Enough is enough. If I hear one more word about how Peyton Manning ruined his "legacy'' by throwing that interception in the Super Bowl, I'm going to puke.
The same way it was absurd to suggest Manning would be the greatest quarterback ever if he had won this year's Super Bowl (which would have given Manning two titles in 12 years, with none of the all-time records his), it's just as absurd to call him some tragically flawed player because he threw a bad interception going in for the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Now, if you want to say you see a pattern forming -- from his can't-beat-Florida days in college, to some of the playoff losses he's had in the pros, to the fourth-quarter pick by Tracy Porter -- that's fine. But it's silly to say a guy's career epitaph has been written when he has four, five or six possible prime years left. Let his career play out, then let's put him where he deserves to be put in history.
I'm annoyed enough as it is that most people who analyze football make playoff football the only thing that counts when considering the greatness of players. I loved the Tweet of Aaron Schatz of FootballOutsiders.com Sunday: "How come no one ever mentions Jim Brown was 1-3 in the playoffs and averaged 3.7 YPC (yards per carry) when they talk about his legacy?''
Quarterbacks surely are the most important players on a football field. So that means they're the most important players in postseason play. But to minimize the significance of regular-season dominance drives me nuts. Manning is 70 games over .500 in 12 seasons, which is better than Dan Marino, John Elway, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach were in their careers. But Manning's 9-9 playoff record overshadows all of that. I'm not saying the 9-9 shouldn't be considered. I just think it shouldn't overshadow everything.
By the way, on places of players in history, I don't want to make another list of the top quarterbacks ever ... yet. I've shouted from the rooftops in the past month that the NFL is 90, not 19, and we need to remember Otto Graham won seven championships in 10 pro seasons, and we need to remember the greatness of Unitas and the great versatility of Sammy Baugh. And I'm amazed to see how quickly the shine has worn off Joe Montana. A generation ago, Montana was Tiger Woods. Four Super Bowl wins in the '80s, 16 playoff wins in all ... the ultimate winner. And now he's yesterday's news. Not in my history book.
Just for fun, let's look at the championship game and playoff records of the great quarterbacks of the last half-century, great as being defined by those quarterbacks either in the Hall of Fame or clearly destined for it:
I guess we could argue about the merits of lots of these players long-term. But if you think I'd ever have a top-10 all-time quarterback list without Manning or Marino on it because they've been .500-ish playoff quarterbacks, you're crazy. How high will Manning go in that top 10? We'll see -- in about 2017.
Conrad Dobler can teach us much about where the league and players should be going in the CBA talks.
I'm glad that both sides of the table are intent, seemingly, on giving retired players a bigger piece of the pie than they now get of the $8-billion-a-year NFL business. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was adamant with me in a long interview last spring that the old-timers need to be provided for better. And Roger Goodell, at his annual Super Bowl press conference, said: "We all have to do more for our retired players. There's just no two ways about it ... These are the men who helped us build this great game and we need to make sure we are doing the right thing for them.''
I would suggest that they start by looking at the knees of Dobler, a guard for the Cardinals, Saints and Bills, who made three Pro Bowls and earned $450,000 in 10 seasons, ending in 1981. His knees are more road maps than functioning joints, part of the 34-surgery nightmare he endured to be a football player.
Dobler showed up at the Super Bowl, and he will not be silenced, because there are scores of Conrad Doblers out there, former players who earned what was good money a generation or two ago and helped build the NFL to the sporting monster it is today. He showed up in shorts, just so people could see how ravaged his knees are, and he saw former Cowboy Nate Newton, who told him to please put pants on. "I can't look at that,'' Newton told him. "Those will be my knees someday.'' And when Dobler opened his mouth to whoever would listen, he made more than a little sense.
"The players of today may look at us as whiners, as people who blew their fortunes,'' Dobler said. "But all I can say to players who say that is: You will be us. Study history. You will us someday.''
Dobler has not been able to be declared permanently disabled. "WalMart's probably got more greeters on permanent disability than the NFL has,'' he told me. Nine knee replacements he's had, and his wife is a quadriplegic after a 2007 accident, and he's had one home foreclosure, and, as he says, "If you don't think about walking in front of a bus after what I've been through, you're not human.''
My over-simplistic suggestion has always been to start the reparations with older players, whose pensions are shameful (Hall of Famer running back Leroy Kelly's is $176 a month), with players and owners giving one-half of 1 percent of their gross take every year to a fund for retired players. That's a start. After that I'd suggest giving Dobler a seat at the table of the discussions about how the retired players should be treated. Look at his knees first, then listen to his words.
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