One of the biggest topics of Super Bowl week is that of the legacy of Peyton Manning. It makes too much sense for the NFL and others to keep playing up the game - the league's biggest star playing in the biggest stage of them all in perhaps the biggest game of his career in the biggest media market in the country in probably the only Super Bowl that will ever be there. The storylines are all there.
The issue of Peyton Manning's legacy is something that interests and concerns Colts fans in particular, as Manning was their quarterback for 13 seasons and will always be remembered as a member of the Colts and not the Broncos. It's easy to tell that I am about as big of a Peyton Manning fan as you can get and I could literally spend all day defending the legacy of a quarterback who I already think is the greatest player to ever play the game. Some day after he's done, I'll write a book about it.
But right now? During Super Bowl week? Is this really the conversation we want to spend all of our time discussing? Not the game against the NFC's number one seed? Not the spectacular season? Heck, even the weather seems to have taken a back seat to the talk of Peyton Manning's legacy. Almost everybody says that with one more ring Peyton Manning will become the greatest of all time. You're telling me that you're seriously going to define somebody's career by 1 of his 263 career games? And even if Manning does win one more, the narrative will inevitably change to people saying he needs a third ring. I've seen this before. In 2006, people said Manning needed just one ring. Soon after he got that, it changed to people saying that Manning needs another. If he wins again, it will change to people saying that he needs a third. It creates story lines for networks. They think that if Manning is trying to become the best ever it will cause more people to watch it. It's as if watching Peyton Manning play football isn't enough.
There has never been anybody who has played the game of football like Peyton Manning, and there will never be someone who plays the game like Peyton Manning ever again. He perfected the art of quarterbacking and made the line of scrimmage an art form. His constant motions, calling out things like, "Apple, Apple," "Hurry, Hurry," or "Omaha," and his milking of the play clock is a sight to behold. The way he causes defenders to jump offsides or to show their play before he even snaps the ball is mastery. People have said that they think Manning knows the opposing defense better than the defensive players do. The saying that he's playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers really rings true for Peyton Manning.
Nobody has been as consistently great as Peyton Manning has been over the past decade plus. In fact, nobody in NFL history has been nearly as consistent as Peyton Manning has been, and it's not even close. He has made the playoffs in 12 of his 14 seasons actually playing and is on pace to break the all-time touchdown pas record next season.
And yet everyone is missing it.
The legacy talk has prevented us from truly appreciating the greatness of Peyton Manning. There's plenty of room for that talk after he's retired and when he's about to go into the Hall of Fame. But at that point the only way you'll be able to watch Peyton Manning is on replays. Ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, we won't be nearly as concerned about the legacy of Peyton Manning and how many rings he got but will instead be talking about how remarkable he was.
I never watched Johnny Unitas play, yet I've talked plenty about his legacy. People today are so concerned about the legacy of a player that they're essentially doing the same thing while the player is still playing. People are so concerned about the legacy talk that it's almost as if they're missing the player actually play.
You'll be able to debate who's the best of all-time all you want in the coming years. But there will come a time - soon - when you won't be able to watch Peyton Manning play anymore. Please, please don't miss it. Win or lose this weekend, it shouldn't determine Manning's legacy. Even more so, that shouldn't be the primary talking point. We are nearing the end of the career of one of the greatest players to ever play the game of football. Watching him is special. He threw 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards this year and will be facing the league's number one defense in the Super Bowl. It will be a great game of football. Enjoy watching one of football's best players play.
The legacy talk will be around forever. Peyton Manning won't be. In fact, there's a real chance that this will be the last time we ever watch him play on a stage this big. And yet instead of spending the week talking about how good he really is, we're talking about how good he needs to be. Can we please set aside the legacy talk for just one week? There will be plenty of time for it later. Once he's retired, I'll talk about it all you want about it and I'll write a book about it. But now? I want to enjoy watching one of the best players in league history play.
Because thirty years from now, that's all that we'll really care about anyway. We won't really care whether or not he got that second Super Bowl ring. We'll care much more about the memories we have of watching him play. The audibles, the touchdowns, the number 18, the classy post-game interviews. This is a special player nearing the end of his brilliant career. Don't miss it.