What will you remember about Manning?

by Gary Shelton on March 8, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

Will you remember the record books, the ridiculous pinball numbers that redefined quarterbacking in the National Football League?

Will you remember the moments, the way Peyton Manning attacked the line of scrimmage, barking out orders, directing players, defying you to try to outsmart him? Will you remember his second Super Bowl victory?

Or will you remember the controversies that nipped at Manning's heels, the HGH allegations, the two-decade old sexual misconduct charges? Will those things remove the glitter from Manning's years? Should they?

Peyton Manning walks away from the game of football as one of its most memorable players. He was Captain Commercial, selling that, pitching that, spinning that. No one moved product the way Manning did, and his primary product was football. For the regular season, there has never been a quarterback like him. No, in the playoffs, he did not win like Montana, or like Brady, or even like Bradshaw. But there is no denying the impact he made with a football in his hand.

But there were so many playoffs where Manning did not measure up to the moment. Does that affect his legacy?

And, of course, you have to mention his scandals, too. Look, the HGH story has had a bad feel to it from the start. It was from a lame outlet with shaky sources. To be honest, it does not pass the smell test.

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But the sexual misconduct charges? If you can forgive the passage of time — and isn't it better to worry about truth than time? — then they are more serious. Who really knows what happened back then, half a lifetime ago? Is it what she says? What he says?

A story: A year ago or so, a bunch of us were discussing Jameis Winston before the NFL draft. Someone suggested that what Winston was accused of really wasn't any more serious than what Manning was accused of. Really, I said, because I remembered the allegations as Manning had described them. An out-of-control mooning. Nothing more than horseplay.

But I googled it, and sure enough, the allegations against Manning were far more serious. Goodness knows what the internet would have done to such charges, true or not.

Believe them or do not, but they have been out there for years. That was the damage done by the story in February. Not only was it extremely one-sided against Manning, it was the regurgitation of a 20-year old charge. Again, time isn't a defense, but there was nothing new about that story. The reporter spent far too much time pounding his own chest that trying to get to the honestly of the story.

Bottom line: Does it affect your memory of Manning? Is he still the affecting guy with the crooked smile from the TV commercials? Is he still the author of the record book? Is he the guy whose comebacks dwarf the other quarterbacks who get so much credit for them?

Me? I'm a complete-picture guy. I think everything is part of the same painting. Manning's success in the regular season, and his disappointments in the playoffs, are part of it. His comeback from a serious neck injury, his adaptation to a pitcher who has lost his fastball, are part of it. The way he carved up ordinary cornerbacks is part of it.

Personally, I liked Montana better. I liked Brady better. Maybe Johnny Unitas, although the game has changed so much since then. But who else, really, was the quarterback that Manning was?

Think of it like this. If you did a documentary and spent one minute on every touchdown pass he threw, it would take almost nine hours to cover it. He had 71,940 yards. He had 200 wins, and in 45 of them, he led his team from behind. He had 93 300-yard days and 14 seasons of 4,000-plus yards. He won the MVP five times.

Some quarterbacks, you debate if they deserve to be in the Hall. Manning? You debate him among the best ever.

One man's top 10 quarterbacks

1. Joe Montana, San Francisco: Montana not only won the Super Bowl four times, he was the reason the 49ers won.

2. Tom Brady, New England: He isn't unbeaten in the Super Bowl, but he's still got a fistful of rings.

3. Johnny Unitas, Baltimore: Before they relaxed the passing rules, Unitas was the picture of how a quarterback looked.

4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis-Denver: For the moment, just concentrate on his play. No one had more records than Peyton.

5. John Elway, Denver: Like Manning, Elway changed his legacy late in his career. Few could match his athleticism

6. Brett Favre, Green Bay: It's hard to believe Favre won only one Super Bowl. The consummate gunslinger, however. He has to rank high.

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans: He's still adding to his legacy in New Orleans, but a bad defense may doom him to mediocre teams.

8. Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh: Bradshaw won the Super Bowl four times. Say what else you want.

9. Dan Marino, Miami: Marino is weighed down by having never won the Super Bowl. Still, his passing ability had few equals.

10. Roger Staubach, Dallas: Because of his Navy commitments, Staubach got a late start on his career. Still, he led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls, including two close losses.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cecil DeBald March 8, 2016 at 8:35 am

I was at a UT luncheon in the ’99 where Payton was invited to speak, ostensibly to honor Bill Fulmer. The luncheon, as he found out, was to honor him – I believe by naming a street around the stadium after him. I was most impressed by his poise and humbleness given he was unprepared for the honor. So that’s what I’ll remember about Payton, and as hard as it is for this old Gator fan to say, he’ll always be a favorite of mine.

Cecil

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