Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Peyton's Place

Peyton Manning is a loser. I do not mean this pejoratively (look it up), but simply as a statement of fact referencing the fact that throughout his largely outstanding college & professional career, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback has consistently been unable to lead his team to victory in their biggest game of the season. Despite having perhaps the greatest regular season of any quarterback in NFL history, with a record setting 49 touchdowns, this past Sunday Manning was rendered powerless by the New England Patriots in a 20-3 loss. This was the second year in a row the Pats had his number, and three previous trips to the playoffs proved equally fruitless for the Manning & the Colts. This after a 4-year college career at Tennessee in which Manning was the most heralded quarterback in the land, on teams with genuine national championship aspirations, and year after year played poorly in crushing losses to Florida, Tennessee's big rival at the time. And the year after Manning left, a much lesser regarded quarterback named Tee Martin led Tennessee to an undefeated season and a national championship. So while even this week, many will claim Manning's teams' losses are not nearly all his fault, there certainly seems to be a clear trend.

Meanwhile, the Patriots quaterback, Tom Brady, who wasn't the full-time starter in college at Michigan and was drafted in the 6th round (unlike #1 pick in the draft Manning), is 7-0 in his career in playoff games, has won 2 Super Bowls and could reach a 3rd with a win over Pittsburgh this weekend. And though he led the Pats to a 14-2 record in the regular season, he was an afterthought in the league MVP voting, which Manning won unanimously in voting held before the playoffs.

But who is really more valuable, and whose career would you rather have? It reminds me of the Dan Marino-Joe Montana era, where Marino put up mindboggling numbers, but never won a Super Bowl and Montana, with much less gaudy stats, led his 49ers to 4 Super Bowl victories (including one over Marino's Dolphins, in the only Super Bowl he reached). And while Marino was recently -- quite deservedly -- elected to the Football Hall of Fame, Montana (who's also a Hall of Famer) is clearly thought of as the better of the two, and perhaps even the greatest quarterback of all time. For like Brady's doing now, he won. And for whatever reason, the truth is, Manning hasn't.

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