Needless to say, Peyton Manning is one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. The first 13 years of his career has seen him put on a display on the art of playing the position of quarterback unlike anyone has ever seen. He has been so consistently brilliant that it is almost impossible to rank which season is his best. Well I'm attempting to do just that. (Please Note that this is my personal opinion.)
326/575 (56.7%) 3739 yards, 6.5 ypa, 26 TDs 28 ints. 71.2 QB Rating 3-13 Record
This was the easiest one to rank. While Peyton set several NFL rookie records during the season, the yards and TDs as well as interceptions are still NFL Records for a Rookie QB, he and the Colts spent most of the year struggling. The team often blew second half leads as a result of turnovers and bad defense. Yet Manning did have memorable moments during the year, such as nearly out-dueling future Hall of Famer Steve Young in San Francisco as well as leading his first career 4th Quarter Comeback in a 24-23 victory over the Jets.
343/547 (62.7%) 4131 yards, 7.6 ypa, 26 TDs 23 ints. 84.1 QB Rating 6-10 Record
Again, another easy one to rank. After back to back playoff appearances, the Colts took a step back following a season-ending injury to Edgerrin James early in the year. Manning produced a few memorable performances early in the year, throwing for 421 yards and 4 TDs against the Bills and scoring 45 points against the Jets in the season opener. Yet Manning was plagued by turnovers throughout the year, often forced to battle back from huge deficits due to a defense that allowed the most points in the NFL.
392/591 (66.3%) 4200 yards, 7.1 ypa, 27 TDs 19 ints. 88.8 QB Rating 10-6 Record, Pro Bowl Selection
The first season of the Dungy era saw the Colts get back to the playoffs yet the season itself was often a struggle. The team jumped out to a 4-1 start only to lose three straight and slip to 4-4. The Colts had to wait until a victory in the season finale over the Jaguars to secure the last playoff seed. The season was an up and down one for Manning. While his connection with his favorite receiver Marvin Harrison was never better, 143 catches 1722 yards, Manning himself was hot one week and cold the next. He had several standout games such as a three touchdown performance on opening day against Jacksonville and a 35-13 drubbing of the Philadelphia Eagles that saw him post a perfect passer rating. Yet he also had his fair share of bad games as well, three interception games against the Steelers and Giants and then the worst game of his career in the 41-0 playoff loss to the Jets.
357/571 (62.5%) 4413 yards, 7.7 ypa, 33 TDs 15 ints. 94.7 QB Rating 10-6 Record, Pro Bowl Selection
This season marked the first time that the Colts and Manning were met with the serious expectations that would follow them for the next decade. Manning played well throughout the season, leading the league in passing yards and touchdown passes, as he, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison were at their peak as the new "Triplets".
331/533 (62.1%) 4135 yards, 7.8 ypa, 26 TDs 15 ints. 90.7 QB Rating 13-3 Record, Pro Bowl Selection
This season marked the "arrival" of the Peyton Manning we all know and love. With the addition of rookie Edgerrin James to the team, Peyton and the Colts completed the greatest one season turnaround in NFL History, going from 3-13 his rookie season to 13-3. With James, who led the league in rushing, and Marvin Harrison, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards, the Colts won the AFC East and hosted a playoff game for the first time ever. Manning led 7 game-winning drives during the season, including an unbelievable drive against Miami, and began building his reputation as one of the most dangerous 4th Quarter QBs in the history of the NFL.
337/515 (65.4%) 4040 yards, 7.8 ypa, 31 TDs 14 ints. 98.0 QB Rating 13-3 Record, Pro Bowl Selection
Coming off his first Super Bowl title, Manning and the Colts showed no signs of a slump. Manning was brilliant throughout the season, with the exception of the game in San Diego, leading the Colts to a 7-0 start out of the gate. He produced several memorable performances down the stretch against: the Falcons (272 yards 3 TDs), Jaguars (288 yards 4 TDs), Ravens (249 yards 4 TDs), Raiders (276 yards 1 TD), and Texans (311 yards 3 TDs). Despite a brilliant performance versus San Diego in the playoffs, 33/48 (68.8%) 402 yards 3 TDs 97.4 QB Rating, the Colts fell short of victory 28-24.
379/566 (67.0%) 4267 yards, 7.5 ypa, 29 TDs 10 ints. 99.0 QB Rating 12-4 Record, All-Pro Selection, Pro Bowl Starter, Co-MVP
Manning's first MVP Season earned him the reputation as the best QB in the NFL. Manning produced memorable moments throughout the season and began etching his name in the history books. He gained national attention after throwing 6 touchdown passes against the Saints, the team his father quarterbacked for 10 seasons, and came through in big games, leading comebacks against the Jets, Texans, Bills, Titans, and nearly coming back from a 21 point deficit against the Patriots. The defining performance of Manning's 2003 season came on Monday Night against the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. Trailing 35-14 with less than 5 minutes to go against the NFL's #1 Defense, Manning led three touchdown drives to tie the game and send it into overtime. He then led the Colts into position, converting three 3rd downs on the drive, for Mike Vanderjagt's game-winning FG to win 38-35. Manning threw for 386 yards and 2 TDs in the game as the Colts became the first and only team to win a game in which they trailed by three touchdowns with less than 5 minutes to play. As good as Manning was in the regular season, he was even better in the playoffs. Manning put together the greatest back-to back playoff performances by a QB in NFL History, going 44/56 (78.6%) for 681 yards and 8 TDs with a 156.9 QB Rating as the Colts offense racked up 926 yards and scored 79 points in the two games while not having to punt once.
450/679 (66.3%) 4700 yards, 6.9 ypa, 33 TDs 17 ints. 91.9 QB Rating, 10-6 Record, Pro Bowl Selection
This is probably the biggest surprise on the list but aside from a 3 game stretch that saw him throw 11 interceptions that included 4 pick-sixes, Manning was able to maintain his signature brilliance despite the weakest supporting cast since his rookie season. He had brilliant games against the Giants, Broncos, Texans (both times), and Titans (both times) and seemed to will the Colts into the postseason down the stretch. He set an NFL record with 450 completions and set a franchise record with 4700 passing yards.
305/453 (67.3%) 3747 yards, 8.3 ypa, 28 TDs 10 ints. 104.1 QB Rating, 14-2 Record, All-Pro, Pro Bowl Starter
Coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, Manning sacrificed great volume numbers for greater efficiency as the Colts fielded their best team since the 1968 NFL Champions. Manning got the Colts out to a blistering 13-0 start, finally conquering the Patriots and leading the most balanced offensive attack in the NFL. Manning began to display the signature patience that has defined the second half of his career as the Colts became the first and only team in NFL history to win 13 straight games by at least a touchdown. Manning guided the Colts to a league-best and franchise record 14 wins and led the league in Quarterback rating for the 2nd consecutive season.
336/497 (67.6%) 4557 yards, 9.2 ypa, 49 TDs 10 ints. 121.1 QB Rating 12-4 Record, All-Pro, Pro Bowl Starter, MVP
Easily Manning's greatest statistical season, his record-breaking year began the moulding of his Hall of Fame bust and began the talk of his place in the discussion of the Greatest QBs of All-Time. Manning was simply unstoppable all season long, with the exception of the playoff game in New England, as he set a franchise record for passing yards, set an NFL Record for the highest passer rating in a single season with a mark of 121.1 that is still the standard, and broke Dan Marino's 20 year old record for most TD passes in a single season by throwing 49 which he accomplished in only 15 games. Manning had a record 13 consecutive games with at least 2 TD passes, a record 5 consecutive games with at least 4 TD passes, a league record nine consecutive games with a passer rating over 100, and threw at least 5 touchdown passes in 4 games also a record. He produced one of the signature moments of his career when he brought the Colts back from 15 points down in the 4th Quarter to beat the Chargers in Overtime 34-31, throwing the record-breaking 49th TD pass to put the game within a two-point conversion of tying the game. Manning carried over his regular season success to the playoffs, throwing for an NFL record 360 yards passing and 3 TDs in the first half, on his way to the second highest single game passing total in playoff history. 27/33 (81.8%) 458 yards 4 TDs 1 int. 145.7 QB Rating
(Tie) 2. 2008
371/555 (66.8%) 4002 yards, 7.2 ypa, 27 TDs 12 ints. 95.0 QB Rating 12-4 Record, All-Pro, Pro Bowl Starter, MVP
In a season in which he faced more adversity on the field and off it then at anytime in his career, Manning produced some of the most signature performances of his Hall of Fame career. Coming off knee surgery that forced him to miss all of training camp and pre-season, Manning willed the Colts to a 2-2 start following miracle comebacks, down 15 points in the 4th Quarter and down 17 points with 5 minutes to go in the 4th Quarter, against Minnesota and Houston before dismantling the Ravens defense at home. After back-to-back losses saw the Colts fall to 3-4 on the year, Manning willed the team into the playoffs as the Colts won their final 9 games to reach 12 wins for the 6th straight season and earn a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Manning was on fire in the last 9 games going 209/290 (72.1%) 2248 yards 17 TDs 3 ints. 109.7 QB Rating. Manning's signature performance came in a playoff clinching victory over Jacksonville in Week 16. Manning despite his defense giving up 24 points, 409 yards of offense and scores on 4 of the Jaguars first 5 possessions, and only getting 32 yards from his ground game, Manning completed his first 17 passes of the game, 23 consecutive completions if you include his last 6 passes against Detroit, and finished completing 29/34 364 yards 3 TDs 140.7 QB Rating. Manning tied the game at 24 all in the 4th then Keiwan Ratliff's pick-six and a late goal-line stand put the finishing touches on a memorable 31-24 victory.
(Tie) 2. 2006
362/557 (65.0%) 4397 yards, 7.9 ypa, 31 TDs 9 ints. 101.0 QB Rating 12-4 Record, All-Pro, Pro Bowl Starter, Super Bowl XLI MVP
Obviously Manning's championship season is going to be in the Top 2 but he was so good in 2008 that I couldn't put either below the other. The 2006 season was easily Manning's best season as a play-caller as he led the league in touchdown passes and Passer Rating and showed just how truly valuable he is to the Colts. He guided the team to a 9-0 start despite having the burden of the worst run defense in NFL history forcing he and the offense to be close to perfect. He produced several memorable performances: vs. the Giants in Wk 1 (276 yards 1 TD), vs. the Texans Wk 2 (400 yards 3 TDs), vs. the Jets (217 yards 1 TD 1 Rushing TD, led two game-winning drives in the last 4 minutes), vs. the Redskins (342 yards 4 TDs), vs. the Broncos ( 32/39 82.1% 345 yards 3 TDs, scored on all 5 second half possessions), vs. Patriots (326 yards 2 TDs), vs. Bengals (29/36 (80.6%) 282 yards 4 TDs), and vs. Miami (282 yards 2 TDs 1 rushing TD). However it is his performance in the playoffs that earns this season its spot on this list. After two subpar games against the Chiefs and the vaunted Ravens defense that saw the Colts defense overcome offensive struggles, Manning produced the signature performance of his career. Trailing 21-3 late in the first half, Manning started getting hot as the Colts outscored the Patriots 35-13 over the game's final 32 minutes. Manning threw for 307 yards and 1 touchdown and ran for another during that span, culminating in a masterful final drive. Down 34-31 with 2:17 to go and 80 yards away from a TD, Manning delivered. Going 3/4 for 57 yards on the drive, Manning guided the Colts all the way to the Patriots' 11 yard line. From there, he handed it off three straight times to Joseph Addai, who punched it in from three yards out to take the lead 38-34. The Colts secured a trip to Super Bowl XLI with Marlin Jackson's interception of a Tom Brady pass with 16 seconds to go. In Superbowl XLI, Manning and the Colts offense shook off a sluggish first quarter to lead the Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears and their vaunted defense. Running a ball control offense to perfection, Manning and the Colts piled up 430 yards of offense on 81 plays, as Manning completed 25/38 for 247 yards, including a 53 yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne, and was named Super Bowl MVP.
393/571 (68.8%) 4500 yards, 7.9 ypa, 33 TDs 16 ints. 99.9 QB Rating 14-2 Record, All-Pro, Pro Bowl Starter, MVP
Peyton Manning has had better seasons statistically (2004), he's had more efficient seasons (2005, 2006), he's protected the ball better (2006, 2003), and he's even been more valuable to the team throughout the entire season (2008). Yet, 2009 was Manning's best season as a pro because his ora, his presence, his influence and his overall impact were never greater. No season has a Quarterback been more feared than Peyton Manning was in 2009. While he had several bad interceptions (the two versus New England, the two against Baltimore, two of the three against Denver), he also never really had a bad game. In guiding the Colts to a 14-0 start, he never had a game with less than 220 yards passing and only once had a completion percentage under 60%. In addition, he started the season with five consecutive games with over 300 yards passing, had four games with 4 touchdown passes, had seven games with at least 3 TD passes, and 13 games with at least 1 touchdown pass. In 14 games, he passed for over 300 yards in 9 of them and only had a passer rating below 80 once. Perhaps the most impressive statistic of Manning's 2009 campaign was his NFL Record 7 4th Quarter Comebacks. No player was more feared by opposing head coaches with the ball in his hands during the 4th Quarter, a belief confirmed by Bill Belichick's 4th and 2 decision in the week 10 matchup between the Colts and Patriots. Manning produced several memorable performances from his 4 TD masterpiece vs. Arizona, to his 2 minute wizardry vs. Tennessee and Seattle, to his near perfect performance vs. Jacksonville, and perhaps most impressive of all was his big-play miracle against Miami where he was 14/23 (60.9%) for 303 yards and 2 TDs despite only having the ball for 14:53, in a heart-stopping 27-23 victory on Monday Night Football. Manning's wizardry continued in the postseason as he carved up the Ravens' vaunted defense for a 20-3 win before putting on possible the greatest display of his talents in his illustrious career against the New York Jets. Facing the league's top ranked defense and the best pass defense since the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Manning was 26/39 for 377 yards and 3 TDs as the Colts outscored the Jets 24-0 over the game's final 32 minutes after falling behind 17-6. Despite a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl XLIV, Peyton Manning has never been better than he was in 2009. That season still remains his best. Colts' fans often feel that as though the Colts have a chance to win any game as long as Peyton Manning is under center. Never was that more true than in 2009.