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Opinion: Peyton Manning’s numbers don’t make him the greatest quarterback in NFL history

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws the ball during a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 5 in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Cardinals, 41-20. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws the ball during a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 5 in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Cardinals, 41-20.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

When Peyton Manning broke the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown record last week with the 509th of his illustrious career, many wondered if the former Colt and current Bronco is now officially the greatest quarterback in the NFL’s history.

He very well could be, but, in my opinion, breaking that record does not change a single thing.

The man whose record Manning just topped? Brett Favre.

Favre — even while he held the record — was rarely in the conversation surrounding who the best quarterback ever is.

And the man Favre grabbed the record from back in 2007? Dan Marino. Marino, again, a great quarterback, but not easily classified as the greatest.

The reason for those two not being the top quarterbacks of all time, even while each holding the career passing touchdowns and yardage records, is simple — championships.

And it is the same reason why I believe Manning — for now, at least — stacks up a rung short of the top.

Between Manning, Favre and Marino — the three greatest quarterbacks ever if you go by their individual passing yards and touchdowns — there are only two championship rings. Favre won one in a 20-year career, Manning has won one in a 17-year career and Marino never won a Super Bowl in 17 seasons.

Manning is 11-12 in the playoffs. He has won 70 percent of his regular season games, but holds a losing record when it really counts.

That is something that cannot be overlooked.

Now, of course, wins and losses are team accomplishments and it is not fair to put it all on the quarterback. But Manning’s game has taken a step down in the postseason, beyond losing more games.

In his career in the regular season, Manning has thrown 0.43 interceptions for every touchdown pass. Come playoff time, that number soars up to 0.65.

In Super Bowls, Manning has thrown more picks than touchdowns. He averages more than two passing touchdowns per game in his career in the regular season, but has never thrown more than one in each of his three Super Bowl appearances.

Heck, even in 2006 — the year Manning won his only ring — he threw seven interceptions compared to three touchdowns in the playoffs. That’s not simply just a step down for a great, that’s downright lousy.

Karl Malone might have more points than Michael Jordan, but no one will ever mistake the Mailman for being in the discussion for the greatest basketball player ever.

That is for the most part because Malone never won a championship, while Jordan elevated his already-phenomenal regular season play in the playoffs. By the end of Jordan’s career, he was six-for-six in the NBA Finals.

Similarly, Joe Montana, a great regular season quarterback in his own right, stepped it up to another level when it really mattered. In four Super Bowl appearances, Montana never lost — and never threw an interception.

Regular season statistics are great, but, at the end of the day, teams are after the pursuit of the gold. If Manning can add another championship before his career ends — which is rapidly approaching — the book can certainly be reopened.

But for now, Manning’s accolades are not enough to lift him into the greatest ever until he can prove to have something different than the regular season wonders before him.


  1. Going by your criteria, it’s hard to ignore Otto Graham…who in his 10 years in the league played in the Championship game 9 times and won 7 of them! Certainly the best ever. Sadly, most fans today only remember the last 10 years or so.

  2. you know what they say about opinions.

  3. The championships argument simply doesn’t make any sense. It’s a team game, and a quarterback only throws on 25-30% of his team’s plays, and is only on the field for half of them.

    The Colts wouldn’t have even had a shot at the Super Bowl without Manning. They were generally one of the worst defenses in the league. This is probably the first time in Manning’s career that he has the overall best team in the league.

    The Steelers of the 70’s, 49ers of the 80’s, and Patriots of the 90’s were the best overall teams. Even with an average QB, those teams had a shot to win championships. Manning has never had a team like that.

    Let’s also not forget that ever since Brady lost his elite defense, he’s barely a .500 playoff quarterback with zero rings.

    Again, proving that championships are about way more than having a great quarterback.

  4. This article is ASININE to say the least. Bringing up Karl Malone actually was a great example of why the author is WRONG. Karl Malone from the NBA, like Dan Marino and Brett Favre played a lot more games than the so called GOAT (and his Airness is the greatest)! Taking Dan Marino out of the argument, Brett Favre needed 56 more games, over 1,000 more passing attempts to get 508 touchdowns, well over. Think about that, 56 games; nearly 4 seasons!!!! Brett Favre may not have been in consideration for the best player ever, but he was towards the top of the list when he finally retired (for good…) Peyton Manning not only grabbed the career touchdown record (as well as the single season record), he destroyed it and is increasing the record with every game played. He holds more records than ANY quarterback in the history of the game. No, records in themselves do not make a great quarterback, they do make a great career. However, the manner in which a player achieves them does cause one to take note. Manning is only the second QB to 500 TD’s and is the first to reach 510 and the first to reach ANY number after that. If Manning broke the record with closely the same amount of games needed then it wouldn’t be all that impressive, but to do it 56 games or 3.5 seasons sooner; well, dang…He is definitely the GOAT in regular season play by FAR and to take anything away from him because of the playoffs, a team sport, well…all I can say is by the time he retires, the debate will be over…he won’t only have the TD record and most yards record but he will have just about every other record as well …and my vote for the GOAT!!!!!

  5. The only thing I disagree with is your comment that Joe Montana never lost. He certainly lost many times in the playoffs and also had some seasons he didn’t make the playoffs. That is worse than making to the Super Bowl and losing. If his record was 4-1 in Super Bowls it would be better than 4-0.

  6. Championships are won by TEAMS — not INDIVIDUALS. Not even a QB can carry a team. Someone has to block for him, and someone has to run the routes and catch the ball. Great QBs on poor teams don’t get rings.

    How about NFL MVP awards? In a given year, who do people think is the best player in the NFL?
    Peyton Manning (5): 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013 [and is the favorite to win a sixth!]
    Johnny Unitas (3): 1959, 1964, 1967
    Brett Farve (3): 1995, 1996, 1997

    Oh, and Joe Montana, the guy many name as the best of all time? He only won twice. SO did Steve Young, Tom Brady, and Kurt Warner.

  7. Do you have to be a great QB to win a Superbowl? The answer is obviously “No.” Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson… all mediocre QBs with Superbowl rings. Let’s please stop measuring greatness based on something you don’t have to be great to achieve.

  8. Tom Brady in his first 4 years as a starter won 3 rings. He wasn’t a very good QB. He tended to be inaccurate and his grasp of the offense was so weak that he was rarely given the option of changing plays at the line. As his career progressed, he improved tremendously. His accuracy improved, his understanding of the game improved and his leadership improved.

    The mature Tom Brady is a much, much better QB than the young Brady. Brady believes it. So do his coaches. But the mature Brady, the better QB, has zero rings. Which tells you everything you need to know about rings as a measure of a QB’s quality.

  9. You are all idiots because manning is the best so screw this you are dumb

  10. This article isn’t about just the rings. It’s that Manning, in addition to all the records, should have more than one ring. He has played in three Superbowls and, if I recall correctly, he choked in what was the biggest game of his career. Sorry fan boys, but that takes him off the list for greatest QB ever. Top five? Absolutely.

    Oh, and for the “it takes a team to win the Superbowl” argument it also takes a team to break all those records too. Somebody has to catch the ball. You think he’d breaking all these records playing for the Raiders?

  11. Knuckle heads, come in knuckle heads… I hope u all played football in high school, at the very least. Otherwise your opinions don’t carry as much weight, period. Question – What’s the most important position on a team, by far? 2nd Question – What does the best playing team achieve in any given year? Last question – Isn’t being clutch in the most high pressure, in game, behind in score, moments the most important attribute of a great quarterback? One more for the road. Name the state that’s east of Idaho, South of Canada, and North of Wyoming. Say it with me “MONTANA”

  12. I am a numbers guy so I love the debate. 1. I accept that no one record defines a career nor makes for the greatest ever at any position.2. I also acknowledge that you can not dismiss all the numbers when collectively they make a statement. 3. Certain numbers mean more than others. 4. I have no problem conceding that manning may be the best ever and there are many numbers to support that. 5. I would however point out that while manning has a huge number of records, there is one player that had over 100 more records when he retired than manning has now. Favre. Brees, brady, rivers, stafford and manning have each beaten certain records held by favre, over 80 in fact. But while it is taking many of the greatest in this era of pass offenses to eclipse favre in many category, favre surpassed most of the significant records held by all that were considered the greatest when favre entered the league. Keep up the discussion!

  13. Peyton is the best ever; he could knock you down at 10 yards with the ball; just a little old. don’t be jealous you are just wrong; son

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