Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manning's great, will never be the greatest

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Ok, so maybe comparing Russell Wilson to a blind poodle with three legs squaring off against a Siberian tiger-esque Peyton Manning wasn't the best analogy I've ever come up with -- especially since the Denver Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks by 35 points on Superbad Sunday.

Even though I predicted a final score of 46-6 (it was actually 43-8), I was Superwrong about the Seahawks being on the short side of that ledger, and ended my playoff forecasting at 9-2.

While Wilson was far from spectacular in this game, he did take care of the football, he did make plays when he needed to and he did get out of the way of a defensive unit that was hell bent on making puppy chow out of the Broncos.

There is no disputing Manning had the best regular season a quarterback has ever had in the history of the NFL, but does his playoff record -- he has now lost more playoff games than anybody else in the game -- speak the loudest when it comes to reconciling his accomplishments?

The reason so many people were behind Peyton in this campaign was because we wanted him to finally put to rest the speculation and squash the asterisk behind his credentials that said he wasn't a big-game player.

Sure, he won plenty of big games to get to the Super Bowl and there is no one who can even compare to how he performs in the mundane regular season, but he now has one win and two losses in the big show and that says something. By coming so close to vanquishing his critics and becoming scene one of the discussion of the greatest pivot ever, he has now furthered the case against himself.

To put this in proper context, one first needs to decide how culpable quarterbacks are when it comes to any win or loss.

For the most part, while the greatness of middle linebackers or receivers isn't based off of championships won or lost, quarterbacks don't have the same luxury.

You can be a good quarterback, such as Dan Marino, and never win a Super Bowl. But if you want to be in the Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Johnny Unitas conversation, you have to do what others haven't done.

Football is the consummate team game, but it's the quarterback position that receives the most attention.

Sure, a great team can prop up a mediocre pivot and take him to the promised land. How else do you explain the world championships Trent Dilfer and Joe Flacco have won? But when you have the discussion about the best who have ever played the game, their talents are undeniable on the biggest of stages, and Peyton just keeps getting denied.

Conclusion

Looking over Peyton's body of work throughout 16 years in the NFL, it's hard not to reach the conclusion he always peaks at the wrong time. He prepares so well in the regular season and is such a student of the game, it almost seems like he has no other gear to elevate to in the playoffs.

In games the magnitude of the Super Bowl, coaches are notorious for asking their players to do just a little more work, a little more film study and a little more physical preparation.

How do you do that with someone like Peyton Manning? With him, when he gets to the big dance, he doesn't have anything left or more to give. He is so meticulous and exacting for 18 weeks of the year, all his cards have been on the table for too long. When you give 100 per cent 100 per cent of the time, there is no where to go but down.

In Manning's defence, when you look at the Super Bowls he's won and lost, he was never on a balanced football team. His defences in Indianapolis were famous for their futility and his Bronco defenders this year were at the opposite end of the statistical spectrum all season long.

In the one championship he won, he threw for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That was his best game. In the two championship games he lost, he did not fare nearly as well.

In the four championships he played in, Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl and never threw an interception. Tom Brady has done far more with far less than Peyton and has won 60 per cent of his five Super Bowl opportunities.

Peyton has not been able to elevate his own play and that of those around him in the biggest of big games and that is why, in spite of his absolute dominance in the regular season, he will never be the consensus best pivot for the ages.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2014 C5

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