Sunday, November 14, 2010

Peyton Maning - is the sun setting?

Peyton Manning is hands down the best player in NFL history. He is set to break every important record in the history books--career passer rating, consecutive starts, touchdowns, adjusted yards per attempt, even adjusting for the era he plays in. But Manning shines more on subjective indicators than objective. His dedication to the game--to film study, perfection in practice, and to strategy are what make Manning a legend. I love sports. I love the way players like John Elway can played with reckless abandon.* I love the way players like Cal Ripken show up, prime every day.** I love the way competitors like Tim Tebow push themselves and their teammates to play better.*** But there is nothing I love more than the Colts no-huddle offense and Manning's pre-snap routine.

That said, the sun may be setting on Manning's storied career. Younger passers with better targets and more mobility and starting to usurp his throne. No one throws the deep ball like Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Running quarterbacks (Young and Vick) are finally starting to make progress. Drew Brees is setting a new standard for accuracy that, perhaps, even Manning can't match. Manning is left to throw to a depleted receiving corps plagued by injuries and butterfingers. Manning makes them look good, but he has limits. Did we see the last MVP season from Manning last year?

I don't think so. I think he'll win the MVP this year. If the Colts beat the Patriots in a week and if the Colts win the AFC South then Manning will take home his 5th trophy. But the sun is starting to set and it's time to look back and appreciate what a great run it was. The showdown on 11/21 may be the 10th and last meaningful Brady-Manning showdown.

* - Manning is willing to lay it on the line when necessary, or at least was in his earlier days. The first touchdown he scored in the playoffs was a scramble.
** - It goes without saying that Manning is the Iron Horse of football.
*** - But no one pushes his teammates harder than Manning.

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