There are a few people in this world that seem to be created specifically to excel at what they do. For some reason, the universe decides to create someone who has the rare combination of talent and desire to show us what the high end of human achievement can look like. Peyton Manning was a gift to us mortals, to show us what was possible.
I believe in “spheres of intelligence”. What that means is that my IQ might be higher than, say, a plumber, but that it really means the plumber and I have spent our time learning completely different fields. The plumber would think I’m an idiot for not knowing something simple like replacing a pipe, and I might think the plumber is an idiot for not knowing where the warp whistles are hidden in Super Mario Brothers 3 (yes, the plumber has more “useful knowledge” than I do). Either way, there would be a disconnect between our knowledge levels, leading to exasperation in our conversations.
Imagine being a genius. Imagine spending your whole life studying and practicing one field. Imagine the frustration you would feel if no one understood what you saw on the same level you did.
Maybe that’s why this happens:
That is nothing less than a football god finding his teammates unworthy. That is one man knowing if he had just ten other Peyton Mannings on the field, he would never lose a game.
But he’s lost plenty, at least on the big stage of the playoffs. Going into this weekend his playoff record is 11-12. That’s not bad, considering the level of competition, but it’s not a good record for a top-5 all-time quarterback. Tom Brady is 18-8, Joe Montana was 16-7, John Elway was 14-7. Manning’s record is closer to that of Dan Marino, whose career playoff record was 8-10. Manning’s time to improve upon this record is coming to a close, fast.
He lost a year because of four neck surgeries. There was a thought he might never play again, much less have full control of his talent. He came back and had the best passing year of any quarterback in history. But he lost the Super Bowl. Towards the end of this season, we’ve seen him limp around a little and be very un-Peyton. Maybe he’s injured, maybe he’s just getting old.
Manning is of that age now where we talk about what his “legacy” is. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a top five, if not top three all-time quarterback. But he’s only won one Super Bowl, and that was against the Bears. Playing the Bears in the Super Bowl is like getting to the final fight in “Punch-Out!!” and seeing your opponent is Glass Joe. On the biggest stage of all, his team lost to the Saints (“Great Tiger” if we’re continuing the “Punch-Out!!” thing) and the Seahawks (“Mister Dream”). For a while he was thought of as someone who couldn’t win the big game until he beat the Bears. But winning just one big game doesn’t make someone a “big game quarterback”.
Manning doesn’t need another Super Bowl, playoff win or even one more completed pass to go down as one of the best of all time. But for a man who was created specifically to play football, I’ll always feel like his actual accomplishments will be lacking compared to his potential.