Friday, December 7, 2012

Peyton Manning. Overrated?

Just today the NFL stat monsters were all agog because Peyton Manning chalked up his 5000th career completed pass. It's unbelievable, they said, in hushed tones of reverence. Actually, that's not exactly right. The talking heads appeared to be nearly orgasmic as they breathlessly screamed this miraculous achievement into their microphones to all that would surely drop everything else they were doing to go out and plop down a couple C-notes to buy yet another #18 "original" jersey.

Yet when one looks at Manning's whole body of work in the NFL, is it really that impressive? On some levels yes, and on other levels maybe not.

Manning is in his 15th season in the NFL, actually 14th because he missed last year with a neck injury. That's impressive, because very few players last that long. These days, the money for QBs is so obscene and the risk of life-changing serious injury happening in any given game so real, that it is doubtful we'll ever see another NFL QB the likes of Manning, Favre, Brady, Brees, etc, ever again. Combine the two, and future QBs have no need to hang around that long.

But back to Manning. 5000 career completions sounds like a lot, and it is, until one crunches a few numbers. Then maybe it's not so impressive. Do the math on his 14 seasons with 16 games each (no playoff stats included). Those 5000 completions average out to about 22 per game. And let's not forget, during all Manning's years with the Indy Colts, for the most part they ran a pass-happy offense, and Manning had a bevy of first-class receivers to throw to. It wasn't unusual for him to throw the ball thirty-some times a game. Nevertheless, Manning has a career completion rate of about 65% and, as they say, two out of three ain't bad, unless one is playing Russian roulette. Then it's not so good. Anybody that can play 16 games of THAT every year and still be around 15 years later is not only impressive, but should be voted into a Hall of Fame SOMEWHERE, but I digress.

However, one is left to wonder just how good Peyton Manning is, and ever was. Yes, he's been a Super Bowl champion and the NFL MVP. Few would doubt he's become a very cerebral QB over the years. Nobody comes more mentally prepared to a game than Peyton. At a glance, he can dissect a defense and audible a different play at the line of scrimmage, if need be. Impressive.

Yet Peyton's never had a cannon arm such as John Elway, nor has he ever been much of a running threat, like perhaps Steve Young. Peyton throws wobbly passes and is slow and awkward. But somehow he gets it done.

There's only one reason all that has happened over the years. Through all his Indy years, and even this year with the Denver Broncos, Peyton has always been blessed with a terrific offensive line to protect him when he drops back to pass.

Dial up any replay you want during his Indy years, or better yet tune into a Broncos game this season, and you'll see the same thing. Peyton will fall back into the "pocket", have time to look at his first, second, third, fourth, and maybe back to the first option, all the while doing his little happy feet dance, before he finally throws the ball. Give most any other NFL QB that amount of time and he'll pick apart a defense too. In that respect, perhaps Manning has been overrated.

No, I don't know the names of those offensive linemen either, and typically they've never been given the credit they are due, but had Manning ever played on a team with a porous offensive line, it is highly unlikely he'd have lasted as long as he has. Those brutes on the opposing defense coming after him don't care about how famous he is or how many silly commercials he makes even more money from. They'd just as soon plow him under like last year's bean plants or the next hot-shot rookie coming out of college. Perhaps even more so. They have a job to do too.

So here's giving credit to Peyton Manning for his longevity, and all the other milestones he has reached as an NFL QB along the way. No doubt, he's a lock for the NFL Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible.

Yet consider this --- when it became apparent the Indy Colts were going to take Andrew Luck with the overall #1 draft pick last year, which meant Manning was about to be phased out -- Peyton could have taken his still considerable talents to a lot of teams. He chose the Denver Broncos. There was a reason for that. No, forget about the Tebow thing -- that was never relevant, as has proven itself out with his tenure with the Jets. Sure, the Broncos had young talented receivers that would get better and better under Peyton's tutelage. But mostly it was about the offensive line. Like Indy, the Broncos have a good one that nobody's ever heard of, and most times Peyton can still dance in the pocket waiting for somebody to come open.

At that, on the rare occasion one of those defensive beasts gets loose and is about to actually make contact with #18, Peyton quickly assumes the fetal position. Well, let's see. He never could run, has a very iffy chicken neck, is chasing still more all-time NFL records, likely has countless more silly commercials awaiting him in the future, and the TV folks can't wait to hire him as an analyst once his playing days are done. Money, money, and more money.

But that only happens if Peyton is still coherent. Though many would deem it to be unmanly for a pro football player, maybe that fetal position isn't such a bad idea after all.

Did I say overrated? I take it back. This dude's been way ahead of the game all along.

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