Manning has brought Denver a lot of wins and promises to deliver many more before he rides off into the sunset. But, as his third spectacular statistical season unfolds and the records keep on falling, it’s time for Manning’s focus to turn toward seeing that the Broncos are rewarded with what they paid him for – a Super Bowl championship.
Star wars numbers: Jim Irsay bemoans them; Peyton Manning covets them and the Denver Broncos have, under no uncertain terms delivered them since Manning made his move to the Mile High
In only two and one-third seasons in Orange and Blue number eighteen has achieved the title of Denver’s second-most prolific passer ever, having already passed Craig Morton in passing yardage. Morton piloted the Broncos offense from 1977-1982 and tossed for 11,895 yards in that period. From 2012 to 2014 Peyton has thrown up 11,984 plus a gaudy 111 touchdown passes, a little less than a quarter of the total he now boasts for his career.
On Sunday Manning became the man to unseat Brett Favre as the NFL’s supreme touchdown scorer. His 510 touchdowns and counting will now be the target of young quarterbacks like Andrew Luck who hope to have careers as long and as productive as Manning’s. The elder Manning brother has now amassed a resume of broken records that would suggest he is the greatest quarterback of all time … yet one factor still vexes him and sullies his reputation.
Peyton Manning doesn’t win Super Bowls.
Yes, Manning did hoist the Lombardi Trophy once for Indianapolis but few would argue that he should not have won more. And the one he did win, in 2006, he won opposite Rex Grossman and an undermanned Bears team. Manning posted no intergalactic stats that night. He was 25 of 38 passing for 247 yards, a touchdown and an interception in leading the Colts to a 29-17 victory over a Chicago team that did not look the part of a Champion.
In 2009 Manning returned to the Super Bowl with the Colts against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. He lost. Manning went 31 of 45 for 333 yards, a touchdown and an interception and watched his first shot at a second title buried at Sun Life Stadium as his Colts were trounced 31-17.
In 2010 Manning’s Colts went 10-6 and wound up in the AFC Wild Card game against Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets. Once again, Manning’s post-season numbers were terrestrial. He tossed 18 of 26 for 225 yards in a touchdown and watched the Colts leave another opportunity stranded, losing 17-16.
In 2011, of course, Peyton didn’t play. His neck injuries had him sidelined for the Colts who were the worst team in the NFL without him. Then Jim Irsay let Manning stray, allowing him to bring his show to Denver. Irsay took a massive risk knowing that the Colts fan base would never forgive him if his choice to go with the rookie Andrew Luck instead of the recovering Manning did not pan out. Indianapolis fans referred to Lucas Oil Stadium as “the house that Peyton built”. Number eighteen was a larger-than-life figure in Indy but Irsay felt as is Manning could not get the Colts over the top. And he has said so publicly since.
The Broncos took a huge risk, too, by hitching their wagon to a severely injured veteran QB with a propensity to crumble when the chips were down. John Elway and company were willing to take the chance that Manning’s regular-season successes would translate into post-season wins and ultimately a championship.
It didn’t happen in 2012, known locally as “the Ravens year”. Manning returned to the playoffs after a monster regular season and once again got sent home early. In the game Baltimore fans refer to as “the Mile High Miracle” Manning finished 28/43 for 290 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. The Broncos lost 38-35 in overtime.
In 2013 the old gun slinger sleep walked into Super Bowl XLVIII and delivered one of his most crushing post-season let-downs. The Broncos were thrashed by Seattle 43-8. Manning’s numbers were once again very earthly. He went 34 for 49, tossed for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. And the Broncos became the laughing stock of the NFL despite a regular season that saw Manning post historic statistic after historic statistic.
Peyton is on pace to throw for 4,928 yards in 2014; along with fifty touchdowns. The Denver defense is designed around Manning and his strengths as it has been since he arrived in Denver. John Fox and Adam Gase have provided Peyton Manning with the opportunities he has had to watch his numbers explode as his career winds down. The Broncos are like a performance enhancing drug for passing statistics and Manning has been the beneficiary. He has been surrounded by the finest receiving talent the Broncos can assemble along with a game plan that calls for the run to set up the pass.
The benefits are mutual, of course. Manning has brought Denver a lot of wins and promises to deliver many more before he rides off into the sunset. But, as his third spectacular statistical season unfolds and the records keep on falling, it’s time for Manning’s focus to turn toward seeing that the Broncos are rewarded with what they paid him for – a Super Bowl championship.
It has seemed over the past few seasons that the Broncos have been more focused on highlighting Manning’s career achievements than they have been on seeing to it that Broncos Country once again boasts a champion. With Favre’s long-standing touchdown passing record now broken the Broncos should continue to hammer down the defense, develop the running game and highlight all of the non-Peyton related factors that they’ll need to win it all.
It’s been really fun to be a part of Peyton’s career and the things he has done in Denver have been sheer magic. But Peyton is still yet to win the big one here and all of the Star Wars numbers will be hallow ones if he never has the chance to hoist the trophy and say “this one’s for Pat”.
Up until now it’s been all about Peyton. Moving forward it’s got to be all about the Denver Broncos.