Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Bowl 48 Means Nothing for Peyton Manning, and That’s A Good Thing

A Google news search for “peyton manning legacy” will turn up just north of 3,000 results. A lot of words have been wasted on a meaningless topic and I think I may be adding a few more.

Win or loss, Sunday’s game will have little if any impact on Peyton Manning’s legacy, his career or his personal life.

peyton super bowl 48
There are so many variables to a football game that it seems foolish how a Super Bowl ring has become a pre-requisite for discussions about the greatest. Dan Marino is the poster child – does anyone doubt he is one of the all-time greats? As a Jets fan, he ripped my heart out on multiple occasions.

So is Joe Montana automatically a better quarterback? What if Marino played with Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Roger Craig?

Those are stupid questions meant to be unanswered but they prove the idiocy of placing so much on a ring in a sport like football. Besides, Peyton Manning already has that ring.

So what does Sunday’s game really mean for Peyton Manning?

This is why I believe the Broncos will win on Sunday. There is zero pressure on Peyton, save for same intense scrutiny the man places on himself each and every week, from September through January. He has his rings, his records and his legacy secured. A victory Sunday would be another notch in his belt, but not much more.

But that doesn’t make for good copy, does it? This is the Super Bowl, dammit! It’s the biggest Super Bowl ever! There has to be something on the line for the game’s most recognizable face, right?

To be fair, he could win a second ring and become the first quarterback to lead two teams to a Super Bowl victory. That would be a cool footnote and a nice record for Peyton to accomplish.

The bottom line, though, is that this week should not be a discussion of Peyton Manning’s legacy – it should be an appreciation of the man’s career. What happens Sunday is largely irrelevant to his story.

To make the Super Bowl a mere afterthought when it comes to your legacy? Now, that’s a legacy.

It is remarkable to think how many of us disliked Peyton early in his career, or how many in SEC country took such glee in his inability to beat Florida or win a national title. It fit the narrative when Tennessee won the National Championship after he left, as if it was proof that Manning was holding the program back. It makes me laugh now to think sane individuals, looking at a Volunteer roster full of guys there because of Peyton Manning, gave him no credit at all.

How has the Tennessee program fared post-Manning?

When he joined the Colts, the Colts were awful. Save for Captain Comeback and the thoroughly entertaining 1995 team, the franchise was basically a miserable vortex of suck since it moved from Baltimore. By his second year, the team was 13-3 and hosting playoff games. The Colts have become one of the league’s standards.

As the playoff losses mounting in the early 2000’s, the same complaints that Manning couldn’t win the “big one” percolated and he reached Phil Mickelson territory. Will he ever win? Then he pulled of an 18-point comeback against the Patriots, won a Super Bowl and finally put those doubters to bed.

Even in his weakest moments, he was the model for what we want in our athletes. When a neck surgery threatened his career and the Colts careened toward the #1 draft pick, he handled the situation the grace of a President as he smoothly and deftly stepped aside, handing the keys of the franchise over to Andrew Luck.

In other words, he was the complete opposite of professional glory hound Brett Favre in Green Bay.

Manning’s accomplishments the past two years are just as impressive – turning around a stale, moribund Denver organization and making them the best team in football for two seasons straight, likely and possibly only a secondary breakdown away from a second title in a row.

What more could Manning possibly do on Sunday that could burnish his legacy? Oh, he could throw for six touchdowns and make it a little bit better – but it’d just be the cherry on top of the sundae.

Most amazingly – people now root for Peyton Manning. And yes, that was the case before Richard Sherman turned heel after the NFC Championship Game.

The majority of the 100+ million that tune in Sunday night – the casual viewer there more for nachos, ads and Bruno Mars – will root for him. A majority of football fans – even the ones that mocked his college failures and Belichick-induced interceptions – will likewise want him to win another Super Bowl.

We get caught up too much these days about trying to place current superstars in the context of history. It’s foolish but helps ESPN kill 24 hours of programming every day and 8 hours of daily SportsCenter shows.

At a moment like this, we need to step back from the debate and take a moment to admire. Is Peyton a better quarterback than Tom Brady or Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas?

Who cares?

Peyton Manning will answer a lot of stupid questions this week about his legacy  and thankfully, he cares less about it then I do.

“I’ve been being asked about my legacy since I was about 25 years old. I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you’re 25 years old, or even 37. I thought you had to be like 70 to have a legacy. I’m not 100 percent sure what the word even means.”

Peyton’s legacy is secured. Sunday may be a coronation. It may be a rude awakening. It ultimately won’t matter.

Peyton Manning is one of the best football players in the history of the sport. Nothing on Sunday will change that.

And for good measure, he also crushed it in one of the best SNL skits ever. If you can’t root for a man throwing a football at the head of a child, who can you root for?

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5 comments:

  1. Way to steal this from espn.

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  2. I liked it. Peyton bout to crush the Seattle.

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  3. Your wrong buddy!! Russell Wilson will be MVP, Peyton will suck like he always does in the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete