The All Time Greatest Colts Quarterback Debate… The Greatest QB Who Ever Lived

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback that ever lived, and that’s a fact. Well, maybe it’s not a fact, but it’s an opinion based on fact. An opinion I can seriously not overstate. You might ask, “Just how good is Peyton Manning?” I’ll tell you. But brace yourself because the answers may be shocking.

Peyton Manning’s football prowess is so blindingly brilliant that doctors recommend watching him play through a pin hole in a sheet of paper. Mathematicians have declared his passes the only perfect arches that occur in nature. Physicists have even speculated that if he throws a football hard enough in the exact opposite direction of the earth’s rotation he can actually turn back time, like at the end of the Superman movie. In my not so humble opinion, Peyton Manning is the greatest football player in the history of mankind.

Throughout his career he has drawn comparisons to other great quarterbacks, especially Johnny Unitas. Both he and Johnny U have been hugely successful, record setting quarterbacks for the Colts. The comparison comes naturally. Each man is an icon in their own right. But in comparing legacies, Manning stands alone.

Unitas will forever be remembered as a revolutionary of the game. His innovative approach to the passing game paved the way for the stars of today, but he simply cannot measure up to Peyton Manning. In terms of franchise records, there is no doubt that Manning is superior. He owns practically every Colt’s franchise passing record – including passing yards, passing touchdowns, attempts, completions, and completion percentage – an impressive feat considering how high Unitas set the bar. Even more impressive still is the fact that Manning has succeeded in today’s faster, more intense version of professional football. Modern athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than they were in Unitas’ day. So while Manning would have absolutely owned the 1950s and 1960s, the same cannot necessarily be said of Unitas in the late 20th and early 21st Century.

When it comes to league-wide accolades the two are neck and neck, but Manning still has the edge in a close one. Both quarterbacks have been selected to an impressive ten Pro Bowls. They both have one Super Bowl victory a piece to their credit, but Manning also has the honor of being the Super Bowl MVP. Admittedly, Unitas has a couple of NFL World Championships to his credit, but that’s not 100 percent comparable to the Super Bowl since the AFL and NFL were not yet combined and competing against each other for an undisputed title yet. Unitas did beat out Manning in terms of All-Pro selections with six to Manning’s five, but Manning trumped Unitas in the more prestigious category of AP NFL MVP awards. Manning stands alone with a record four league MVP awards compared to Unitas’ three. While Unitas hangs with Manning almost tit-for-tat in awards, Manning usually seems to win in the bigger, flashier categories.

But the most compelling argument comes in comparing their best years, where Peyton Manning seemingly dwarfs Johnny Unitas. In 1959 Johnny Unitas set a career high scoring 32 touchdowns and compiling 2,899 passing yards. Four years later, in 1963, he established another career benchmark throwing for 3,481 yards and 20 touchdowns. Even combining Unitas’ career high marks together, as if they were accomplished in the same season, his statistics become pedestrian feats when compared to what Peyton Manning does on a routine basis. On three separate occasions – 2000, 2004, and 2009 – Manning eclipsed both single-season highs for Unitas the 32 TDs and the 3,481 yards. There has never been a season in Manning’s career when he threw for fewer yards than Unitas’ best season.

Peyton Manning’s best season came in 2004 when he threw for 4,557 yards and scored a then NFL record 49 TDs. This aerial barrage was a campaign for the ages. Manning’s TD record has only been surpassed by Tom Brady, who scored only one more TD than Manning (50) during the 2007 season. But even Touchdown Tom doesn’t stand up to Manning in the long run. Aside from Brady’s record breaking 2007, he has never eclipsed the 30 TD threshold… something Manning has done five times in his still relatively short career. While this debate isn’t about Brady, it speaks volumes that Manning’s numbers are consistently better than the current NFL record holder.

So when it comes to statistics, just about the only number that Unitas has that is greater than Manning is the one on his Jersey, where Manning wears 18 but Unitas donned 19). But, if you look at it in golf terms, not surprisingly Manning wins again.

In the intro to this debate Bleacher Fan asked who we would choose to lead our team. Undoubtedly it’s Manning. The guy has not only broken Unitas’ franchise record, he has set NFL milestones. He puts up stat lines that would be career years for most quarterbacks, past and present, nearly every season. He also does it with charisma. Peyton Manning is surely the greatest Colt’s quarterback of all time.

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One Response to The All Time Greatest Colts Quarterback Debate… The Greatest QB Who Ever Lived

  1. Old School says:

    First let me say I agree that Manning is the best I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all back to Otto Graham. But with todays better training methods, better coaching, more emphasis on passing, I am not sure you can say Unitas wouldn’t dominate today as Manning does. He never had all the benefits of these things like Manning has had. Also how could you think Manning would dominate more in Unitas’ era? If he was playing then he wouldn’t have had all those benefits that he has now. The coaching and training methods are so much better today. Remember the league was in its infant stage when Unitas was playing, and coaching and training wasn’t nearly as advanced. With that being said, I still agree Manning is the best ever!

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