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.


Super Bowl XLVIII: The Future is Now

Peyton Manning congratulates Russell Wilson on his Super Bowl victory. (Photo: Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Peyton Manning congratulates Russell Wilson on his Super Bowl victory.
(Photo: Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

I still can’t believe it. I woke up this morning thinking, “Did it really happen like that?” Was Super Bowl XLVIII really the smackdown of my foggy morning memory?

And then, I remembered the conversation I had with my dad before I went to bed last night. He said, “Heather…it was a changing of the guard. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the quarterbacks of the past. The NFL belongs to Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and Andrew Luck now.”

And you know what? He’s right.

One of the things I loved about the matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks was that storyline. The guy who was the blueprint for the modern day quarterback meets…the modern day quarterback. Only this time, the blueprint is a little different. Today’s modern day quarterback is younger, stronger, shorter (in Wilson’s case), and a little more mobile (ok, a lot more mobile).

The writing was on the wall during the 2012 draft. We saw the new class of NFL quarterbacks emerge. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson didn’t just come out of college ready to play…they came out ready to win. Throw in Colin Kaepernick, who started in his first game for the San Francisco 49ers in November of 2012, and in just two seasons…all of those quarterbacks have taken their teams to the NFL playoffs, won playoff games, two (Kaepernick and Wilson) have appeared in Super Bowls, and now…Russell Wilson has won one.

The NFL has always been a young man’s league. But, at no time has that been truer than now.

So, what does that mean for football fans? Well, for me…it means a couple of things.

I am going to enjoy every last game I get to see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady play in. I will cherish every memory the future hall of famers have given me over the years and hope to add to that collection for seasons to come.

In the meantime, I will appreciate watching the new franchise faces of the league as they emerge from the shadows of the Bradys and Mannings, come into their own, and start writing their Road to Canton stories. Just like Russell Wilson did last night.

The future of the NFL is in good hands.

Welcome to the future.