Known by many as the guy with the big forehead from those god-awful Papa John’s commercials, NFL legend Peyton Manning has done it again.
For the second, and final, time in his historic career, he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and stood champion over the world. Although the Super Bowl win was clearly not with the same dominance on his part to which fans have grown accustomed, he did just enough to give his team a chance. And thanks to a historic defensive performance, the Broncos were able to defeat the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers in what many would call an upset.
Manning critics claim that Peyton did nothing in the game and did not deserve the ring and that Brock Osweiler would have been better suited to lead a more commanding victory.
I beg to differ.
Quite frankly, nobody knows the game of football better than Peyton Manning. His strength was never his physical abilities like Russell Wilson or Newton. Admittedly, he had been in better condition as he was the oldest quarterback to ever with a Super Bowl at just under 40 years old.
But to say that he did not have a greater impact on the game due to his declining physical abilities is simply not true. At a younger age, his sniper-like accuracy proved undefendable, but his strength has always been reading the defense and putting himself, and his team, in a position to win using his brain. He has done it better than anyone in the history of the game.
In the Super Bowl, Manning was audibling constantly, picking apart the Panthers defense in a way that no one else could, especially not backup Osweiler. No disrespect Brock. Manning called the best runs to counter the defensive formation and put C.J. Anderson in the best position to gain positive yardage. Nevertheless, his impact on the game was not flashy like that of Newton or linebacker Von Miller, but do not doubt that he was key to the victory.
When Manning came into the league 18 years ago as the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, expectations were high as he was chosen over infamous bust Ryan Leaf. It is safe to say that he exceeded expectations. The five-time MVP holds practically every quarterback record ever and fans have come to a general consensus that he is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. Listing all of his record-breaking statistics would take up a full page, and I think we can all agree on Manning’s statistical dominance.
The fatal flaw that many brought up was his lack of Super Bowl wins. It is also fair to say that Manning silenced those critics with this latest achievement in becoming a two-time Super Bowl champion. Often compared to famed playoff master and clutch king Tom Brady, let it be noted that Peyton Manning is over .500 in playoff games against Brady.
It will be odd not watching #18 jog out to the field every Sunday like many NFL fans have grown used to for almost two decades. Nevertheless, nothing lasts forever and even someone as immortal as Peyton Manning has to hang up his cleats at some point.
On Monday, Manning announced his retirement. In an emotional speech, he took fans on a journey through his career bringing up eternal moments and cheesy jokes between choked back tears. His love for the game was never more evident as we watched Manning walk away from the sport that had been his life.
The legacy of Peyton Manning is one that will forever be remembered: a class act who simply loved the game of football and played at a level that almost no one else ever has. The storybook ending is finally complete as The Sheriff rides off into the sunset.