By the end of Peyton Manning’s career, he should hold every meaningful record in the books. He certainly will be, and already is in the discussion, as being one of the all-time greats to play the position. But, if the Colts lose on Sunday, how much will it affect his legacy?
Rightfully, or wrongfully, when the discussion arises about who was the greatest quarterback to play the game, the biggest emphasis is put on how many championships did they win. Regardless of all the other records, all the other stats, this is the criterion that is used the most.
That is why Sunday’s game means so much when it comes to evaluating Manning’s career. Especially a career that has been marked by so many post-season losses, that for a long time there was speculation that Manning would end up like Dan Marino: a great quarterback that never won the big one.
In many ways, Manning has revolutionized the quarterback position. What he does at the line of scrimmage, his ability to read defenses, the fact that he is literally a quarterback and a coach out on the field, plus his god given ability to throw the football make him like no other.
This isn’t just coming from some writer sitting at his computer. This is something that has been talked about ad nauseam all week by his peers and coaches in the game. When, you hear it come from the likes of Hall of Fame Coach John Madden or Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelley, it carries a lot of weight.
Still, to make the argument for greatest of all time, which a lot of Colts fans prematurely make on his behalf, the Colts must win on Sunday. That, and another Super Bowl win, plus all the above combined, would go a long way for making the case that Manning is the best to have ever played the position.
Ironically, even if Manning were to play horribly on Sunday, ala Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XL, and the Colts won, it would still enhance his legacy, because most people won’t remember how he played after a few years anyway. That might be an indictment of how we evaluate greatness at the position, but that’s for another article.
If the Colts lose on Sunday, then yes, Manning’s legacy will take a blow. He definitely will still be talked about as one of the greats, he will still go to the Hall of Fame, and people may argue that he was the best to play the position from 1998 to whenever he hangs up his cleats; but with only one Super Bowl win, the argument for greatest of all time falls short.
Sunday’s game is more than another Super Bowl; it’s about Manning’s place in the history of the game.