It was reported today that Peyton Manning is going to be announcing his retirement from the NFL. We have been hearing many fans in Patriots Nation discredit his accomplishments recently. Granted, there are many fans who are happy for Manning and acknowledge a very a successful NFL career. However, the majority of Patriots fans only have one thing on their minds when it comes to Peyton Manning. It’s the comparison to Tom Brady. Rather than acknowledging the outstanding career in which Manning is certainly a Top 5 QB of all-time, Patriots Nation is going to compare him to Brady and point out all of the negative points and flaws in his career. The reality is that Manning, along with Brady, brought the NFL to a completely new level and together they helped make the sport the clear-cut top sport in the United States of America. Just because Manning isn’t ahead of Brady, does that mean we can’t acknowledge an all-time great career?
Many Patriots fans are so hung up on Deflategate that they have a “us against the world” mentality as a result. If you don’t wear Patriots blue and white, you’re the enemy. That includes players, coaches, officials, and the league’s front office. There were fans who actually thought that Tom Brady should have been the league MVP over Cam Newton. Cam Newton led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and accounted for 45 touchdowns and over 4,400 combined passing and rushing yards. How would Newton not be the MVP? This was very similar to 2013. In that year, Peyton Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns during a 13-3 Broncos season. It was probably the best single season any quarterback has ever had in the NFL. Even after this amazing season, there were still Patriots fans who thought that Brady got robbed.
Because of the Patriots success which has been unmatched by any team in the NFL over the past 15 years, many fans struggle to give credit when it’s deserved to other players and teams. Many fans couldn’t even give Manning credit after the recent Super Bowl win. The general consensus was that the Broncos won despite Manning. Did he play great? Absolutely not. Did he do exactly what the team needed him to do during the playoff run? Yes. This team was built to win with their defense and they needed a quarterback who was going to put up enough points to win and not turn the ball over. That’s what Manning did. Patriots fans may remember that this was exactly what was asked of a young Tom Brady in New England in 2001.
The Brady – Manning mindset in Boston is similar to the Larry Bird – Magic Johnson rivalry back in the 1980’s. Like Brady and Manning, Bird and Magic helped take the league to a new level. The argument could be made that those two players actually did more for the NBA than Brady and Manning did for the NFL. That’s a topic for another day. Like Brady and Manning, during the 1980’s, Bird and Magic were the two best players in their league. Like Brady and Manning, Bird and Magic faced each other in multiple big playoff games. Every time they played against each other, it was an event and fans were glued to their TV to watch. If you asked any Celtics fan in the 1980’s who the better player was, they would have said Larry Bird. It wasn’t even debatable. In these conversations, fans focused on Magic’s flaws. He wasn’t a great shooter. He did not make as many big shots at the end of the game like Bird did. He had Kareem. It went on and on. Ask Celtics fans now what they think of Magic Johnson? He was probably the best passer who ever played basketball. He led the best fast break team of all-time. He won five championships. It took a while, but Bird and Magic are now on an equal playing field even in Boston. The rivalry is over. Now, the discussions aren’t about who was better. It’s about how changed the NBA together.
Twenty years from now, fans who watched Manning are going to appreciate him a lot more than they do right now after he’s fresh off of defeating Tom Brady and the Patriots and winning the Super Bowl. After all, this a player who won more MVP’s than any player in the history of the NFL. He was First Team All-Pro seven times. He doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in the regular season. In the postseason, he certainly had his ups and downs. There was a time about ten years ago where the Patriots owned Manning. However, remember that Manning won the last three playoff matchups against the Pats and they were all in the AFC Championship Game. There isn’t another QB in football who could have won three AFC Championship Games against the Patriots. Oh yeah, since we put so much emphasis on championships, he did win two. Two doesn’t seem like a lot next to Brady’s four, but it’s not like this is a guy who didn’t win big games. He’s the only QB ever to win the Super Bowl with two different teams.
If you think that Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Peyton Manning, you have more than enough facts to back up your argument. Brady has done amazing things for the Patriots and the Boston fan base. We’ve had the honor of watching a player who has helped lead the Patriots to four Super Bowls. Having said all of that, that doesn’t mean that Peyton Manning needs to be discredited because he’s Brady’s rival.
Peyton Manning was the best single rival of your Patriots team in the past 15 years. Without Brady – Manning, what we would have had? Brady – Rivers? Brady – Flacco? How about a division rival like Ryan Fitzpatrick? No thanks. Peyton Manning was a huge part of the Patriots and Tom Brady’s legacy. He made the experience better for us as fans. For that alone, we should acknowledge his contributions to the NFL.
Like it or not, Peyton Manning will go down as one of the best Boston sports rivals in history. It’s time to acknowledge an outstanding NFL career and a great experience that he gave the fans of the NFL including Patriots Nation.