The legacy of Peyton Manning

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Dilfer On Manning: 'He's One Of A Kind'


By PAT RALPH
College Contributor Network

This past Sunday night, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning made history by breaking Brett Favre's NFL record of most career touchdown passes in Denver's 42-17 home victory over the San Francisco 49ers. By once again showing the entire football world his dominance and greatness, Manning's record-breaking night has resurfaced the question of his legacy in the historical narrative of the NFL.

First and foremost, looking strictly at individual accomplishments, it would be very hard to argue against Manning being the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Need proof? Let's take a look at some of his records.

Outside of his new all-time touchdown passes record, Manning set the single-season record in 2013 with 55 touchdown passes. In addition, Manning set the record for most passing yards in a season last year with 5,477 yards of real estate covered. Also during his incredible 2013 season, Manning set the record for most touchdown passes in a single game with seven scores.

Manning's historic 2013 campaign did end on a painful note when his Broncos were thumped at MetLife Stadium in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. However, it showed Manning's complete return to glory from a career-threatening neck injury that kept him sidelined the entire 2011 season. That would end up being his final as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, as Manning was released based upon the belief by many around the NFL that his best days were over (the Colts moved on and drafted some quarterback named Andrew Luck). Clearly, the doubters were wrong on that assumption.

Outside of Manning and his family, the only others who believed his best days were far from over were the Denver Broncos. The risky five-year, $96 million investment in Manning could not have turned out any better, as he has helped bring the Broncos back to the title contender status they once held under the leadership of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

Ironically, it was Elway, now the Broncos' general manager and executive vice president, who pulled the trigger on bringing Manning to the Mile High. Like Manning, Elway was counted out by many late in his career, only to deliver on the big stage. Similar to Manning, Elway rebuffed the critics by winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles in his final two seasons to retire on top of the football world.

In addition to his other records, Manning has the most 300+ yard passing games (86), seasons passing for 4,000+ yards (13), and consecutive seasons with 25+ touchdowns (15). Not to mention, Manning is also a five-time NFL MVP, seven-time first team All-Pro, and 13-time Pro Bowler. Without question, Manning is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

However, not every legendary player is perfect. Despite his incredible personal feats, Manning will always be criticized for only having one championship ring. As we know, all great players are judged primarily by the championship trophies and banners they raise. Manning is no exception to the standard, as his postseason career is not the best among his fellow great quarterbacks.

While Manning has only one ring (2006 with Indianapolis), many others have much more to present with regards to the championship argument. Manning's career archrival Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings, as do Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Steve Young. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, two more Hall of Famers, have four rings apiece. Along with Elway, both Manning's brother, Eli, and Ben Roethlisberger have two Super Bowl titles to their credit.

While these players are all terrific, Manning is considered by many to be better than these multi-championship winning quarterbacks. So, it inevitably brings to light the obvious question, "Why has Manning been unable to win the big game more than once?" There are several things you could point to, such as the fact that these other quarterbacks' teams were much better overall than Manning's Colts or Broncos.

Furthermore, you can play a good 'ole game of "What if?" for Manning's career. For example, what if Drew Bledsoe never got injured and Brady never came in to team up with Bill Belichick and lead the New England Patriots to one of the finest NFL dynasties of all-time? Who knows if Manning wins a title or two instead of falling to New England in both 2003 and 2004.

What if the San Diego Chargers were not Manning's postseason kryptonite in both 2007 and 2008? What if Manning never throws that fourth quarter interception against the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV? What if Manning and the Broncos don't collapse in back-to-back playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl champions? What if Manning and his Colts were not upset at home in the playoffs by Roethlisberger's Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 and the New York Jets in 2010?

It's a slippery slope that can be thought about for hours, but it's important for us all to look past Manning's postseason slip-ups and focus on his other accomplishments when analyzing his important place in the historical narrative of the NFL.

Going back to Manning's recent historical accomplishment, the all-time touchdown passes record is one that will probably not be broken again for quite some time. It's highly unlikely that Brady or Drew Brees will catch Manning due to their age. Aaron Rodgers has an outside shot at the record, but will need to continue producing his big-time numbers and stay healthy for the remainder of his career to even have a chance.

The only other guy who could possibly challenge the record is Manning's successor in Indianapolis, Luck. It is way too early in Luck's career to seriously say he has a chance, but he is playing like a quarterback who could have a shot at the record sometime in the distant future.

At the ripe young age of 38, Manning's preparation and skills are still second to none. Few now question the claim that he has plenty left in the tank. With the Broncos once again emerging as the best team in the AFC and looking a favorite to play in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona this winter, more amazing feats could be in the cards for one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of football.

Enjoy every moment you get to see Peyton Manning in action; who knows when we will ever see a quarterback so iconic play the game again.

22 PHOTOS
Peyton Manning -- updated 10/19/2014
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The legacy of Peyton Manning
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos drops back to throw on what would be his 509th career touchdown pass in the second quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates his 509th career touchdown pass in the second quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates on the sideline after throwing his NFL record 509th career touchdown pass with Demaryius Thomas #88, who caught the pass, in the second quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Linebacker Aaron Lynch #59 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos on his NFL-record 509th career touchdown pass in the second quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with teammates and the coaching staff on the sideline after throwing his NFL record 509th career touchdown pass in the second quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos smiles after throwing his NFL record 509th career touchdown pass in the second quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos drops back to throw his 509th career touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos celebrates his 508th touchdown. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: The crowd celebrates Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos 508th touchdown. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos on the line in the first quarter. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos looks to pass during the first quarter. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos during the national anthem. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos, Wes Welker (83) of the Denver Broncos and Louis Vasquez (65) of the Denver Broncos during the national anthem. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Louis Vasquez (65) of the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos, Colin Kaepernick (7) of the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Staley (74) of the San Francisco 49ers watch the coin toss before the game. The Denver Broncos played the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on October 19, 2014. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos celebrates a touchdown with Peyton Manning #18 and Julius Thomas #80 in the first quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos emerges from the tunnel before a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Denver Broncos fans Tim Baker and Liz Branson hold a sign showing their support for Peyton Manning #18 (not pictured) before a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws as he warms up before a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Pat Ralph is a junior at Villanova University. He has a passion for Philadelphia sports, especially the Phillies and Eagles. Follow him on Twitter @Pat_Ralph
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