Before and after the Seahawks dominating win over the Broncos last Sunday much of the conversation centered around Peyton Manning and what Super Bowl XLVIII would do for his legacy. I think it’s a fair question if we agree that he’s one of the all-time greats and cinch first ballot Hall of Famer. When we get into who’s the greatest of all-time — that’s where it gets a little sticky for Mr. Manning.
Better quarterback better ingredients! I think you can make the argument he’s best the regular season quarterback ever. He just wins baby and smashes records doing it. What he did in 2013 regular season was off the charts and earned him an unprecedented 5th league MVP award. If they crowned the champion after week 17 it would be all hail Peyton, but the games that mean the most are called the playoffs (cue Jim Mora) and that’s where this great quarterback trends closer to ordinary.
Here’s what the numbers show. In 23 playoff games (only 7 on the road) Manning is below .500 at 11-12. I won’t say he can’t win the big one because he’s won 3 AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. Yes, he was Super Bowl MVP in the Colts win over the Bears but rather ordinary that post-season throwing 7 interceptions to 4 touchdowns. In his defense his post-season QB rating is better than Brady, Elway, Marino, Favre, and Unitas.
He hasn’t been God-awful but he hasn’t been the same guy who wins 70% of his regular season games.
Eight times Peyton has been one and done in the playoffs. Despite all his greatness he’s had those ugly moments on the big stage. The pick-6 that the Saints turned into a Super Bowl championship, the stinker against Seattle last Sunday that included another pick-6 and 3 Manning turnovers. The Bronco’s looked like a Super Bowl team after the 2012 season but Manning was intercepted by Corey Graham in overtime and it was the Ravens not the Bronco’s hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Of those I would consider the greatest of all-time only Manning and Dan Marino (8-10) had losing records in the post-season. Bart Starr isn’t the best of the best but he was the best in the big games. Starr lost his first playoff game and apparently didn’t like it because he never lost in the post-season again. The loss came in Philadelphia in the 1960 championship game, over the next 7 years he won 9 straight games, 5 NFL Championships and two Super Bowl MVP’s. Lets take a look at some of the other greats in the post season.
Terry Bradshaw– Not in the greatest conversation, but he was 4-0 in Super Bowls and 14-5 in post-season.
Tom Brady– Has won 3 Super Bowls and lost 2 with an 18-8 record. His QB rating slightly less than Manning’s despite throwing 6 more TD’s and 2 less interceptions (43/22).
John Elway– He went 14-8 with 27 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, his QB rating 68.9. Remember he couldn’t win the big one until he won Super Bowls the last 2 years of his career.
Brett Favre– Split 2 Super Bowls, 13-11 in the post-season. Has thrown more TD passes than Manning and Brady and only 1 less than Montana, but as you’d expect elevated INT’s (44/30).
Otto Graham– Before my time, but one of the best. He lead the Browns to 7 Championships in 10 years and was 9-3 in the post-season. Played in a championship game every year of his career.
Dan Marino– Greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl. His 8-10 record included his final playoff game a 63-0 loss to Jacksonville. 32 touchdowns, 24 interceptions.
Joe Montana– A perfect 4-0 record in the Super Bowl and 16-7 in the post-season. Montana’s QB rating a terrific 95.6. Might be the best big-game QB ever (45/21).
John Unitas– Lead the Baltimore Colts to titles in 1958, ’59 and Super Bowl V. Went 6-3 in the post season. The numbers tell you he was ordinary, he completed 53% of his passes with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was anything but ordinary, Johnny U re-defined the position and was light years ahead of his time.
Peyton Manning deserves to be in the conversation of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time but his post-season flaws make him one of the best, but not the best.