Monday, December 20, 2010
The NFL Network's list of the top 100 players in NFL history, like any top-whatever list in history, was designed to generate controversy, get people watching the countdown shows and build up some buzz. Even with full knowledge of this, I'm going to stumble right into the hornet's nest and debate one particular placement: Peyton Manning at #8.
Now, it's no secret that I'm not a Peyton Manning fan. I have been riding this guy for years, calling him overrated, a choke artist and even 'Princess Peyton' based on his post-loss excuses and complaints (which sometimes threw his teammates under the bus) and the Colts' propensity for actually trying to get the NFL's rules changed to better help their team's passing attack. I gave up this nickname since it's an insult to princesses; Zelda has been kidnapped umpteen times by Ganon, but do you hear her whining? No dice.
Despite my criticism, I'm not so deluded to think that Manning isn't a fantastic quarterback, a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer and one of the best QBs in NFL history. What I take issue with is placing the guy among the very upper tier of all-time greats, and for the NFL Network's list to place Manning at eighth of EVERYONE to ever play in the NFL is just ridiculous on many levels. In fact, dig this: watch as I argue that Manning is barely even in the top eight of quarterbacks in NFL history.
* Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas. These are no-brainers. Even the most ardent Manning fan would put these two guys ahead of Peyton. The NFL Network's list had Montana at #4 (matching his number of Super Bowls won) and Unitas at #6, so even their uber-Peyton fandom wasn't enough to overwhelm the sheer common sense that these two guys are the best QBs to ever play the game. The debate is which of these two legendary stars had a better to-go comic reference. Johnny U had his Simpsons double-shot of "Now Johnny Unitas, there's a haircut you could set your watch to!" and his endorsement of the Lady Krusty Mustache Trimmer ("It's Krusteriffic, Johnny Unitas! But is my upper lip supposed to bleed like this?" "Probably."), whereas Montana had his SNL co-hosting gig with Walter Payton in 1986. Who wins? Well, clearly, it's Montana. Nothing tops the Sincere Guy Stu sketch. Nothing.
* Tom Brady. I was gobsmacked to learn that Brady was 21st on the Top 100 list, a full 13 points behind Manning. Now, the Brady/Manning debate has been going on for the better part of eight years, but my question is why is it a debate? Peyton has gaudier passing stats, but Brady has two more Super Bowl rings (and, it should be noted, never threw a pick-six to blow his losing Super Bowl like Manning did) and was dealing with overall lesser offensive talent in New England. When Brady did have a Colts-like array of weapons at his disposal in 2007, he blew away the NFL and almost led the Patriots to a perfect record. If I had to pick between one of these two men to quarterback a game for my life, I'd take Brady without a second thought.
* Steve Young. "But Mark, Young was injury-prone and didn't play nearly as long as Young did!" True, but even playing with a bunch of concussions, Young's numbers were ridiculous.
* Dan Marino. Okay, now given that I've cited championships as a factor in my judgement, it seems hypocritical to rank the famously-ringless Marino ahead of Manning. But well, Marino put up his insane numbers in an era that wasn't nearly as offense-friendly as today's. Also, Marino would've won at least one Super Bowl to his name if Ray Finkle hadn't botched that field goal. Finkle's argument that Marino screwed up the hold loses a lot of its weight when you consider that Finkle was straight-up insane. Man, now I'm remember Marino's wooden performance in that movie and wondering if I should dock him points. Best to just move on.
* Sammy Baugh. Now we get into the old-timers, and the evaluations get slightly dicey. Old-time NFL football is so removed from the modern game that it's hard to compare the different eras with any authority. In terms of pure quarterbacking skills, Manning might be better than Baugh. In pure football player skills, however, Baugh is clearly better. As Bill Belichick put it on the Top 100 special (Baugh ranked #14th), "Sammy Baugh would be a combination of today's version Tom Brady, Brian Moorman, and Ed Reed: three All-Star players at their positions all rolled into one. Sammy was a league-leading passer, a league-leading punter, and a league-leading interceptor." Nuff said. Is this unfair to Manning since he never got a chance to play DB or punt? Yeah, but Baugh also played in an era where he didn't get 15 yards extra when a defensive player committed a 'roughing penalty' against a star QB. In short, I'll take Slingin' Sammy. If Manning had decided to prove Mike "Idiot Kicker" Vanderjagt wrong by trying a few field goals himself, it might be a different story.
* Otto Graham. Just a straight-up winner. He quarterbacked the Browns to ten straight (!) championship games from 1946 to 1955 in the AAFC and the NFL, winning seven of them. Obviously Graham didn't do it by himself and his stats pale in comparison to the gaudy numbers that Manning puts up...but when you consider the era, Graham might well be the greatest of all time.
So there's seven guys. Peyton Manning, congratulations, you are the eighth-best NFL quarterback of all time. Super impressive, yeah, but also realistic, and not an insane overrating like the NFL Network's Top 100 evaluators placed upon your head. On the bright side, at least Manning is ahead of Brett Favre. I don't consider cock photographs to be a valid statistical measurement.