Retrospective: The Legacy of Peyton Manning

By @TrueGodImmortal

This is personal for me. I love all the great legendary quarterbacks. The Aikmans, the Montanas, the Marinos, the Favres, The Bradys (okay I don't love them all), but my all time favorite quarterback will forever be Peyton Manning. Hands down. So, when given the task of discussing his legacy, I was truly excited to write about Peyton and his ability, his accomplishment, and unfortunately, the winding down of his career. He holds the record for most passing yards ever currently at 71,871 and the record for the most career TDs at 539. When you have a stat line that resembles Peyton, your name can be in the category for the GOAT.

Coming out of Tennessee, where he became their all time leader in passing, Peyton was selected no. 1 in the 1998 draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He would start as QB in his rookie season and while he wasn't ready to full lead the team, he would have a decent season throwing for 3,739 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was named to the All-Rookie team, but there was one glaring problem with Peyton that season and it was high amount of interceptions. He threw 28 interceptions that season, and the Colts would end up finishing 3-13 in a dismal year. In a bit of poetic justice, the following season, the Colts would go 13-3, making the playoffs, as Peyton seemed to be getting more comfortable in his role as leader of the team. He threw for 4,135 yards and 26 touchdowns, and was selected for the Pro Bowl. The Colts received a first round bye, but unfortunately would end up defeated by the Super Bowl Champions Tennessee Titans. This would mark the beginning of the small blip on Peyton's legacy: his lack of consistency in the playoffs.

The following season, Manning would throw for 4,413 yards and 33 touchdowns, earning yet another Pro Bowl selection as the Colts finished 10-6 and garnered a wild card playoff spot. His inconsistency in the playoffs would continue as they lost the wild card game to the Dolphins. The following season would see the beginning of the now infamous Peyton no huddle offense, but for this season it was not effective as the Colts finished with a disappointing 6-10 record and missed the playoffs. Peyton would throw for 4,131 yards and 26 touchdowns, but it just wasn't enough and head coach Jim Mora was fired. Peyton had proven at this point that he was a viable quarterback, but his potential wasn't being fully reached in the sense of playoffs and championships or a leadership role in the postseason. With the Colts hiring Tony Dungy to be the new head coach, the team would regroup and go 10-6 to make the playoffs, but they would end up losing yet again in the first round, keeping the Manning curse alive for yet another year. After a bunch of up and down seasons, despite putting good numbers, one would have to wonder how Peyton would respond the following season.

That answer? He responded by winning his first MVP award. The 2003 season was electric for Peyton, as the Colts were firing on all cylinders and they once again made the playoffs with a 12-4 record. Peyton possessed the right amount of precision during this season and would lead the league with 4,267 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also received an ESPY for Best NFL Player as well, and as the Colts headed into the playoffs, one would only hope Peyton showed more consistency and garnered his first playoff win. He did. Winning in the wild card round against the Denver Broncos, Peyton celebrated his first playoff win and ended up heading to the AFC Championship game after soundly defeating the Chiefs. The playoff run stopped there however, as the Patriots would beat the Colts, but Peyton showed the ability to lead his team beyond the first game in the playoffs and the curse was broken.

The following season he would garner his second straight MVP award and he was even more deserving of the award this season. In what could be considered the greatest passing season of all time, Peyton threw for 4,557 yards and a then-record
49 touchdowns, breaking Dan Marino's record, and only throwing 10 interceptions on the season. It was an amazing display of greatness this season and he lead the Colts to the playoffs as a third seed, and while they got out of the wild card round(led by an epic performance from Peyton), they would end their playoff run at the hands of the Patriots once again. Peyton was not only voted MVP by a large margin, he would also be named NFL Offensive Player of the Year, be named to the Pro Bowl and become MVP of that game, and win countless other accolades. Play for play, this season really might be the best ever for a quarterback. It certainly ranks in the top 5 without any debate.

The next season, saw the Colts dominate, going 13-0 to start the season, clinching a playoff birth and a bye, but it was all for nothing, as the Steelers ended up knocking them out of the playoffs. Peyton played yet another great regular season, and finished second in MVP voting, as Shaun Alexander took the crown. With this season out of the way, and Peyton recharged, the Colts would come back and manage to make history. His QB rating this season would lead the league (his third straight season accomplishing this) and he passed for 4,397 yards and 31 touchdowns. With a 12-4 record, the Colts easily garnered a playoff spot and would win in the first round against the Chiefs 23-8. In a game that was determined mostly by defense, the Colts beat the Ravens 15-6 in the Divisional round, as no one scored a touchdown all game. It was all field goals. The AFC Championship would be Peyton's date with destiny. The Colts, who had been eliminated two years straight previously by the New England Patriots, had an opportunity for redemption here, as they could win and head to the Super Bowl. Early on in the game, it looked grim for the Colts, as the Patriots took a 21-3 lead after a Manning interception was returned for a TD. In what may stand as the greatest playoff comeback in history, Manning would lead a charge in the second half, and the Colts would pull out the victory 38-34 to advance to the Super Bowl. Manning had broken the curse of the playoffs it seemed finally, and was now heading to the Super Bowl. The Colts would win the Super Bowl defeating the Chicago Bears 29-17 and Peyton would win the Super Bowl MVP. It was the redemption both the Colts and Peyton himself needed and were looking for.

The following season, Peyton would play his usual high level and lead the Colts to the playoffs and a first round bye, but the curse returned, as the Colts would lose in the Divisional round. The following season would see Peyton win his third MVP award, as he had a masterful season offensively, but yet again, in the playoffs, he saw the curse affect him, when he lost in the wild card round to the Chargers. His 2009 season would see his record breaking 4th MVP Award and Peyton showed nothing but brilliance at this point. He was reading the defense perfectly during this season, throwing with deadly precision, and leading his team yet again to the playoffs. This year the curse would be broken, as the Colts would rack up victories over the Ravens and Jets to make it back to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Saints would manage to defeat the Colts in the Super Bowl, and Peyton would not get that elusive second championship. The next season would see Peyton with another 4,000 yard season, leading the Colts to the playoffs yet again, before they would lose to the Jets. This would be the final season Manning would play with the Colts, ending an era that spawned so many seasons, created so much history and achieved some great feats.

Now, the 2011 season was odd because Peyton was still a Colt, but he was injured. This was the beginning of what would eventually be a decline for Peyton, as his arm strength began to waiver and he would require neck surgery. As his career seemed to start winning down, Peyton would see injuries start to catch up to him and he missed the entire 2011 season due to injury. The importance of Peyton was evidenced in his absence, as the Colts went 2-14 for a horrible season, and then they released Peyton, which was a heartbreaking moment for many Colts fans. Peyton had been their quarterback, their leader, and here we was now.... gone. Manning would start the next chapter of his career with the Denver Broncos after signing a 5 year deal.

His first season with the Broncos was a successful one, as he led them to the playoffs, before they took a double overtime loss to the eventual champion, the Baltimore Ravens. Peyton seemed to have regained his arm strength and his precision during this season, but it would be the following season where he truly showed that he was the elite, and quite possibly the greatest QB of all time.

The 2013 season would see Peyton start the year off with one of his greatest performances ever, throwing for 7 touchdowns against the Ravens, a bit of sweet redemption from the playoff loss. This season would be what I consider the greatest season by a QB, and as you see this isn't the first time that statement has been mentioned in regards to Peyton. It is a testament to his greatness without a doubt. The Denver offense this season was practically flawless, and of course Peyton was the leader. Peyton would throw for a league record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. Those numbers are absolutely insane, and I can't see anyone breaking that record too soon. Peyton was a man possessed this season, and he would end up leading the Broncos to a NFL record of 606 points scored on the season, as the Broncos offense had more 50 point games on the season than any other team accomplished in history at that point. Four Broncos receivers would end up catching 10 touchdown passes on the year, a NFL record as well. This season was a record breaking year for Peyton and in many ways, it is the greatest regular season ever for a QB. Peyton would obviously be named MVP, his fifth MVP award, a NFL record. In the playoffs, the Broncos would look dominant, beating the Chargers and the Patriots. Peyton was back at the Super Bowl and ready to cap off the greatest offensive season in history, but the Seattle Seahawks had something to say about that. The Seahawks obliterated the Broncos 43-8 to win the Super Bowl, but Peyton's season was once again something to marvel at.

The following season saw the Broncos have a successful run to the playoffs, but injury yet again began to show itself, and they would lead to the Broncos losing to the Colts in the Divisional round in the playoffs. This brings us to the current season we are in, where Peyton once again had injuries catch up to him. Right now, the Broncos are being led by their usual backup QB Brock Osweiler and they are playoff bound at 11-4. As the regular season winds down, we hear that Peyton is healthy again, and will likely play soon. Could this be the final season of Peyton's career? Could he comeback and astonish us all during the playoffs and get that elusive second championship? The beginning of this current season saw Peyton be a shell of himself, and not the explosive Peyton we used to see, which could be a product of his age and those tough injuries. Whatever the rest of this season holds, it seems as if Peyton is ready to play and get back to his usual ways.

At the end of the day, when talking greatest quarterbacks, Peyton is on a very short list of greats. He has five MVPs, tons of All-Pro nominations, Pro Bowl appearances, holds the record for the most all time touchdowns period, as well as the record for most touchdowns in a season. He is the all time leader for passing yards period, as well as holding that record for a season. He is without a doubt the greatest regular season quarterback. While it would be nice for him to have won his other two appearances in the Super Bowl, this doesn't really take away from the legacy of Peyton Manning. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, if not THE greatest. Respect Peyton.



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