By In Football

The Last Days of Peyton

From NBC SportsWorld:

Two years ago, Peyton Manning had the greatest statistical season of his numerically dazzling career. You remember — he was 37 years old and two years removed from a horrible neck injury. People went into the season more worried more about his safety than his passing numbers. He threw for an NFL record 5,477 yards, threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes and was named The Associated Press Most Valuable Player for the fourth time. He carried his Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, lighting up Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots for 400 passing yards and two touchdowns in the AFC title game.

This was, to repeat, just two years ago.

This is the End

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20 Responses to The Last Days of Peyton

  1. Marco says:


    Where does Peyton rank all time for you?

    Over at Nate Silver’s page they have him at #1, and by a wide margin. I suspect this will be an unpopular opinion.


  2. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    It’s an interesting question, but changes in the game make it almost impossible to answer, in my view. When I was a kid in the 1970s, it was an article of faith that Johnny Unitas was the GOAT. Now he’s buried under piles of statistics and mountains of video clips. Being a great quarterback simply meant something different back then.

    The only real commonality between 60s/70s and today is that great QBs win championships. And by that standard, the conversation starts–and perhaps ends–with Tom Brady. Still, I’d love to see what Marino could have done with (the fully developed) Belichick at the helm.

    • Letal says:

      I’m not too up on advanced football statistics. But, there has to be some equalizer for era in the NFL just like there is for baseball. Manning’s passing yardage record when compared to others from that year would likely tell a different story than the same comparison from Marino’s record setting year.

      For Manning vs. Brady, I’ve always felt that both players had teams built around them. So, is Brady’s system better than Manning’s system? Is Brady better at executing his system better than Manning is at executing his? Or, is Brady just better at winning championships? Super Bowls are a measure. But, I still think QB’s aren’t nearly as important to a Super Bowl winner as fans attribute. Maybe the stats prove me wrong.

      For my money, I’d take Manning any day. But, I’m an old Indianapolis guy and have seen what he did for the city in terms of non-football work, too. So, I’m definitely biased.

      • David says:

        “I’m not too up on advanced football statistics. But, there has to be some equalizer for era in the NFL just like there is for baseball.”

        There is. Check out Neil Paine’s latest article.

        Using an equalizer for era, among all QBs since the merger in 1970, Manning is far ahead of all of them. Marino is in 2nd and Brady in 3rd.

      • NevadaMark says:

        But in football the rules have changed far more dramatically than in baseball. When Unitas played you could kill the qb and mug his receivers all over the field. Today you can barely touch either. A baseball equivalent would be, getting four strikes?

        • KHAZAD says:

          Actually, I think the baseball equivalent would be to be able to take a fielder or two off the field prior to stepping to the plate. Football has been making up rules to help passing since the late 1970s, and each passing decade has gotten easier. 90% of passes are timing plays now. If you tried to run a timing play in 1970, you would have hit about 30% of your passes with 50 INTs.

      • KHAZAD says:

        The thing about Brady that impresses me is that alot of successful QBs since the 1980s were system quarterbacks. The offenses were built around their strengths, coordinators were hired to tailor the offense to them etc. Belichik has run several completely different offenses in Brady’s tenure. He has had teams tailored more for defense, he has had run first offenses, he has had offenses virtually without other playmakers, he will change schemes in mid season if his personnel changes due to injury or they are playing a team with a different strength or weakness, and Brady has adapted to every one of them and still been Tom Brady.

        I have a comment about timing plays in this thread down below. In it, I make the point that they would not have worked in the past. I think alot of the best QBs from early eras are forgotten because stats and rules were different then, and many of those QBs would put have no problem putting up today’s numbers and finding it to be a much easier game. I don’t know if I can say the same about many modern QBs. You could drop them in a game in 1970 with receivers being mugged and QB’s being hit in the head after throwing a pass routinely, timing patterns taken away, running an offense not geared to their specific strengths and some the stars today would not even be starters then.

        But I think Brady would be a star in 1980, 1970, 1960, 1950 or whatever.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      If the current quarterbacks played under the rules that Unitas, et. al, played under, their numbers would be similar. Brady, Manning, etc. would be great quarterbacks but they wouldn’t have these ridiculous numbers. Conversely, guys like Unitas, Jurgensen, Tittle, etc. would be putting up the same kind of astronomical numbers if they had played under today’s rules. As for championships as the standard, I strongly disagree. Championships are won by teams, not quarterbacks. I was living in Miami when Dan Marino took a Dolphin team with no running game, mediocre defense, and even poor placekicking to 14 wins and the Super Bowl, where they got crushed by one of the great 49er teams. After that, the team was even worse; the defense became a joke and the only thing keeping the respectable was Marino. Similarly, John Elway took three very average Denver teams to Super Bowls; I’m convinced no one else could have done that. Put Joe Montana is Miami or Denver and I’m not saying he would be just an average quarterback but we sure would not be talking about 4 Super Bowls. I’m not saying Marino or Elway were better than Brady-who knows-but to say Brady is the best simply because he played on better teams is, in my view, ludicrous. I just don’t buy that the standard of greatness in a team game is championships. Do you really think that Brady would have won all those championships if he had been drafted by, say, the Jets? And, for that matter, are you saying that Trent Dilfer who, after all, won a Super Bowl, is better than Marino or Elway? To me, the question is so ludicrous as to not need an answer.

      Personally, I don’t see how you can possibly say who the best QB in football history is. Football has changed so much that it’s almost a different game from 40 years ago, not to mention 60 or 70. In baseball, at least, the game is recognizable from the time Babe Ruth played. Maybe you can use metrics that normalize for the differences. But I don’t see how championships can be the standard any more than championships make Bill Russell better than Wilt Chamberlain. It’s teams.

      • EnzoHernandez11 says:

        I generally agree with you. I would never make that argument regarding baseball or basketball. Give me Wilt over Russell every time.

        But I just have no idea what to do with football. Quarterback greatness is almost completed dependent on context, in a way that doesn’the apply to any other sport (maybe hockey; I don’t know a damn thing about hockey). For all we know, the greatest QB of all time was ARCHIE Manning. Put Peyton or Brady on those 1970s Saints teams, and they’d already be forgotten. I love Dan Fouts, but take away Don Coryell, Kellen Winslow, Wes Chandler, and John Jefferson, and does he make the top 10 in the 538 list? I doubt it. (And for those of you who go back that far, recall how Jefferson went from budding superstar to nobody when he left San Diego.)

        Certainly, Marino dragged some mediocre Miami teams close to the finish line, but what does that really tell us? I don’t know. Of course he’said better than Trent Dilfer, but that’s kind of a reductionist argument. Is he better than Brady?

        I think the best answer is to weigh both the stats and the rings, and remember (as someone mentioned above) that it’should probably impossible to figure out the GOAT by using only statistics and pretending that it’s possible to devise a formula that rates Sid Luckman and Peyton Manning by a common metric.

        Lacking a better formula, I’ll stay with Brady.

        • EnzoHernandez11 says:

          Sorry about the typos. The autocorrect on my tablet is going nuts.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I don’t have a problem with factoring championships into the mix, but I do have a problem with simply saying that more championships makes one QB better than another. To me, the job of a QB is to put points on the board; if he does that, he has done his job even if the team loses. Eli Manning put 49 points up against the Saints a couple of weeks ago (actually, 42 since the defense scored a TD) but they lost 52-49. In my view, there is no way that you can pin that loss on Eli Manning. Obviously, that’s an extreme example but, conversely, IMO, Eli got credit for winning a couple of Super Bowls that I don’t think he deserved. Sonny Jurgensen was a great QB who played largely on lousy teams with no defense; it’s no this fault the team lost. It’s like saying a baseball player that hits three home runs in a game but fails to hit one with the team behind 10-9 is a bum. I just don’t buy that. I would like to see a metric that looks at points scored by a QB’s team; that obviously is somewhat subject to the same issues as championships in that it’s not just the QB that determines how many points the team scores, but that seems more fair. Brady is obviously a great QB and you can certainly make an argument that he is the best ever, but he has also played on better teams.

        • MikeN says:

          Russell was better than Wilt. Wilt was a great player who was more interested in his stats than the team. He would play soft on defense to preserve his record of never fouling out, and the other teams knew it. One team that was contending took a vote and decided they did not want him.

          • EnzoHernandez11 says:

            Wilt’s record of never fouling out didn’t matter until later in his career; nobody noticed it or paid attention until the late 60s. So that can’t explain the first half dozen or so years. Also, I’m not sure who this “team that was contending” was, but in the 1960s, only two teams were ever truly contending : the Celtics and whatever team Wilt was playing with. (Or the Lakers, I suppose, but they did take Wilt.)

    • Dave says:

      Belichick would have told Marino to play within the system or hit the road. And Marino would have hit the road.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        But Belichick’s strength is that he doesn’t have a system. He shapes the offense around the players he has. Brady’s strength is that he has been able to adapt to whatever offense Belichick wants to run that season or, even that game. If Belichick had had Marino, he would most likely have built the team around his strength. I don’t believe he would have run Marino off. In fact, it’s hard to see how much different Brady is from Marino; both largely pocket passers who get rid of the ball quickly. Except for the Randy Moss years, Brady has relied on shorter passes rather than throwing the ball downfield as Marino did, but that’s a function primarily of the receiving corp and changes in the game.

  3. NevadaMark says:

    Sammy Baugh did invent modern quarterbacking. And he wasn’t even a quarterback.

  4. This is what Vin Scully meant when he said that it’s a mere moment in a man’s life between an all-star game and an old-timers game.

  5. MikeN says:

    It’s not just a comparison of championships. Peyton would have to win the Super Bowl to get his playoff record back to .500. Too much of his career was about beating up on weak teams in the regular season and building up his stats. Only lately do we see that he is ignoring the stats, like not wanting to stop the game to celebrate his record.

  6. MikeN says:

    Would the Broncos be better off with Tim Tebow?

  7. Don says:

    Peyton, meet Kobe. Kobe, meet Payton. Except Kobe’s two years ago was two years ago. And the Lakers still pay him more than anyone else in the NBA.

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