A record-breaking 2013 season was all for naught for the Denver Broncos, dominated by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday night to the tune of 43-8.
While this shellacking hurt many a Bronco faithful, it hurt Peyton Manning even worse. Not emotionally, but rather, his legacy.
|Photo by: Chris O'Meara
With all the regular season achievements and accolades, Peyton could have essentially ended all the "greatest quarterback of all-time" debates had he won both those games, or possibly had he just closed the deal Sunday. But now, with a 1-2 record in the Big Game, he cannot be placed in a class all his own.
Yes, the Manning vs. Brady vs. Montana debate lives on.
Ever since coming into the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 1998, Peyton has taken the quarterback position to another level entirely. He has revolutionized the game, breaking countless records and dismantling anything defenses have thrown at him. All the numbers speak for themselves, and there's no denying that Manning has already cemented his place in Canton one day in the not-so-distant future.
The only thing souring his legacy are his postseason credentials.
He once again has a losing playoff record, now sitting at 11-12. Out of the 15 NFL seasons Manning has played, his team has made the playoffs 13 times, but has been eliminated in the first game 8 of those. To put it another way, that means he has been one and done over 60% of the time he has been in the postseason.
Given how well he plays during the regular season, that's almost inconceivable.
Manning has an impressive 97.2 career passer rating during the regular season, but it dips down to 86.8 in the playoffs. His touchdown-to-interception ratio for his career is 2.24 to 1, but in the postseason, it is just 1.54 to 1. Another noticeable drop.
Again, the numbers speak for themselves; he clearly doesn't play up to his full potential when it matters most.
Even in the 2006 playoffs, where Manning's Indianapolis Colts went on to win the Super Bowl, his stats were far from stellar. He completed less than 60% of his passes in two of the four games, only threw 3 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions, and finished with a 70.5 passer rating. You rarely hear anyone ever bring this up, though, because the end result was positive. Indy's mission to become world champions was accomplished, so that's all people cared about.
The two seasons that saw Peyton-led teams go on to lose the Super Bowl were actually solid for Manning from a statistical standpoint compared to other years. In the 2009 playoffs and this most recent postseason, Peyton put up great numbers, but the ultimate goal was not reached, so the talk of how he "choked" will again run wild through football circles everywhere.
It might not be fair since many say football is the ultimate "team sport," but nearly every football fan out there will argue that the game begins and ends with the quarterback. He's the guy that gets the credit when the team succeeds, and takes the blame when they fail. He's the leader, thus, it all falls on his shoulders win or lose.
That reality has become a major thorn in Manning's side.
It is one of life's mysteries why Peyton Manning continues to be unsuccessful once January and February roll around. As a fan of his myself, it is frustrating to bear witness to his postseason shortcomings, but they are an undeniable truth nonetheless. This is simply a riddle no one has been able to figure out.
Whether he puts too much pressure on himself, or some Ole Miss fan cast a voodoo spell on him, the fact of the matter is, Peyton can't seem to get it done in the biggest games. And the sad thing is, no matter what he does in his final seasons, that reputation will now be with him forever.
Because of it, that whole "best regular season quarterback of all-time" thing seems a lot less impressive.