moments as those guys had. I would say his career is very comparable with Johnny Unitas. Unitas had all the numbers. When Unitas won in 58 and 70, he didn’t really have an iconic moment (though in 58 Unitas performed maybe the first true 2 minute drive that helped send the game to OT).
Always nice to see someone go out on top, but even better in the case of a guy like Manning or Elway who get punished by fans and media for not having better head coaches or better supporting casts. I’ve made this point a million times, but Brady has Belichick, Manning took 4 different head coaches to the Super Bowl. Bradshaw had Chuck Noll, Montana had Bill Walsh, it matters A LOT. For Manning to do what he’s done, mostly without elite coaches (although Tony Dungy just got in the hall of fame), mostly without great defenses, it is pretty amazing when you think about it.
The greatest ever? Probably not, but it is debatable. One of the greatest of all time? Any debate remaining left town after yesterday.
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