In the Super Bowl Preview version of his NFL Diary, Ryan Bradley calls bullshit on the idea that Peyton Manning needs to win to cement his legacy.
The Super Bowl is nearly here. The thing all NFL players dream of, and so few attain. All will admit that a championship is what is played for, what teams and players grind through a season in hopes of achieving, but the reality is only two teams can go, yet we continue to judge players based on championships.
This year’s version will be the 48th Super Bowl. Think for a moment about how many players are on each team, and how many teams don’t make it to the Super Bowl each year, and then multiply that by 48. In other words a crapload of players never win a Super Bowl.
Sure, championships can be a measure of greatness, but not always and nor are they the only factor. Would you consider Trent Dilfer and Peyton Manning to be on a similar level in terms of greatness? Of course not. Yet, they currently have the same amount of Super Bowl wins. Recently both ESPN and the NFL’s website have been talking about how much Peyton Manning needs to win this Super Bowl to cement his legacy.
Manning is currently second in career passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. He’s tied for fourth with Kurt Warner in career pass completion percentage. (For the record Dilfer isn’t in the top 95 of any of these categories). Would “only” winning one Super Bowl somehow discount these numbers?
Of course not. Dan Marino is still considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time and never won a Super Bowl. And he’s not the only one. Think about Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, and Fran Tarkenton. Heck, even Warren Moon, who won 102 games as a starter, the most wins by a quarterback in the Super Bowl-era who never played in one.
This isn’t an issue that is unique to football. It happens in all sports. And it’s hard not to believe it’s largely due to sports media. I should clarify, as I have spent the season ripping on sports media, that I am a sports media junky. I can watch SportsCenter on repeat all night. I enjoy listening to the punditry, I just think that it’s often broken, that the analysis they provide is looking at the subjects from the wrong angle.
The question isn’t will a second Super Bowl win “cement” Peyton Manning’s legacy, that’s already on solid ground. It’s not even a matter of where he falls in the order of football’s greatest quarterbacks, because there’s no reasonable way to posit a player from one era against one from another for accurate comparison.
There are plenty of reasons to heap praise and appreciation on Manning. He spent the season breaking records, moving up the all-time leader lists, and did so after many people, myself included, counted him out due to age and injuries. He’s already one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and why do we need to parse that any further?
On the flip side we have Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. If they win does that make Wilson a better quarterback than Manning? Would losing tarnish his eventual legacy, however things play out? Wilson could lose this Super Bowl and go on to win multiple in years to come, or he could win this one and go on to tank a few years and get bounced from the league. All these things are possible in professional sports, none are stories that haven’t been written before about other players and other teams.
The Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl is the matchup the NFL and sports media in general dreamed of from the time training camps started. It was a popular prediction among fans and pundits and it has come to fruition. The way these things go it could be a blowout or an instant classic. We won’t know until it happens.
But both teams made it. They survived a grueling season and infinite challenges to be the last two teams standing. Whether I feel personally compelled to root or not root for either side, this is what professional sports is all about, this is the endgame. Legacies be damned; throw out the media-inspired parsing and appreciate what we have. Football, a game we love, on its biggest stage.
And for the record, as much as it pains me to say so (and it would in either team’s favor), I expect the Broncos to win on Sunday. So, if you’re placing a bet you might want to put your money on the Seahawks.