It’s my favorite time of the year. Football season has begun and my Sundays are now booked through early February. I’ve been gearing up for a month now, and week one’s games did not disappoint.
I was able to control myself this year and drafted only 10 fantasy football teams last week, 22 fewer than I had last year, and I’m pretty happy with all of them except one that I forgot about and cruised through on autodraft. I’ll never make that mistake again.
I can’t believe I was able to get Peyton Manning as my quarterback for half of my fantasy teams, even with pick seven or eight out of 10 on most. After the Broncos’ dismal performance in last year’s playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, it seems a lot of football fans were down on Peyton and the Broncos as a whole during this year’s fantasy draft.
Fine with me. I happily took him off the board so my opponents wouldn’t be burdened with such a has-been. Suckers.
Everyone knows I’ve been a Peyton fan since his rookie year as a Colts quarterback in 1998. I’ve written about my love for Peyton in this column twice, (“Fantasy Football Fanatic,” Aspen Daily News, Jan. 2, 2013; “Armageddon in Indiana,” Aspen Daily News, March 28, 2013) and my love for him didn’t fade after his hideous performance in last year’s infamous playoff game against the Ravens. If anything, it grew stronger.
But for many, that game was seen as a swan song for Peyton, the desperate attempt of an over-the-hill quarterback to prove that his neck injuries were not career-ending. His days as an elite quarterback are over, they said. Time to look for a coaching job, they said.
As recently as last Thursday, in this very newspaper, another columnist wrote Peyton was a “serial choker” and “terrible in the playoffs.” He even went so far as to compare Peyton to Tim Tebow, based on a single playoff game each. Seriously. He called the Broncos the “most overrated team in the NFL.”
First off, you can’t take the rant of a raving lunatic too seriously. After all, what else could a self-described “lifelong Patriots fan” be but a raving lunatic? But, just for fun, let’s look at the facts.
Peyton isn’t just a good quarterback. He’s the best quarterback playing today, even in the sunset of his on-field career. Above and beyond being the best playing today, he is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Period.
Forget that he holds dozens of significant NFL records, including highest average passing touchdowns per game (career), most wins as a starting quarterback in a decade, most consecutive seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes, most seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards and most games with a perfect passer rating. That last one includes a playoff game, debunking the idiotic theory that Peyton “chokes” in the playoffs.
Never mind that he’s won the NFL MVP award four times, the Super Bowl MVP award once, and the Best NFL Player ESPY award twice. In face, forget about Peyton’s Super Bowl win. Any serious NFL fan knows you don’t rate the greatness of a player based on how many Super Bowl rings they have. Granted, it is one indicator of greatness, but just one of many. Lots of phenomenal players have never won a world championship. It takes a team to win a Super Bowl — no player wins one alone.
And, finally, forget about Peyton’s neck surgeries. Yes, he had several. Yes, it took him some time to recover. But, like the champion he is, Peyton did the difficult rehab work required to achieve the impossible and return to the world stage as an elite NFL quarterback. Just another sign of his greatness.
Despite the injuries, all those awards are only indicators of the most important thing to consider when evaluating Peyton as a quarterback, and the thing his detractors consistently ignore: the fact that, in addition to being the best quarterback in the game for more than a decade, he’s also the only quarterback who has changed the way the game is played.
Peyton invented and perfected the hurry-up, no-huddle offense. Every other quarterback in the league today tries, but miserably fails, to emulate his work behind center. No other modern-day quarterback has even come close to changing the way every other team plays the game the way Peyton has, and it will be a very long time before another is able to impact the NFL in such a dramatic fashion.
So how is the “most overrated team in the NFL,” according to a jealous Patriots fan, doing this season? Last Thursday, on the very day that other columnist said Peyton probably needed another neck surgery, Denver faced off against Baltimore in a rematch of last year’s fateful playoff game. Far from choking, the Broncos won by an astounding 49-27 victory. Peyton threw seven touchdowns, tying the record for most touchdowns in a single game that hasn’t been matched since 1969.
Tom Brady’s never done that. In fact, the Patriots had to struggle this weekend to defeat the barely-competitive Buffalo Bills, and they only won by two points. Tom Brady may be a good quarterback, but he’s not a great one, and he never will be.
Only six other quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown seven touchdowns in a single game, and those six other games happened nearly a half-century ago. Coming back from multiple neck surgeries that certainly would have been career-ending for any other quarterback, changing the way the game is played, and being emulated by all your peers — that’s what makes a great quarterback.
Say what you will about the Broncos‘ quarterback, but the facts bear out a simple truth: Peyton Manning is (still) the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’ll shred any competitor before him so long as his teammates do their jobs as well. I won’t pretend to know who will play in the Super Bowl next February, but the Broncos looked like the best team in the league in week one, which is a lot more than anyone can say for the Patriots.
Doug Allen only watches Patriots games when he needs a good laugh. Reach him via email at Doug.Allen75@yahoo.com or follow him on twitter @Doug__Allen (two underscores).