Peyton Manning’s Real Legacy

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (Photo: (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
(Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP)

There will be much talk about Peyton Manning’s legacy in the days, weeks, and months following Super Bowl XLVIII.

I will be honest…this wasn’t the Peyton Manning legacy story I was hoping to write this week.

The one I was prepared to write, had half written in my head was the one where he wins another Super Bowl, erases all question marks, and goes down in our hearts and minds as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

I didn’t scrap it, because…he’s still Peyton Manning. And he’s still playing (as far as we know). And it’s still stuck in my head. But, it got me thinking about Peyton’s legacy. And legacies in general.

And here’s what I decided…

The thing about titles is that they’re temporary. It’s kind of like being the prettiest girl in school. You may be right now…but there’s always someone younger and cuter coming up behind you. Or, in Peyton’s case…someone younger, stronger, and tanner, with more hair.

You can look at the numbers all day long. I won’t, but others will. Super Bowls, playoff wins versus losses, touchdowns, passing yards…but those records will eventually be broken. By someone. Someday. Possibly many times over.

The legacy that I think will stand the test of time…is how Peyton Manning changed the game.

Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, Peyton Manning came into the NFL, not just a quarterback, but a student of the game. Stories of his weekly preparation and near-photographic memory have become almost folklore amongst his former coaches and teammates.

The role of Peyton Manning is that of a quarterback/offensive coordinator hybrid. Manning’s longtime offensive coordinator with the Colts, Tom Moore, used to joke that calling a play out to Peyton Manning was “merely a suggestion.”

Manning raised the bar on the job of the modern era quarterback. Being a leader and gunslinger was no longer sufficient. Nor was relying on athleticism to win games. He had a laser rocket arm, but his real weapon was his razor-sharp mind. To compete against Peyton Manning, or even in the same league with him…all quarterbacks would have to adapt.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made headlines in 2013, when he declared that his quarterback, Tony Romo (an avid golfer), would be putting in “Peyton Manning-type time” during the offseason. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has talked openly about how much it changed his game when he started studying film and game planning for opponents.

Even Manning’s arch-nemesis, Tom Brady, has called him “the greatest of all time.” Speaking to the NFL Network back in 2011, Brady said of Manning:

“He’s a friend of mine, and someone that I always watch and admire, because he always wants to improve, he always wants to get better, and he doesn’t settle for anything less than the best. So, when you watch the best and you’re able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better.”
-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Peyton Manning

And even after mocking him, saying he “throws some ducks,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had nothing but praise for Manning on Twitter. Here’s what he tweeted shortly after defeating him in Super Bowl XLVIII:

Peyton is the Classiest person/player I have ever met! I could learn so much from him! Thank you for being a great Competitor and person”
-Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (via Twitter) 

I don’t need Peyton to win another Super Bowl or even another game to cement what I believe is his real legacy.

With class, humility, and a good old-fashioned work ethic, Peyton Manning changed the game of football. For the better. Forever. For all of us.

And that, my friends…will be his true and lasting legacy.

XO