http://www.digitaljournal.com/sports/op-ed-the-great-peyton-manning/article/423489

Op-Ed: Inside the great Peyton Manning

Posted Jan 22, 2015 by Vincent Gerace
With the Super Bowl right around the corner it seems only natural, as two teams get set to see who is the best in the world, we consider greatness and what constitutes it, and who truly has it.
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos calls a play in the third quarter against the New England Patri...
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos calls a play in the third quarter against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado
Jamie Squire, Getty/AFP
The Super Bowl spectacle begins again. In the time leading up to the crowning of a world champion we will hear about it all: traveling plans for each team, injury reports, predictions, interviews of players, legacies of coaches if they win or lose, etc. One person we won’t hear from, sans any commercial appearances, is Peyton Manning... again.
It’s not news that Peyton, for all his stats and great achievements, like four time MVP honors, hasn’t really lived up to expectations in the post-season. We all know that, but there is something to look at here that hasn’t been looked at previously. Who are these great stats coming against in the regular season? After all, only six teams per conference make the playoffs each year, with one of those often being lead by Manning, that leaves a total of 11. With the majority of opponents one team facing being from their own conference that more than cuts that 11 in half. This is even further down when you consider that, for the most part, only one squad per division makes a post season run, sans a wild-card, and each team must play their divisional foes twice a piece. All that in mind, it’s more likely for any one player to face non-playoff teams in a season than playoff teams. So, it is worth breaking down Peyton’s play against playoff teams when he faces them in the post season, and the regular season because maybe it’s not just a post-season jinx of sorts, perhaps it’s that he isn’t that great and he demonstrates that when playing better teams.
Peyton Manning was selected number one overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and that is where this analysis will begin. This is considering a team a “playoff team” if they qualified for the post-season following that same year’s regular season. From 1998 to 2014 Peyton has played 111 games against playoff teams, equivalent to roughly seven regular seasons. In that span Peyton has bolstered only a 53-58 record against these quality opponents. That is not the only stat that goes down when facing better caliber foes. Manning’s completion percentage drops slightly to 64.1 from 65.5 (based on regular season numbers) , not alarming there. What is alarming is that in these 111 contests, only 32 have come and gone without Peyton throwing an interception, so there were 79 of these games where Manning was picked off, 41 of which had Peyton throwing the pig to the wrong color jersey multiple times.
Also, consider that Manning has a career passer rating, based on the regular season, of 101.5, but when only considering the cream of the crop teams he has faced each year that mark drops remarkably to 88.77 in his career. His touchdown rate and interception rate are also affected. According to Peyton’s regular season career stats he currently holds a touchdown rate of 17.07; meaning that he typically finds the end zone once every 17.07 times he passes that ball. On the contrary, his interception rate for his career is 38.67. This tells us that it takes almost 40 passes for him to get intercepted. In games facing playoff caliber teams his touchdown rate drops to 20.22, as his interception rate goes up to 29.7. We know from this that when playing against better competition Peyton takes between three and four more passes to get a score and takes a drastic amount (almost ten) less to give the ball away.
To create some context let’s compare Manning, a strongly-believed first ballot Hall of Famer, to someone who put together a solid career, but not many believe him to be getting a gold jacket, Jeff Garcia. Garcia played 104 NFL games in his career — this will only be considering those games, not his in the Canadian Football League or United Football League. In these 104 games, which are only seven less than Peyton’s amount versus playoff teams, Garcia through attempted 3,676 passes to Manning’s 4,066, for Garcia, 161 of these went for touchdowns. Though Garcia threw for fewer touchdowns, his touchdown rate is actually better at 22.8, and the same can said for his interception rate. Garcia would have to throw just over 44 passes (44.28) to get picked off, which, giving Peyton the benefit of the doubt is around 14 more attempts. Garcia does fall to Manning in this comparison in overall passer rating but it is close at 88.77 to 87.5.
No one is saying that Jeff Garcia is better than Peyton Manning, or that he put forth a better career, but the comparison is worth noting because it shows that had Peyton played every game of his career against playoff caliber teams it’s arguable that he would not be considered great, nor a “sure fire” Hall of Famer.
Certainly Peyton Manning has put on a great display from 1998 to 2014, but did he display greatest? His stats and records will absolutely get him a bust in Canton, Ohio five years to the second after he calls it a career but when we considered that most of these high level stats came against teams that were not going to the post-season, and teams that were simply not as good as what he had to work with does he really deserve to be considered one of the greatest ever? And knowing that his production went down as soon as the opponent’s ability went up, does he deserve the term “great” attached to his name at all, or could he possibly just be the best “really, really good” quarterback to ever play the game?