Monday, February 05, 2007

Now the name Manning can be heard in the same hallowed halls as Griese, Johnson and Roethlisberger

As NFL seasons conclude lately, I find myself practicing the taking of solace in various aspects of their generally terrible, heart-breaking results. Despite the fact they were division rivals of the Dolphins, I was okay with the Patriots winning because I was used to it and because Miami usually knocked them around once a year. When the Ravens and Buccaneers won, it was sort of a “no harm, no foul” thing, as it’s not like I knew a bunch of fans from either team or had a particular rooting interest in the Giants or Raiders.

After the Steelers won last year, I accepted my fate with dignity , but relished the fact the game would seen be forgotten due to its boring nature and low quality of play, and if it was remembered, it would be for the officiating troubles[i]. Last night, despite being a rain-addled turnoverfest (Eight!? And don’t tell me Manning is some sort of hero for that performance in the rain, a Dolphins quarterback or their opponent busts that out once or twice a season), will be remembered forever because it was The One Peyton Won, got his shiny MVP and sentenced Bears Nation to another twenty years of porkchops, Sweetness memories and Ditka jokes.

However, those of us that actually remember games for what they are instead of just looking at the final scores, final stats and who Peter King gives textual fellatio to the morning after will realize just what it took for Peyton Manning to finally win the big one:

Becoming simply part of a cog in a machine, as opposed to the 51-touchdown throwing leader of men Colts fans would like to think him to be.

Despite the fact the game was in no way a blowout until Rex Grossman unleashed the Sex Cannon, Manning handed off forty times, and when he threw it, a majority of those went underneath, with Joseph Addai – who should have at least been co-MVP, but he hasn’t sucked in every big game for his entire career – had 10 catches. Perhaps unnerved by the fact that out of Manning’s first four passes, one was picked and there were a few more bouncing off of Bears, the Colts offense steered away from the vaunted duo at wide receiver, who combined for a whopping seven catches.

So there was Peyton Manning, his defense finally rising to the occasion and with a kicker you knew would hit any clutch field goal that was necessary, pouting in the rain, hopping up and down like a child as he slowly realized his Super Bowl legacy, unless he could get there again, would be that not of Joe Montana, Steve Young or Tom Brady, but of those other great winners. Trent Dilfer. Brad Johnson. Ben Roethlisberger. Those memorable Caretakers of the Big Game who’s team trusted them to go out there, command respect…and not make the big mistake.

That’s Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl legacy, because in the postseason he finally breaks through, he ends with seven interceptions and three touchdowns. He’s a winner now, so all the Evil Lord Manning talk can go away. I mean, if you factor out the wide-open bomb that anyone in the league..err.. anyone except Rex Grossman could have thrown to Reggie Wayne, his numbers are 24 for 37, 194 yards and an interception, or a QB rating of 66.7.

Rex Grossman – yes, that Rex Grossman – had a QB rating of 68.3.

So I will take solace in knowing that the last Super Bowl when I was still a NFL fan – I can’t take this pain anymore, the mistake-filled playoffs with .500 teams and terrible coaches churning out a few good games and some total stinkfests – that Peyton Manning couldn’t win as Peyton Manning, and The Greatest Quarterback of Our Generation turned in a performance that will go down as, well, winning, and nothing more than that.

And much like we ended discussions of all things Super Bowl last season soon after, this season's discussion - unless someone really wants to talk about commercials (love ya, K-Fed) - ends now. (If someone were to put a montage together of the pained look on Manning’s face every time the Colts ran on third down, there’d be a handsome reward available to them.)

[i] This in fact came to fruition as I was talking to a competently knowledgeable-about-sports coworker yesterday morning and when discussing the Super Bowl, they couldn’t immediately remember who won the year before

No comments: