Peyton Manning Retires: Is He the Greatest Quarterback Ever?

After playing in three separate decades, Peyton Manning has decided to retire after winning the 2016 Super Bowl. Now that he has officially retired people have reignited Manning’s candidacy as the greatest Quarterback to ever play the game.
If Manning is the best QB to ever throw a football, it is because of his accolades, throwing accuracy, football knowledge and revolutionizing the position. He was awarded the NFL Most Valuable Player award a record of five times (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013), he is the all-time NFL leader in career passing yards and passing touchdowns, he has four Super Bowl appearances with two victories and is the only starting QB in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
The “no-huddle offense” existed before Manning’s NFL career began but he is cited as being the first and most successful QB at incorporating the style with pre-snap play. Manning’s ability to read the defense before the snap in conjunction with a fast-paced approach forced defenses to become more sophisticated and structured over the years. Manning did not only revolutionize the QB position, he revolutionized the game.
Manning is the only starting QB in NFL history to appear in four Super Bowls with four different head coaches. He was able to succeed under different coaching philosophies, arguably due to having a lot of control over the offensive plans and play-calling.
Manning has possibly had more responsibility than any other QB in football history. He wanted to be the most prepared, and the most knowledgeable of the game, which reinforced his pre-snap reading ability and overall performance as an elite QB.
Manning himself stated in his retirement speech, “there were other player[s] that were more talented but there was no one [who] could out-prepare me and because of that I have no regrets.”
If Manning is not recognized as the greatest QB of all time, it is because of his statistical decline in the playoffs and post-season blemishes. According to, Manning’s career post-season passer rating is 87.4 (max is 158.3) versus a 96.5 career passer rating in the regular-season. As a starter, Manning has a record of nine playoff appearances without a playoff win. His post-season win-loss record finalizes at 14-13, and he has the most playoff losses of any QB in NFL history.
The football world largely blamed Manning for his two Super Bowl losses. In his second Super Bowl appearance, as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Manning threw a game-ending fourth quarter, “pick-six” interception in the 2010 Super Bowl.
Entering the 2014 Super Bowl, Manning was named MVP the night before after throwing 55 passing touchdowns, an NFL single-season record, during the 2013 season along with being the leader of the highest scoring offense in league history. The Broncos were throttled 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks, including two interceptions and a fumble.
However, Manning was the MVP of the 2007 Super Bowl and is one of seven QBs in NFL history to start in at least four. His two Super Bowl wins fall short to Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana’s four. Manning’s arch nemesis, Tom Brady, has started in six Super Bowls, also winning four.
Manning’s candidacy as the greatest QB of all time depends on how much emphasis one places on winning championships. In a sport with 11 players per team on the field at any given time and three phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams), is it fair to credit or discredit a QB solely on the number of championship wins they have?
Many would say it is fair considering the ball is in the hands of the QB more than any other player.
“If [Manning] had two more rings I would say he is [the best QB ever]. He just didn’t prove to me in the post-season that he is the greatest,” said Dylan Stevens, a Sports Management major at Western Carolina University.
Others feel that it was Manning’s accuracy and unique abilities that separate him from the other greats.
“[Manning] is the greatest QB as a pocket passer. He is the smartest QB ever. He can read defenses better than anyone,” said Cody Heacox, an aspiring broadcaster from North Carolina.
Fair or unfair, it has often been said that the QB of a football team is overly blamed in defeat and overly praised in victory. With teams generally consisting of 50+ players, football is indeed the ultimate team sport.
At the end of the day how one determines greatness is subjective to the individual. Philosophically, there is not a right or wrong answer to who the greatest QB of all time is; it boils down to individual preference. Manning was a superior NFL player for 18 seasons and was one of the faces of American sports who exemplified high class and character.
Manning gave us dedication in his approach to the game and he gave us resilience in his return to football after multiple neck surgeries. The greatest player and QB discussions will happen for generations more, and the name Manning will be echoed. No matter one’s feelings toward Manning as a Quarterback, bottom line: he loved to play football. He gave us a lot of passion for a long time and that is something that should be celebrated forever.

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