Manning's Legacy Needs Another Title
Right now, Manning isn't even the old John Elway. That one reached three Super Bowls, even though he lost all of them. Instead, Manning is the other John Elway, who won his first world championship over Green Bay after some questionable decisions down the stretch by Packers coach Mike Holmgren. It all kept Elway as a tarnished golden boy for the Denver Broncos, until he led the Broncos to another world championship with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Manning has to win another Super Bowl, all right. Like now. And I hear what you're saying: why the urgency for Archie's middle and most gifted son? He's only 33, and he never misses games. Not only that, unless he is zapped away toward the heavens by a pack of little green men, he'll be around the NFL a while.
It's just that you never know.
For one, since Manning has joined the Colts in spending most of the past decade teasing common sense with spectacular regular seasons, only to reek more often than not in the aftermath, you have to think that the football gods won't give them too many more chances to choke. For another, the Colts are a Manning better (at least theoretically) than everybody else left in the postseason, and he just proved as much by snatching an unprecedented fourth MVP award.
Too bad the guy doesn't collect Super Bowl rings as easily. Then again, he is just two victories shy of challenging that statement. Courtesy of Manning's brilliant football brain that operates his quick-firing right arm and an Indianapolis defense that was unusually potent, the Colts destroyed the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was a 20-3 victory that was a miracle by Colts' standards -- it came after they received a bye in the playoffs. And consider this: in the four other times they were in this situation (including three with Manning) in the last 10 years, they were one-and-done.
That's why the Colts may be following their blueprint of four years ago, when they kept finding ways during their Super Bowl run to save Manning from infamy -- you know, becoming another Hall of Fame player (Dan Marino, Ernie Banks and Charles Barkley come to mind) who was all flash (as in a bunch of records or a slew of accolades), but who had no substance (a world championship).
Dwight Freeney rolled his eyes, because the Colts perennial Pro Bowl defensive end didn't want to go there. Not if the destination was Manning as the focal point of the Colts' current Super Bowl obsession.
"There are some similarities between this year and that one when we won the Super Bowl in that, back then, we won games in different ways," Freeney said, before easing into a tone of exasperation. "But I've said it all week, and I've been saying it all season, that football is a complete and total team sport. And as much as -- well, whoever -- wants to make it just about one guy or whatever, there are 52 other guys on the roster.
"Sometimes you win it with special teams. Sometimes you win it on defense. Sometimes your offense wins, and that's what the makeup of this team is."
Yeah, but for the Colts, it is just about one guy.
That Manning guy.
It's about knowing that anybody can win a Super Bowl once. I mean, Trent Dilfer is more proficient behind an ESPN microphone than he was inside of an NFL huddle. Neither Jeff Hostetler nor Mark Rypien is headed for Canton any time soon. And how in the name of Eli Manning did Brad Johnson win it all?
No question, some truly great quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl only once as a starter, but the list is short: Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre and Steve Young.
You must give Unitas a break since the Super Bowl was in its infancy during the stretch drive of his career. Young was forced to watch Joe Montana capture all of those Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers before he got the chance to win one of his own, and he took advantage of it. Favre was part of a few solid Green Bay teams, but neither he nor any other quarterback in NFL history had a run like Manning's Colts.
More victories in a decade than any NFL team ever. Seven straight seasons with a record of 12-4 over better.
You get the picture. If not, it's pretty cloudy for Manning since these were his postseason numbers before the Ravens came to town: 7-8 all-time record, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, 85.0 passer rating (95.2 in regular season).
It's now or never for Manning.
Well, that's the way he has to think.