Colts’ Super Bowl loss takes Manning down a peg? Not in my book

February 09, 2010 | Drew Forrester

And the great debate about Peyton Manning rages on, made much easier and more poignant now that his team lost Super Bowl 44 on Sunday night to the New Orleans Saints.

I’ve read gobs and gobs of articles, blogs and web-analysis of Manning in the 48 hours since he jogged – slump shouldered and all – off the field in Miami with an “L” to his credit in the big game.  I haven’t found many people interested in defending Manning over the last two days.

I suppose I will.

Sort of.

I’ll start by saying this:  Peyton Manning isn’t the greatest quarterback ever.  Frankly, I’m not sure how you say “he (or she) is the best ever” but I’m always quick to say “the best of their generation” or “the best since they came into the league” or “the best of the last decade”.

If you pressed me for an answer to the question that I just wrote shouldn’t be answered – who’s the best QB ever? – I’d go with Joe Montana.

But in terms of Peyton Manning, I will say this:  I think he’s the best QB in the game today.  That’s my statement on Manning.  He’s the best QB playing football, on planet Earth, right now.

The criticism(s) of him in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Saints is not only surprising, but, given some of the so-called “experts” who have piled on, remarkably unfair and unbalanced.  But that’s just if you ask me.

It baffles me to no end that folks say of Manning, “Look at his playoff record, he’s 9-9 in those games. That just shows you he’s not very good under pressure.”

That’s quite an assessment.  He’s played 18 career post-season games and lost 9 of them.  Who beat his team in those 9 games?  The Lions?  No. Every playoff loss comes against a quality team.  After all, don’t playoff losses come against — playoff teams?

I also like how people say, “Yeah, but look at what he’s done in the Super Bowl.”

Sure, I will.  He played on a team that won one.  And he’s now played on a team that lost one.   Tons of great quarterbacks lost Super Bowl games. Hall of Famers galore lost Super Bowl games.  S*it happens, as the saying goes.  Or, using my favorite phrase, “the other team tries too.”

Pointing to Manning’s loss on Sunday and establishing that it somehow blemishes his career means Tom Brady’s loss to the Giants scars his run in New England.  Right?  Not to me.  The fact that Brady and the Patriots were sleepwalking throughout most of their January home playoff loss to the Ravens a month ago…does that change the way Brady will be judged someday?  I highly doubt it.  Last time I checked, no one wins them all.

I love when folks whisper this:  “Look at what Manning’s done in crunch time.”

Crunch time?  What the hell are the playoffs?  A Sunday walk in the park?  Last time I checked, ANY game where you either win or go home can be called “crunch time”.

Using Manning’s 9 post-season losses to somehow diminish his greatness also disrespects the 9 post-season games he WON to date.  Does anyone remember that Manning and the Colts once went into Kansas City and won a post-season game?  Wasn’t that “crunch time”?  And that was back in the day (2004) when the Chiefs were nearly invincible at Arrowhead Stadium.  Need I remind anyone of January 13, 2007 when the Colts came to Baltimore and — well, never mind, you know the rest of the story.  (And yes, I certainly recall that Manning couldn’t get the Colts in the end zone on that fateful day in Charm City…but I know he played the next week and the Ravens didn’t.)

I realize a lot of people in Baltimore have an axe to grind with Manning because of the team he plays for…I wish people could be more objective in Baltimore, but in this case, I sort of get it.

So while I can sort-of-justify our local football fan’s inability to smartly dissect Peyton’s career-to-date, I can’t let the rest of the nation off the hook so easily.

Peyton Manning is a great Quarterback.  They already have 80% of his bust in the molding process at Canton.  He’ll be in the Hall of Fame someday no matter what you say or what you think.

But I can’t get over how folks across the country have taken one game and one loss and made it into a career defining moment.  Had the Colts won on Sunday night, you know what his detractors would have said?  “Yeah, OK, Manning has 2 Super Bowls.  But Tom Brady has three.  Talk to me when Manning gets to three.”

And speaking of Sunday’s game, a majority of the experts have said the New Orleans win goes on the back of two people — Sean Payton for his gutsy, go-for-broke style and play-calling, and Drew Brees, the MVP of the game.

So which is it?  Did Payton and Brees WIN the game or did Manning LOSE the game?

Bob from Hereford called the show this morning and made an interesting point about current-day quarterbacks.  Bob said, essentially, that if he had to pick one quarterback, right now, to play for HIS team in the Super Bowl, he’d go with Ben Roethlisberger.  I might agree with that, personally, even though we all loathe the Steelers and the thought of giving them any credit.  Bob’s right, though.  If you wanted to hand pick one guy right now who embodies “big game” player, Big Ben might be it.  That is, until he loses his first Super Bowl.  That said, Roethlisberger has lost two playoff games in his career – only two – and guess what?  They’ve BOTH been at home.  That’s the weird stat of the day, eh?  Big Ben is 8-2 in his playoff career, but both “blemishes” have come in the cozy confines of his own building.  What’s that say about him?  Nothing.  If you ask me.

Where do you rank Dan Marino on your all-time list of quarterbacks?  He’s in nearly everyone’s top 10 and some say he’s a Top-5 all-timer.

We all KNOW he never won a Super Bowl…he only played in one, in fact.  So what’s his career playoff record?  How about 8-10?

Yep, the great Dan Marino, one of the best EVER, wasn’t even a .500 performer in the post-season.  “The other team tries too.”

I always look at the balance of someone’s career and throw everything into consideration when evaluating them.  I do that with every sport, including golf and tennis.

Could they win on the road?  What about when they were down 3-games-to-1 or losing 20-10 going into the 4th quarter or trailed 5-2 in the 8th inning?  Did they produce the magic moment, the big goal, the huge TD pass or the big 2-run double?

In tennis, the question always is:  “Can he or she win on all the surfaces?”

In golf, there are players who have won a bunch of “regular” tournaments but can’t break through and win a major.  Some guys in Europe make tons of money playing on the courses over there but they can’t play on the PGA Tour with any success.

Baseball players – particularly pitchers – are always judged differently based on whether or not they spent any time in the American League.  The same goes for hitters.

I’m judging Peyton Manning on his full body of work to date.  He’s won in virtually every stadium, in big games, in week #5 games, in games that meant your season was on the line and in games where by winning, you become a champion.

Peyton Manning has done it all.

And yes, that includes losing.

Joe Montana lost big games too.  At home, even.  So did John Elway.

But to take the Indianapolis Super Bowl loss on Sunday night and somehow attach that to Manning as if it might somehow tarnish his legacy is silly and, to me, more indicative of a personal agenda than it is a reasonable, thorough research of the facts that might persuade you to say “that Manning isn’t as good as everyone thinks.”

He’s as good as his record indicates, in my mind.  And by “record”, I’m mostly hanging on to the fact that he’s been in the league for 12 seasons and has played post-season football in 10 of them.  Start your search now for someone in that time span who can boast a record of similar accomplishment.  I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done.

Summary:  Peyton Manning is a great quarterback.  He’s the best quarterback in football, right now.  And without him, the Colts would almost certainly not even be a .500 team in the regular season.  Then again, the same could be said for the Saints and the Steelers, for example, if you took Brees and Ben out of their lineup.

If Manning wins a couple of more Super Bowls, some might wind up putting the “best ever” label on him.  If not, he’ll go down as a guy who didn’t win enough titles to be mentioned in the same breath as Montana and Elway.

For now, though, taking one loss in the Super Bowl and somehow magnifying it into some kind of career-statement is just not right.

It’s one game.  His TEAM lost.

Joe Flacco has a career winning percentage as a post-season quarterback (3-2) but I don’t see anyone applying the “great” tag to him just yet.

There are 52 other players on the football roster who can – if the circumstances warrant – have as much to do with the team winning and losing as the quarterback.

You think I’m wrong?

Someone recovered the on-side kick for the Saints the other night to start the 2nd half.

Do you know his name?

Me neither.

But we always know the quarterback’s name.

And he always gets the blame.