By: Kim Wentworth
On Monday, March 7, 2016, after 18 years in the NFL, Peyton Manning walked onto a stage surrounded by press and made the agonizing announcement of his retirement from the league. Just a few shorts weeks after his second Super Bowl, Manning decided that that win would be his last game. This decision to walk away from the game he loves is the biggest of his entire life. Not only was he walking away from his work, he was walking away from his life-long passion, his rivalry with Tom Brady, his beloved teammates—to him, football was everything. His retirement speech was an emotional one where he thanked everyone that helped him get to where he was. Also, he looked back on his entire career as a football player starting from his decision to not enter the draft and finish his last year at the University of Tennessee. Peyton made it very clear that his fans were his driving factor behind him the last 18 years. He stated he “had no regrets” with his football career choices of his past and would “absolutely miss football.” With this large announcement to start the week off with, people are beginning to question whether or not Peyton is going out as the greatest player of all time, or the “GOAT”.
You can look at most sports and clearly identify and make an argument for a best player; Hockey—Wayne Gretzky and basketball—Michael Jordan. However with football, there is too much to consider for people to come to a consensus about who the GOAT is. Most people would consider the quarterback to be the most important player on the field because he is the playmaker, the driving force of the offensive line—and Manning just so happens to be considered the best quarterback in the NFL over his entire career. Should he be considered for the “best ever” argument? Peyton Manning is the oldest player to win an MVP in the league and is also the oldest quarterback to start for a game winning Super Bowl. Although his last season records were horrific, if you look across his career records he has been one, if not THE, most effective quarterbacks in the league.
How does one select a best player in football? I think there are too many sides to this argument, so instead of arguing whether or not Manning in the GOAT, it is easier to question him as the greatest quarterback of all time. The amount of records he holds as a quarterback in the NFL throughout his career are unparalleled by any other player. He is the only person to hold more than three MVP awards. This statistic alone should qualify him for the best. He is in the lead with 5 MVP’s while his competitors sit at only 3. Manning also sits at the top for career records with 71,940 passing yards and 539 touchdowns. He also set single-season records in 2013 with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes which can be considered as one of the single greatest seasons by any player in NFL history. Manning is tied with Favre for 186 regular-season victories and he holds the top spot for overall victories with 200 (including playoffs). He holds the record for most games throwing for 300+ yards with 93, most passing touchdowns in a single game with 7, most seasons with 350+ completions with 10, most game winning drives with 56, most comeback wins with 45, and—along with a slew of other records—is one of only two quarterback to ever beat all 32 teams. In the record books, Manning is a shoe-in for being considered the best.
However, the reason people have such a hard time with naming Manning as the best ever is because football is a team sport. There are many players on the field that contribute to Peyton’s winning records. Nevertheless, Manning supporters and fans have a great argument for why he should be considered the best. Not only does he hold all of the records, he also is known for being an all-time game changer for football. He made what he did as a quarterback look like an art. Even as he aged, and was surrounded by younger stars, he was always one step ahead, changing with his surroundings, adapting to new players and coaches.
Whether or not you support Peyton Manning, there is no denying that he should be in the running for being the best of all time. His stats prove that he was something special, and his character off the field has left a mark on the NFL players and fan community. As he announced his official retirement on Monday, he was applauded and praised by many fans and opponents across the country. Tom Brady, the man considered Manning’s biggest rival wrote, “Congratulations Peyton, on an incredible career. You changed the game forever and made everyone around you better. It’s been an honor.” Alongside this, VP of the Broncos John Elway stated, “When you look at everything Peyton has accomplished as a player and person, it’s easy to see how fortunate we’ve been to have him on our team, Peyton was everything that we thought he was and even more — not only for the football team but in the community. I’m very thankful Peyton chose to play for the Denver Broncos, and I congratulate him on his Hall of Fame career.”
Manning played a key role in every team that he played for and the community; he managed to rack up records and wins with the Colts and the Broncos. There are many valid reasons why Manning should be considered the best quarterback in the NFL. When considering who the “best ever” is, Manning should absolutely be in the running for that consideration as well. Whether or not you agree, Manning is ending his career on the highest note possible. Manning is without a doubt one of the best players of all time and the best quarterback—and he will be thought of in this regard for many years to come.