BOSTON (CBS) — Legacy, legacy, legacy. Legacy? Legacy!
That was, essentially, most of the scuttlebutt around the football world last week, when Peyton Manning was in position to write his own legacy in some way, shape or form. While any logical person might ask, “But wait, how will one 60-minute window of football define an entire career?” that did not stop the topic from gaining steam in the 14-day hype period between championship weekend and Super Bowl Sunday.
Manning brushed off the question at media day, saying he thought a player can’t have a legacy until he’s 70 years old. He was dropping a little bit of humor, but he likely knew what was at stake on Sunday night in New Jersey.
And as you know by now, things didn’t exactly go swimmingly for Manning and the Broncos. Peyton watched the first snap of the game sail right past his face and into the end zone for a safety, and it only went downhill from there.
Manning — the field general of the No. 1 offense in NFL history — couldn’t even get the Broncos into the end zone until the 45th minute of the game, and thanks in large part to his three turnovers, Manning walked off the field with a 1-2 record in Super Bowls.
The perpetually affable Manning was understandably a bit upset after the game, and he bristled at the notion that such a performance could be considered embarrassing.
“There’s a lot of professional football players in that locker room that put in a lot of hard work and effort into being here and playing in that game, and the word ’embarrassing’ is an insulting word to tell you the truth,” Manning said before quickly turning his head away from the reporter who asked the question.
As with anything in sports, any claims that the Broncos embarrassed themselves would lead to endless debate (though Wes Welker himself did admit it was an embarrassing performance). So let’s avoid the subjective and stick with the only thing that can’t be argued: stats. They can be misleading, sure, like Manning’ Super Bowl-record 34 completions against the Seahawks. Yet when a quarterback starts in at least three Super Bowls, the stats tell a fairly accurate tale of their performances.
Here’s a strictly statistical look at the stats of QBs who have started at least three Super Bowls. Manning will go first, and the rest will go in order of most Super Bowls played.
Peyton Manning (1-2 record)
90-for-132 (68.2 percent), 860 yards (286.7 yards per game), 3 TDs, 4 INTs
Tom Brady (3-2 record)
127-for-197 (64.5 percent), 1,277 yards (255.4 yards per games), 9 TDs, 2 INTs
John Elway (2-3 record)
76-for-152 (50 percent), 1,128 yards (225.6 yards per game), 3 TDs, 8 INTs (plus four rushing TDs)
Joe Montana (4-0 record)
83-for-122 (68 percent), 1,142 yards (285.5 yards per game), 11 TDs, 0 INTs
Terry Bradshaw (4-0 record)
49-for-84 (58.3 percent), 932 yards (233 yards per game), 9 TDs, 4 INTs
Roger Staubach (2-2 record)
61-for-98 (62.2 percent), 734 yards (183.5 yards per game), 8 TDs, 4 INTs
Jim Kelly (0-4 record)
81-for-145 (55.9 percent), 829 yards (207.3 yards per game), 2 TDs, 7 INTs
Troy Aikman (3-0 record)
56-for-80 (70 percent), 689 yards (229.7 yards per game), 5 TDs, 1 INT
Bob Griese (2-1 record)
26-for-41 (63.4 percent), 295 yards (98.3 yards per game), 1 TD, 2 INTs
Ben Roethlisberger (2-1 record)
55-for-91 (60.4 percent), 642 yards (214 yards per game), 3 TDs, 5 INTs
Kurt Warner (1-2 record)
83-for-132 (62.9 percent), 1,156 yards (385.3 yards per game), 6 TDs, 3 INTs
Fran Tarkenton (0-3 record)
46-for-89 (51.7 percent), 489 yards (163 yards per game), 1 TD, 6 INTs (plus one rushing TD)
When you look at the statistics, it’s clear that Manning’s not the worst, but he’s clearly not the best. It’s probably safe to bet that nobody will ever challenge Joe Montana when it comes to coming through in the Super Bowl.
Here’s how Manning ranks among that group:
Completion percentage: Second out of 12
Passing yards per game: Second out of 12
Touchdown-to-interception ratio: Seventh out of 12
Touchdowns per game: Tied for seventh out of 12
While the cumulative stats reflect favorably upon Manning, the touchdown-to-interception ratio lends credence to the belief that Manning doesn’t play nearly up to his own standard when he’s on the game’s biggest stage. He’s thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions in his three Super Bowls, a 0.75-to-1 ratio; he’s thrown 491 regular-season touchdowns and 219 interceptions, a 2.25-to-1 ratio. By that measure, he plays three times worse in the Super Bowl than he does in the regular season.
Manning is most often compared to his contemporary, Tom Brady, who ranks fourth, fourth, third and fifth in those respective categories in the group of 12 QBs with multiple starts. Throwing just two interceptions in five games is a major reason why Brady has three wins.
Ultimately, though statistics are a nice aid, they’ll never resolve the debates and arguments about quarterbacks’ places in history. But when many voices in the media and the game made the outrageous statement last week that a Peyton Manning win on Sunday would make him the best ever, it’s only right to put one thing in perspective: he’s not.
That would have been the case no matter what happened on Sunday, but Manning didn’t do much to enhance his Super Bowl resume. It’s a team game, and Manning didn’t lose this game all by himself, but in a world so eager to give him credit and praise for everything he does, his flops cannot be ignored.