Critics, coaches and everyday football fans questioned whether the future first-ballot Hall of Famer would ever be his old self after being let go by the Indianapolis Colts.
I personally never questioned it. Why? He had surgery and was never on the decline.
Prior to Peyton Manning's offseason neck surgery in 2011, he was coming off a season in which he threw for 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns. What did he do in 2009? He won his fourth MVP as he threw for 4,500 yards, 33 touchdowns and came up just short of winning his second Super Bowl.
In the 2012 offseason, the Tennessee Titans wanted him, the Arizona Cardinals wanted him and Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers "evaluated" him. Say what you want, these teams used common sense and pursued him. Unfortunately for them, he chose Denver.
What's being not getting noticed, aside from Denver's 5-3 start, is that Manning is one touchdown shy of tying Dan Marino (420 TD passes) for second all time in career touchdown passes (Brett Favre leads with 508). That's a pretty big deal.
Over the last couple of years it's been apparent that Manning is on pace to break every major quarterback statistic. His neck surgery has only delayed the inevitable by a year.
As of right now, he is a little more than 13,000 yards and 90 touchdowns away from passing Brett Favre for first all time in those categories. At the pace he's been playing at over his entire career, including this season, these marks should be surpassed within the next four years.
Will No. 18 play for four more seasons? Barring injury, I say "yes". The Denver Broncos signed him to a five-year deal back in March. They're expecting at least a solid four to five years out of him.
Peyton Manning has been the epitome of a professional. The ultimate competitor who always expects perfection out of himself and his teammates. If anyone deserves the records and accolades, it's him.
In my opinion, when his career comes to an end he will be the greatest quarterback of all time. He should own every major quarterback statistic out there, with at least one, if not multiple Super Bowl rings. He has the most MVPs in NFL history and he is only two game-winning drives away from passing Dan Marino for most all time.
Records and rings aside, no one dissected, studied and played the position like Manning. He was a coach on and off the field and he made a bunch of nobodies, somebodies. We won't ever see another Peyton Manning, and this is coming from a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan who thinks Joe Montana is God.
Peyton Manning just happens to be in another world all by himself.
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