Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/29/2006 11:24:00 AM
My Sportsman: Peyton Manning
Super Bowl hex aside, Peyton Manning has started every game of his career and could challenge every record in the book.
Peter Read Miller/SI
By Tim Layden
Thus far, Peyton Manning has committed two sins against American Sports Culture: One, he is a star quarterback in the NFL, but doesn't have a Super Bowl ring to show for it. And two, his body of work is best illustrated by cold statistics, which are the province of fantasy players and the weapon of the soulless critic who turns them against players as if the stats are the tools of the selfish automaton.
Forty-nine touchdown passes? Tom Brady could do that if he wasn't busy winning so many big games. (Mix in the fact that Manning is southern football royalty, born into greatness, and you have a target the size of Rhode Island for the cynical to take shots at).
Let's allow the Super Bowl thing to sit quietly in the corner of the room like a good elephant. Just for a minute. The rest is nonsense. Manning deserves to be Sportsman of the Year because he has elevated his game and his position to levels never imagined by his predecessors (or his peers) and because he has brought a backyard joy to the corporate NFL that extends from his line-of-scrimmage gyrations to his hilarious commercials. (Rare is the sports pitchman who can make selling fun). All of this he has done with class and dignity in a noisy sports world that is quick to forgive -- even reward -- bad behavior.
Before Manning arrived from Tennessee in 1998 (remember the Manning–Leaf debate?),the NFL quarterback had been reduced from a dynamic thinker to a robot executing orders sent from glass cages at the top of stadiums. They no longer called plays, they just ran them. Manning has restored the brain to quarterbacking, and without the huddle to boot.
The result has been twofold. Manning has through dint of his film study, repetition and game-day efficiency put pressure on defenses that coaches can scarcely conceive, and in a far less tangible way, he has made every snap an adventure, tearing down the fourth wall of football and bringing Joe Red Bull into the huddle. Sure, half of what Manning shouts about and points to at the line of scrimmage is meaningless gobbledygook, but the other half is genuine playcalling. When he points to a linebacker, he's often pointing to a linebacker for a reason.
The game is different now, because of Manning. And here we tiptoe gently into statistics. In just eight full seasons and 11 games into his ninth year, Manning was ninth in career touchdown passes (265), 11th in completions and 13th in yards. He stands to challenge every career record in league history. And for all you lunch-pail guys out there, he's started every game in his career -- 139 and counting as of late November. Since starting his career with a 3-13 season, Manning has guided the Colts to a 77-35 record in seven regular seasons, not including this year.
So he hasn't won a Super Bowl. When Manning was just a sophomore in college, his position coach, David Cutcliffe, told me that Manning would someday win a bunch of them. There is more to great quarterbacking than winning Super Bowls, which can happen when a team finds synergy and greatness far beyond one man's play. Ben Roethlisberger has a ring -- do you believe he is a better quarterback than Manning? How about Trent Dilfer? Brad Johnson?
Manning will win a Super Bowl eventually, just like his old coach said. Until then, he will settle for reinventing his position, setting records that may never be approached and pushing his team to the doorstep, year after year. That is Sportsman enough for me.
Super Bowl rings shouldnt be the measure of how great a quarterback is. Peytons stats alone qualify him for Sportsman of the year. 265 TD's, 36,000 yards, and a rating that is improving over time. Peyton is without a doubt the best quarterback of this decade
Peyton Manning is a great athlete, don't get me wrong. However, until he wins a Super Bowl, three MVP awards-in a row that is-and manages to play more than half his games in terrible whether (ala Brett Favre in G.B. or the blistery heat of Miami for Dan Marino) then I will consider him to be a great quarterback, or even a sportsman. Also, wait until Manning actually gets hurt, and has to play through it. Again Favre is the master of this, but also players like Steve McNair have survived so much. In a time where Peyton can't even huddle up his team, and he dinks and dunks down the field with no throw actually being in flight for more than 30 yards or so, his stats become quite inflated, and again he gets the nice dome whether. It would make me feel sick to someday see Peyton Manning break all the storied passing records while having it be smooth sailing the entire way. I know one thing, I'll take a gunslinger over a Manning.....anyday.
You foolishly dismissed something else about the great Peyton Manning in the article. Despite his rocket-fueled football statistics, his southern charms and manners on and off the field, and his ridiculously funny television commercials, Peyton Manning is a great human being. He has and continues to donate his money and time to charities and children. He is one of the few who understands that there is more to life than football. Peyton Manning for Sportsman of the Year? Hell yeah.
Regarding the playing hurt and Peyton -- do you not remember that he had his jaw broken, and only missed one play?
The criticisms heaped on this individual are ridiculous. He certainly isn't perfect, but can't you take the time to appreciate the quality of play and dedication that he brings.
With regard to the criticism of his linemen after the debacle of the steelers playoff game, think of the level of frustration he might have been under, and what things you might have said in that state. As mentioned, he's not perfect. In addition, he brought Indy back, and fought through all of that pressure (and his poor o-line play) to get them to the point of being able to tie that game.
A Vanderjagt shank , a lost game, that's football. It certainly wasn't PM's fault that he can't throw from his back.
you neglected to mention that manning played much of 2001 with a broken jaw. He has played injured. He plays in bad weather too. His offensive lineman accepted responsibility for the Pittsburgh game, and they still invited him on their o-line vacation, as they do every year, so perhaps everyone else should get over it. Also, in the eight years that he's been in the league, he's said harsh things exactly twice. He's one of the few grownups to play the game. and I'm glad to have him.
Manning may soon hold all the passing records, but eventually all of them will be broken.
To be considered the greatest of all time, a QB must have championships, and many of them.
Otto Graham's name is still brought up whenever the all-time great QBs are discussed, and it's not because he holds any all-time passing records. It's because he took his team to the championship game 10 times in 10 years, and won 7 of them.
Manning's team hasn't even gotten to a championship game, and it hasn't always been the fault of the defense when the team has been bounced from the playoffs (cf. the 3 point effort by the Manning-led offense in 2004).
For the the uneducated out there, Manning did not blame his offensive line for losing the playoff game last year. He said "we had some protection problems". That was 100% true, and "protection problems" include Manning not making the reads quick enough. Contrary to what another person posted, Manning has played through injury. In his second or third season he had his jaw broken when he took a sack. He sat out ONE play. After the game, he had to have his jaw wired shut for the remainder of the season, yet he played every game.
No way manning is top sportsman. For all his regular season heroics, he hasn't stood tall in the moments that define a player. He may throw touchdowns, but come January nobody fears him. I'll take Brady with his 3 rings and his 2-0 record against Peyton in the playoffs any day
This is a great argument for Manning - finally a recognition that titles alone do not make you a great player. As for the weather argument below - I don't even know what to say. This is the problem Manning has faced - every time he acheives something, people move the bar for him. First he couldn't beat Tennessee, then he did. Then he couldn't win a playoff game, and he did. Then playoff games weren't enough, now it has to be a Super Bowl. If and when he wins that, people like our boy below will say, yeah but he didn't win multiple Super Bowls, or yeah, but he only won because he played in a dome. Stop manufacturing reasons to hate on Peyton. Sorry he is so good.
All these "My Sportsman" are like consolation prizes. It's for guys who did great that year but not great enough to actually win "Sportsman of the Year". As they keep narrowing the list of candidates, they keep writing 1-pagers on the people they cut.
The list is now very narrow. Like Wade, Woods, Federer etc. I agree that Federer should and I think will win. We should soon see the Wade and Woods "My Sportsman" pages and then come to the actual announcement.
manning will never win it, he's shown it year after year. he'll get the stats, sure, but something always goes wrong - either his sucky defense, his 'idiot kicker' or his inept coach, who just looks good in the regular season. oh yeah, and sometimes he'll just play plain badly, as it has happened in so many big games and in so few meaningless games. with the amount of talent around him, manning shouldn't be so hyped. he also too often puts the blame in his teammates, that doesn't look like a nice sportsman. and cut the 'super bowls ain't the way to measure a quarterback' crap. we all know that if manning really was as good as they say, he would've won those playoff games, specially with his supporting cast. after all, we aren't choosing quarterback of the year, it's the sportsman of the year. I guess there's a difference. and the 'he makes nice commercials' argument just shows how stupid a sportswriter can be. really!
Super Bowl rings should not be a measure of how great a QB is? Their job IS to win. Manning is a great athlete, but stop it already with the "will eventually win a Super Bowl". Last year was a perfect situation for him and the Colts, but they found a way to mess it up. By the way they should have never even come close to tying it against Pittsburgh (the Polamalu interception-fumble being an incomplete pass call was the WORST I have ever witnessed in a playoff game. Really made me feel like the Colts somehow rigged the game).
Please.......give me a break. Manning is the most over-rated QB in the history of the NFL. (maybe just under Michael Vick). He is a choke artist who has choked at EVERY level. He cannot carry Brady's jock. He has benefitted greatly from the pedestrian standards and the offensive rules and bias now required by the NFL at the QB position. Saying he has elevated the game is beyond ridiculous. What he does on the field is what EVERY QB in the 70s did. No, winning a SB isn't everything but winning is....especially when one has the offensive weapons and system he has to work with. Bottom line 3-6 post season (Brady is 10-1). Teams have consistently proven he can be easily beaten by playing an aggressive 3-4 scheme. (Why more teams don't do it I have no idea). Not only that, he puts up this "aw-shucks" persona while selling out his teamates when they lose. Just look at him on the sideline when nobody is talking to him. Manning is a good system QB....nothing more.
It was kind of a given that Manning wouldn't get chosen. Why? I love the guy; great attitude, strength of character, team player and motivator - BUT - I knew there was no way a fickle society like ours would hand an honor to a good guy who hasn't received what everyone considers the only reward in playing any sport, a championship. There are plenty of jerk athletes that win championships - to me, it's about the process and the class that an athlete has, not the ring on his finger. I'd much rather see my kids amazed by a great player with great attitude than a championship-ring-holder with a mouth like a pirate and an attitude to match.
Why is everyone picking on Manning because he hasn't won a Super Bowl yet? Football is still a team game... Not all playoff losses can be attributed to Manning choking. The fact that Manning hasn't had a defense on his team that could actually stop an opponent in his entire NFL career may also have something to do with the fact that he hasn't got a Super Bowl ring.
That said, I definately agree with the Roger Federer for sportsman of the year sentiment. He's been sensational and he's won almost everything this year (and tennis is not a team sport either....)
All this stuff about Manning not winning a super bowl is ludicrous. I have been a Colt fan for over 50 years and watch every game. The Colts have never had the defense to win, or even get to, a super bowl while Manning has been the quarterback This year it will be the same story as they employ a ridiculous defensive line scheme which leaves them totally open to run delays and screens. Because of the weakness against the run, Manning is under tremendous pressure at all times to "make something happen." I was in Baltimore's Memioral Stadium to see Jonny Unitas playhis first game and folowed him closely over the years. He won two NFL championships, a Super Bowl and was in a losing effort in one other NFL championship and Super Bowl. Peyton is better. Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but put them on opposite teams. Peyton on the Patriots with their superior defense and coaching, would have won 4 super bowls.
A good system QB? What other quarterback has been a product of the old call your plays at the line "system"? Manning has come up short. There's no arguement here. But a good system QB as opposed to simply a good QB? That's absurd.
Manning is quite simply the greatest regular season qb in the history of football. I think that's really all we can say (with conviction) regarding his place in history at this point. If he wins some SBs then we can talk about him as being equal to if not better than Brady, Montana, Favre, Young, Elway, Unitas.
But the game he played against my Pats last month - the amount of on the money throws he made WHILE IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING HIT - does not bode well for the rest of the league. But then again, they still can't stop the run.