There are people whose first name carries power.
If you say “Michael” it could be understood that you’re referring to Michael Jordan. The name “Peyton” has that same power.
Peyton Manning is a true living legend who may put a lasting stamp on an extraordinary career. Manning has collected five MVP awards to go with seven first-team All-Pro selections, but there are some who believe he still needs to validate the gaudy stats.
Manning has the one Super Bowl championship, but there are some disappointing postseason showings that some believe taint his “legacy” a bit.
“I’ve been asked about my legacy since I was 25 years old,” Manning said during Tuesday’s Media Day session at the Prudential Center. “I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you are 25 years old, or even 37. I thought you had to be 70 to have a legacy. I’m not 100 percent sure what the word even means. I’m down the homestretch of my career, but I’m still in it. It’s not over yet. It’s still playing out. This has been the second chapter of my career, and it is an exciting chapter.”
Winning a second Super Bowl certainly enhances Manning’s legend, but he does not need it to be among the all-time greats.
A common sports narrative has been judging players solely on how many championships they won. It’s not fair to do that because there are so many aspects of the game, especially in football, that any single individual player has no control over.
It seems to be forgotten that Manning played on several Indianapolis Colts teams that did not very good defenses. Manning elevated those teams because of a prolific offense, but the Colts ran into some good defensive teams and lost.
Plus, when it’s a single-elimination tournament like football, it’s hard to have sustained success in the postseason because one bad bounce or one bad game ends your season.
Judging an individual player has to take into account the whole package. Manning’s regular season accomplishments have to matter when ranking him against the greats of all-time.
The first five seasons of Terry Bradshaw’s career were pretty awful (48 touchdowns, 81 interceptions), but he had a Super Bowl championship to his credit. If Bradshaw played in this era, he would have been benched and probably out of the league with those numbers.
Bradshaw did have incredible seasons in the second half of his career, but it’s not fair to rank him ahead of Manning simply because he was a part of four Super Bowl championship teams littered with Hall of Famers on both sides of the ball.
The postseason success for an individual player should absolutely be taken into account, but it cannot be the only factor. Win or loseSunday night, Manning’s place in football lore is safe.
When Manning says he does not know what the word “legacy” means, he is correct. His final legacy should not be written yet.
While most everyone, even New York Giants fans, should agree that Peyton Manning is a better player than Eli Manning, there is always that qualification — “Well, Eli has one more ring than Peyton!”
That is true, but it doesn’t make Eli better than Peyton — not even close.
But Peyton’s career is not over yet. He might retire with one Super Bowl title, he might retire with four, nobody knows that yet.
We live in a society that loves to make snap judgements and ESPN loves to rank everything under the sun. It makes for fun debates, but it really isn’t fair.
One of Manning’s bosses, John Elway, faced similar criticism, if you will, because he had great regular seasons but the Broncos never got over the hump and won a Super Bow. In fact, Elway’s Broncos were hammered in three Super Bowl appearances by a combined score of 136-40.
After Elway capped his career with two consecutive Super Bowl titles, the narrative changed and suddenly those Broncos teams were remembered as being inferior to the three powerhouses they faced that particular season.
“I don’t think this game, one way or the other, affects his legacy the way that he has played,” said Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations. “So he’s going to be one of the all-time greats no matter what, and this will definitely help (the argument against it) if we lose it, but the bottom line, this year that he has had — legacies don’t get great until you’re done. That’s when people start talking.”
Instead of trying to judge whether or not Manning is better than Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana, we should enjoy his greatness. The best part of sports is witness greatness in front of our eyes, and that is Peyton Manning.
It will be a sad day when he decides to retire, although he sounds like a man who is not ready to do that yet.
“I feel a little bit better than I thought I would coming off that (neck) surgery a couple of years ago,” said Manning. “I feel better physically. I’ve been rejuvenated playing under a different offense, playing with new receivers because it keeps me stimulated every day. So, I certainly would like to keep playing.”
A recurrence of his neck injury may force him to retire some day soon, but until he is standing on that podium saying he is done we should take advantage of this era of sports we have in front of us. There will be other great players who come and go, but Peyton Manning, like his boss Elway, is a one of a kind legend.
“He’s the ultimate pro,” said Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. “The way that he goes about preparing himself for the game, what he does before games and during games, I’ve just learned so much. I never knew that you could look at a safety, linebacker or defensive end and figure out what the coverage is going to be.”
Paul Jannace is the sports editor of the Wellsville (N.Y.) Daily Reporter, a Gatehouse Media publication. He is covering his 4th Super Bowl and can be reached at You can also follow him on Twitter at