Editor's Note: Reader Jacob Lewin has written several guest pieces for Colts Authority, and is back to rant about a recent segment on NFL Total Access. Lewin recently speculated about which 2013 games would be nationally televised, and has also written on jersey etiquette and Austin Collie's future. -KJR
Anyone who caught NFL Total Access “Top 10: Quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall,” should have the same reaction that I did: “PEYTON MANNING RANKED #3!?!?! Behind John Elway and Troy Aikman!!! Troy freaking Aikman!”
I sure hope you did because this is shameful and utterly misguided and I feel obligated to speak out against such defamation, and to preserve Peyton Manning’s reputation as best I can.
For those who do not want to subject themselves to such sacrilege and just want to see the list, here ya go:
(10) Carson Palmer; (9) Michael Vick; (8) Drew Bledsoe; (7) Jim Plunkett; (6) Eli Manning; (5) Joe Namath; (4) Terry Bradshaw; (3) Peyton Manning; (2) Troy Aikman; (1) John Elway
Now, I happen to disagree with a number of these (i.e.: Joe Namath should be dropped a few spots), but that’s outside the scope of this article. But, I’m here to defend Peyton Manning’s honor, and I know I’m not alone: NFL Network pulled the same shtick back in 2009 (that list was similar but different), and Ryan Michael of Bleacher Report correctly opined against these rankings. That article was from July 2009, and after four years, there is all the more reason that this snubbing should be condemned.
Back in November 2010, NFL Network aired a program ranking Peyton Manning #8 of all time – and that was before his injury in 2011 showed how crucial he was to the Colts success and before his most recent monster, comeback season (arguably the best of his 14 season, and he would’ve been MVP but for Adrian Peterson coming 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s rushing record).
Where did Elway and Aikman rank? That’s right, below him: Elway coming in at #23 and Troy Aikman only at #80!! I am not sure who votes for these “rankings,” and if it’s an algorithm of fan picks, player picks or experts, and much less where the rankings at issue were based off of, but still, it is telling of how authoritative and consistent NFL Network’s ranking truly are.
Although I would have accepted Peyton being ranked below his current boss, it still is absurd and under no circumstances should any human being believe Troy Aikman is the better #1 drafted quarterback. With regards to Troy Aikman, here are just a few things to consider:
- Troy Aikman’s Career Stats significantly pale in comparison to Manning’s. Troy Aikman’s regular season (165 games) stats: 32,942 passing yards, 61.5% comp, 165-141 TD-INT, 1,016 rushing yds, 9 rushing TDs, 81.6 Passer Rating. However, Manning’s career stats (in 224 games) are: 59,487 passing yards, 65.2% comp, 436-209 TD-INT, 728 rushing yards, 17 rushing TDs, 95.7 Passer Rating. Clearly, Peyton has dominated every significant QB statistic, and puts Aikman’s numbers to shame. Even though Aikman had to retire early because of concussions, Peyton’s numbers from his first 160 games dwarf Aikman’s 165 (41,626 yards passing; 306-153 TD-INT, 64.3% comp %, 95.3 Passer Rating).
- Peyton has 38 fourth quarter comebacks and 49 game-winning drives, Aikman only has 16 fourth quarter comebacks and 21 game winning drives. (Interestingly, both only have one in the postseason, both in title games). The most comebacks Aikman had in one season were 5, and that was in his rookie season, which didn’t even help all that much as they finished 7-9. Peyton boasts four seasons with 5+ and seven seasons with over 4, all of them playoff-seasons (one with a super bowl win)
- Peyton has been sacked 252 in 224 games while Aikman was sacked 259 times in 165 games. The most Peyton was ever sacked in a regular season was 29 (2001 – when the Colts blew and finished 6-10). Aikman was sacked more than 30 times in 3 different seasons – kinda makes sense why he had all those concussions.
- Manning is a 12-time Pro Bowler and 6-time First-Team All-Pro; Aikman only has 6 Pro-Bowls, and was selected to three All-Pro teams (93-95), only a one-time First Team (93).
- Aikman never won a league MVP, Peyton has the record with 4; they ARE both tied for a Super Bowl MVP, though.
- The one time Aikman and Manning matched up: Halloween 1999, and you guessed it, the Colts won. Aikman didn’t score or throw a TD and despite being down 24-21 going into the 4th quarter, Peyton threw a 40 yard pass to Marvin Harrison to take the lead and the Colts sealed the win, 34-24.
- Without getting into the gritty details, it’s just worthwhile to note that according to Pro Football Reference, Peyton Manning has the #1 highest weighted career AV (approximate value) since 1950, whereas Troy Aikman is ranked 179th.
- Troy Aikman may serve as the “premier” colorman for NFL on FOX with Joe Buck, but if Peyton were to start calling games, he’d easily dominate that, too.
- The one thing – the only thing – Troy Aikman has over Peyton: his three rings. But remember, Troy Aikman won those rings while being supported by arguably the best RB in NFL history – (sure, the Colts had Edgerrin James, but he was no Emmitt Smith), and a very strong defense. Besides that first Super Bowl win, the Cowboys’ victories came because of their D and Emmitt Smith more than Troy Aikman.
There are statistical discrepancies between Peyton and Elway as well even though Elway was a beast and did put up big numbers. However, even with playing more games than Peyton (234), his (passing) stats are not at Peyton’s level: Elway finished with less passing yards (51,475), less TDs (300), more INTs (226), a lower passer rating (79.9), WAY more sacks (516), and wow did he fumble a lot (137).
Peyton holds roughly a gazillion Colts franchise records, even some Broncos franchise records John Elway didn’t snag. Peyton recently surpassed John Elway’s record for fourth quarter comebacks and game winning drives.
Nevertheless, I still credit Elway as one of the best quarterbacks ever. Elway was able to make plays with his legs (3,407 rushing yards, 33 career rushing TDs), he has one of the best winning percentages in league history (148–82–1), tied for second most Pro Bowl selections for a quarterback (nine) and is fourth to Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning in career passing attempts, passing yards and completions. Elway’s four total rushing touchdowns in his Super Bowl games are the most ever by a quarterback.
As of 2012, only Elway, Terry Bradshaw and Tom Brady were quarterbacks that started in four Super Bowl games. He is also the second player ever to score a rushing touchdown in four different Super Bowls (running back Thurman Thomas was the first). He was able to snag get two rings (in the twilight of his career) and Elways’ “The Drive” is one of the most famous events in NFL history.
In terms of production relative to expected value, Peyton certainly went well above and beyond, even though he was the No. 1 overall pick. Peyton is a killer who consistently slashes defenses wide open. He is a rigorous student of the game and mastermind of a field-general. He revolutionized the no-huddle and created an almost unstoppable offensive scheme.
Manning transformed a perennial losing ball club and turned them into an AFC juggernaut (8 divisional titles, 11 playoff appearances, 3 AFC title game appearances, 2 AFC Championship titles (and a Super Bowl to boot). Manning saved football in Indiana and indeed his legacy extends to all of Indiana sports: before 2006, no “major” Indiana sports team had won a national/league championship since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1987.
His popularity in the NFL knows no bounds: from endorsements, nationally televised appearances and even a great performance on SNL. Even as a first overall pick, NO ONE would’ve predicted that he would attain this much success. This should certainly be sufficient to overtake Elway on this list.
To me, I am surprised that it is still “cool” to decry Peyton Manning whenever such discussions and debates arise. In my years as a football fan, I have read too many analysts downplaying his efficacy as a quarterback, to harp on his “inability” to come through in the clutch, and continuously obsess over his 11 postseason losses.
Yes, this past year was a really bad loss, and he has let me down many times in January (See Kyle’s articles, “The Clutch Enigma Part I and Part II” for an interesting perspective of Peyton’s postseason record/stats). It is baffling that analysts and sportswriters seem to take pride in tarnishing the legacy of arguably the best quarterback of all time, and certainly the best QB drafted #1 overall.
I am willing to entertain that Elway might still have the edge for now (Troy Aikman certainly shouldn’t even be in the same conversation), but Peyton has shown his tenacity and skill for 14 seasons – especially in the most recent comeback year – and by the time he retires, there will be no question that he will be the best quarterback taken #1 overall. Except maybe if Andrew Luck passes over him…
Clearly that idiotic survey displays anti-fivehead bias.
This was a very well reasoned piece. What baffles me is that it's NOT just about the rings, or Bradshaw would be ahead of PM as well (and JE, too). So why is Aikman there? And why is Vick, for God's sake? Palmer... he coulda been a contender until his playoff injury--he and Ocho were Manning and Harrison's understudies. When all is said and done, Aikman's peak teams will have had maybe six HOF players, maybe more. (Aik, Irvin, Smith, two OL, Deion... anybody I miss?) and Manning's will have probably just two (though I'd vote fo Edge and Saturday, and maybe Reggie, my vote does not count). Call it three in case 87 or 63 make it. Freeney? A pretty long shot now, unless he lands in the right place and collects 25 more sacks over the next 2-3 years.
Further statistical analysis could be brought to the case in terms of run/pass mix, rushing YPG, pts per game on O and D, pro bowl/all pro appearances for teammates over those years, and other factors to support the contention that Aikman's success was more team based than Manning's. Oh well.
Bah, always felt Elway was the most over rated QB ever. I always remember Bubby Brister coming in for that 98' Broncos team and basically playing better than Elway (and going 4-0). Those super bowl winning teams were just amazing.
Aikman won 3 Super Bowls; Peyton won 1 (in which he threw 3 TDs to 7 interceptions); Aikman was 11-4 in playoffs, Peyton is 9-11. Of course Peyton is better QB but I don't think it's such a stretch to include Aikman in the mix.
I am glad somebody answered the NFL Total Access snub of Peyton.
However, one word that must be said on Elway's behalf in all fairness is that he played his entire NFL career with out an ACL in his left knee which he tore while a junior in high school. ACL surgery would not be perfected for over another decade and a half. Elway and his trainers perfected a conditioning routine that allowed him to play without an ACL Ron Woodson in the mid nineties was one of the first to have ACL surgery and return to play at a very high level and doing so without losing a entire season to recovery.
I believe by late in his career Elway had a partial ACL tear in his right knee as well.
Love the stuff Jake - even as a non-Colts fan, one has to respect and honor the greatness of #18...thansk for backing him up
Good stuff, Jacob. Keep fighting the good fight! If there is anything I have realized in over-reading all of the over-analysis on sports, it's that the sports "experts" are really just know-nothing sports generalists. History will get things right...eventually.
I was hoping that this past season in Denver, would finally shut every one up. (And in a sane and objective world it would have.) And then that disasterous playoff game against the Ravens... and it is back to the same ol' talking points. (Why Peyton can not make a play as the deep safety in a prevent defense is beyond me.)
I have come to realize that there is nothing Peyton can ever do to silence all his critics. And even though things like this NFL Total Access poll still get me rankled... I've grown too weary of trying to argue with people who honestly think they know things about Peyton that are not true.
Still Jacob, that line about if Peyton was to become a color man he would dominate Aikman at that as well, was brilliant.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle Good morning bro. Point taken about Troy Aikman. :) Also forgot Marino & Favre in my Top 10. Have a great day!
1. Who cares? (Okay, we do...) 2. If you take away the last two years of Elways career, where does he rank? Then, what if Peyton wins 2 more SBs? 3. Like you said, for now we can give it to JE. But it's not over until PM is done. 4. See 1.
@rogcohen Most overrated QB of all time has to be Joe Namath
@rogcohen I would never argue with anyone proclaiming Elway's greatness. But it is true that his last two Broncos teams were exceptional and the "legendary" Bubby Brister was undefeated as a starter. (I thought he was 5-0.)
And that the Pats went 11-5 the year Brady was out.
Aikman was a fine QB, maybe even great, but he did have the fortune of playing for teams that were truly superior in their time.
What does this say... to me it has always meant how amazing the Colts regular season records were under Manning. As despite putting up double digit winning seasons for years, they were never a "super" team and always worked from a remarkably thin margin of error for having so much success. And it explains the Colts inability to dominate in the Postseason.
@MayerTheMayor Aikman played on a *far* superior team and that team was unrestricted by a salary cap for two of those 3 SB wins. Also attributing team wins to a QB is just about the weakest argument anyone can put forward.
@MayerTheMayor Just to clarify - Indeed Manning went 3-7 (TD-INT) during the four game stretch of playoffs in 2006 in which the colts won the SB. His collective playoff numbers are 32-22. He also has a record for a perfect passer rating in the playoffs from 2003 where he tore the Broncos a new one.
And that stat doesnt even tell half the story of that postseason run. He dominated the Chiefs in the wild card game, managed his team against a tough Ravens squad, on the road, in the cold, and pulled through with at late 3rd down conversion to Dallas Clark that is arguably one of his greatest passes. Even Ray Lewis in that video I referenced above said he still doesnt believe it. Peyton scored a rushing TD in the AFC title game, and led the best comeback in any title game, from being down 18 points. Even this past season, where the Niners came back, it was only from 17. In the SB, it was nasty and rainy and Peyton was smart enough to mange the ball by running and short passes to avoid any (more) fumbles. I forgot where i read/saw this, but Peyton Manning has been quoted saying that he could've scored north of 40 points against Bears based on what he saw their D doing...
@bradicus18 I agree, but sadly many of these analysts are voting for accolades, awards, HOF, etc. and their opinion therefore has both a voice and regard. It really does bother me sometimes...
@SupermanRob2914 Heh. I didn't actually write that one, but I agree with it wholeheartedly. :)
@smonroe While I did mention that NFL Total Access' standards are questionable and suspect, wouldn't you think that an Indianapolis legend should get the defense he deserves. Yes, this not life altering, but I think it was worth mention.
Second - I don't want you to get the impression that Elway should be over Peyton. I merely believe that is less insulting, and there IS some basis to that opinion, even though I personally think it's incorrect. That being said, if Peyton gets one more SB, he will clearly jump to #1. All these analysts rip on him for only getting one SB and "laying eggs" in the postseason. In many of those losses, the coaching (99, SB44, 10), and defense (03, 10, 12) were certainly to blame (at least partially) for those losses. When he gets #2, they will all shut up. And if Elway didnt get an SB, I would expect their order would be: Aikman, Peyton and Elway.
@Payton Never saw Namath play, but I've heard he was truly mediocre made famous by one win and one injury
@DougEngland Agree with what you said, though Manning's post season play was never spectacular. It's always made me sad that he was never able to elevate his play above everyone else in the post season like he did during the regular season. I've always put some of that on coaching, as I feel the Colts were out-coached a lot in the post season.
That's a conversation I've had a few times - Dungy was a great motivator. He could get ego's all pointing in the right direction and get his players to play their best, but I never felt he was a good x's and o's coach.
@Payton QBs don't have to apologize for having good players on their team. The fact that Aikman won without salary cap restrictions is beside the point (the core Cowboys players were drafted-Emmitt Smith, Irvin, most of the offensive line). Also, as baseball has shown us, spending lots of money in no way guarantees success (contrast Phillies and Red Sox with Rays and A's). Peyton had some pretty good players himself (Harrison, Edgerin James, Freeney, Mathis and Jeff Saturday). Even the best QB will not win without have a solid supporting cast. I'm not sure how attributing team wins to a QB is a weak argument: when is the last time you saw a game manager QB like Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson win a super bowl? Those days are over. Teams cannot win in the playoffs without a great QB, and while Peyton is a sure thing first-ballot hall of famer and arguably the best QB ever, his playoff performance is certainly tainted and pales in comparison with other great QBs like Brady, Elway, Montana.
@MayerTheMayor @jelewin Yes he was phenomenal for the playoff run and got a certain helping of luck playing into his hands (seriously Rahim Moore?). That doesn't outweigh the rest of his body of work which is decidedly mediocre in comparison to the rest of the "elite" QBs. I'd say he's actually probably better than Kaepernick for the time being because Kaepernick hasn't had a defense with an entire season of film to use against him.
He's nowhere hear Manning or Brady. Also if you really want to measure a QBs worth by rings or that it puts them on a new plateau (which is idiotic), Eli is clearly better than Flacco. He's got 2 and Flacco has one. Manning also never got gifted a playoff W where he garnered a Grossman-esque passer rating of 10.
@MayerTheMayor You have to speculate. Actual results are a very real result of the quality of the team + luck. Aikman's teams in their SB seasons ran the ball 3-4 more times a game than the Colts did on more possessions a game.
Manning's resume is not great, but it's hardly 100% his fault.
@Payton right you can speculate as how Aikman would have fared without Nate Newton and Larry Allen but the fact that he won 3 SBs is still pretty telling (also the 1990s was much more of a run-first system), so it's impossible to say what would have happened had Aikman played today were QBs are forced to throw the ball 45-50 times a game. I certainly agree that Peyton is better than AIkman; all I'm trying to point out is that Peyton's not-so-great playoff resume comes into discussion. Where he should be ranked on this list, I have no idea (all these top ten lists are arbitrary-I mean wow Carson Palmer made the list- anyways so who cares).
@MayerTheMayor Their draft status doesn't really make a difference because they could command huge contracts AFTER they were drafted, ergo yeah the salary cap or lack thereof matters.
QBs don't have to apologize for having better players on their team but you'd be completely daft to take that into consideration when judging who is better or why one's record is better than the other. Either way, Manning definitely had some rough games, but his defense and special teams let him down far more than Aikman's did. The fact Aikman has almost exactly the same rate stats as Manning with the best offensive line of all-time and one of the greatest RBs is pretty telling.