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Exposing the Efforts to Diminish the Significance of Peyton Manning's Touchdown Record

Posted on October 21, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Last Sunday night, Peyton Manning completed 84.6 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and zero interceptions in route to posting a 157.2 passer rating—which was the highest single-game mark of any quarterback, in any game, to-date during the 2014 season. In the process, Manning broke Brett Favre's career record (508) for most touchdown passes in NFL history (510). Manning had only four incompletions—two resulting from dropped passes. His passer rating would have been 158.3 otherwise.


Since 1942, there have only been eight players to hold the distinction of being the NFL's career leader in touchdown passes: Sammy Baugh, Bobby Layne, Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Brett Favre—and now Manning. It's the NFL equivalent to MLB's career home run record, only football has long surpassed baseball as the nation's top sport. In a subjective world, it could be argued that the NFL's career touchdown pass record is the most important in all of American sports.


On ESPN's First Take, the question was posed: "Does this cement Peyton Manning as the greatest QB ever?"


"It certainly puts him the conversation. There's no question about it. When you think of the greats like Joe Montana and a few others that are champions multiple times, there's always going to be a debate about that." -Stephen A. Smith


As a general rule, the masses have yet to adopt anything even slightly resembling a consistent, quality criteria for determining what makes a quarterback the greatest. Subscribers to the "Jewelry Journal of Analysis" nominate Joe Montana (4 rings), Tom Brady (3 rings) and John Elway (2 rings) while ignoring the likes of Terry Bradshaw (4 rings), Troy Aikman (3 rings) and Jim Plunkett (2 rings). The QBS system shows that Joe Montana's two best seasons (1987, 1985) produced zero rings, Tom Brady's eight best seasons (2007, 2011, 2010, 2005, 2012, 2002, 2009, 2006) produced zero rings and John Elway's two best seasons (1993, 1996) produced zero rings.


That's 12 total seasons comprising the prime of Montana, Brady and Elway's careers—with zero rings to show for it.


Playing their best football, while winning zero championships can be fudged together with lesser seasons of ring-winning game management to paint the perception of a perfect portrait. That's why we rarely hear specific seasons, or specific contributions provided during the entirety of specific seasons used as evidence to support Montana, Brady and Elway as G.O.A.T. candidates. Instead, it's been reduced to elementary math: "4 rings > 2 rings", "3 rings > 1 ring", so on and so fourth—context be damned.


How many championships did Montana, Brady and Elway win with poor support on the defensive side? Their Super Bowl winning scoring defenses are listed below.


 

  • 1981 San Francisco 49ers: 2nd
  • 1984 San Francisco 49ers: 1st
  • 1988 San Francisco 49ers: 8th
  • 1989 San Francsico 49ers: 3rd

  • 1997 Denver Broncos: 6th
  • 1998 Denver Broncos: 8th

  • 2001 New England Patriots: 6th
  • 2003 New England Patriots: 1st
  • 2004 New England Patriots: 2nd

 


Manning's legacy was questioned after losing Super Bowl XLVIII with the support of the league's 22nd ranked scoring defense—which was the worst scoring defense in NFL history to ever support a league MVP, as well as the worst scoring defense in NFL history to ever win 13 or more games. How often does a 13-3, AFC championship winning team replace 15 of their starters before heading into their next season? Manning's record-shattering 2013 season covered up so much. Their organization knew it.


After breaking the NFL's all-time career touchdown pass record, NFL Network ran a segment asking: "Do postseason losses hurt Peyton Manning's accomplishments?"


"In your era, when you have someone you're rivaling against, it's difficult. Peyton Manning has Tom Brady man. That's the problem here. Tom Brady has three rings and five Super Bowl appearences. So he will always be compared to Tom Brady, in comparison to rings and winning. That's the problem with Peyton Manning." -Deion Sanders


If Brady broke the biggest the record in NFL history, could you imagine them ever running a segment asking: "Does going a decade without winning a championship, while losing two Super Bowls to Eli Manning, losing two home playoff games, including an AFC Championship to Joe Flacco and losing another home playoff game as the 14-2, No. 1 seed, to Mark Sanchez, who out-performed you during a "regular season MVP" year, harm Brady's accomplishments?"


It wasn't surprising to see the topic of Manning's postseason losses brought up on his record-breaking night, of all nights.


It doesn't matter than Manning is the all-time leading passer (6,589 passing yards) in NFL postseason history. And it doesn't matter that his postseason passer rating (89.2) is actually higher than Troy Aikman's (88.3), Tom Brady's (87.5), Ben Roethlisberger's (83.7) and John Elway's (79.7)—who have a total of ten rings between them.

 

"Our mind wants to make sense of everything. When we sit on the desk, we talk about what is great and he displays it all. He displays an ability to lead, to be a general on the field, to get everybody at their best play, but for some reason we don't get the ring-count with all of the displays: a great character, and great talent, great ability, great knowledge. So we say 'What is wrong with this?' 'Why is this thus?' 'Why is it thus?' and you want answers for it cause it doesn't make any sense. For everything you see, for everything you see, there is no doubt he should have more rings. He should have more rings. But, and he doesn't and as long as we continue to talk about how great he is, and he is great, we're going to continue to talk about that his brother has more rings then him and all of those things." -Michael Irvin


While Michael Irvin sits there on the desk, pondering "Why is this thus?", trying to come up with answers for what he says "doesn't make any sense"—the reality isn't all that complicated. The differential between Manning's regular season and postseason performance is no different than Brady's, Unitas', Staubach's or Roethlisberger's.


Convenient for most to ignore the fact that in their last two playoff confrontations, it was Manning who defeated Brady in the 2006 and 2013 AFC championship games. Instead, Manning's playoff resumé has been mostly glossed over in favor of more elementary mathematics: An 11-12 win/loss record deprived of any contextual research.


After history of the highest order was made, many responded by trying to promote the sale of the sport's best selling fiction novel: "He Needs Another Ring" by Joe Idiot


Since 1950, 15 quarterbacks have won multiple rings as starters who started and won championships.


 

  • Bart Starr 5
  • Terry Bradshaw 4
  • Joe Montana: 4
  • Troy Aikman: 3
  • Otto Graham: 3
  • Johnny Unitas: 3
  • Tom Brady: 3
  • Jim Plunkett: 2
  • Bobby Layne: 2
  • Norm Van Brocklin: 2
  • Bob Griese: 2
  • Eli Manning: 2
  • Ben Roethlisberger: 2
  • Roger Staubach: 2
  • John Elway: 2

 


Nine of those 15 quarterbacks: Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Jim Plunkett, Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Griese, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, are almost never even mentioned in the same breath as a Top-5 quarterback, let alone the G.O.A.T. They're all multiple-time champions and they all have the "other" ring that Peyton Manning hasn't won. That means that there are more multiple-ring winners who are not considered G.O.A.T. candidates, than there are those who are.


Manning's career defies the masses unspecified, nonsensical standard for absolute greatness. He plays in a league that is promoted to hype the value of championships that, unlike baseball and basketball, are won through imperfect "one and done" postseason contests. The sport is too physical to be played out in best-of-seven series', so the NFL utilizes a single-elimination system that ends a team's entire season by virute of an off-day. Lose a key player to injury, catch the flu or have a few calls officiated incorrectly and your entire season's body of work comes to an end—impacting legacies along the way.

 

After taking that into account, the league is now pushing to include even more non-remarkable teams who could "get hot" and string together a four-game winning streak to become "world champions" of a league based in one country. I'm sure television revenue and ticket sales play no part in influencing the structure of what yields, what many out of the know, consider to be the sports' greatest prize. Manning's career has always stood in opposition to that standard.


There's good, albeit flawed, motivation in attempting to diminish the significance of Manning's all-time touchdown pass record.


While multiple-ring winners have come and gone with the majority of them not even receiving G.O.A.T. consideration, holding the NFL record for most touchdown passes in history places a quarterback into rarified air. Simply put, it's much easier to win multiple rings than it is to even approach the record Manning now holds. Breaking that record takes much more than a collection of three-four game winning streaks—it takes an elite level of production delivered over a career spanning almost two decades.

 

The last four record holders: Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, often played on subpar teams that required more from their quarterbacks to help them become competitive. The result created many instances where the record holders had out-performed the rest of the league's quarterbacks, only to conclude the season ringless. Sometimes, going 13-3 on an incomplete, injury-riddled team is more impressive than winning a Super Bowl with a superior organization.


That's something that fans for the majority of NFL fans can't relate to. Players like Tarkenton, Marino, Favre and Manning are incredibly rare—leaving fans of 30-31 other teams with nothing to do but either A) admire their dominance or B) attempt to discredit their magnitude of their accomplishments by noting their lack of "team-accolades."


Joe Flacco could string together a four-game winning streak and be crowned a champion. Joe Montana could, much more impressively mind you, be paired with the best organization in football, win four Super Bowls without the pressure to contribute as much individually, throw far fewer touchdowns, and be crowned the G.O.A.T. amongst those eager to devote seconds to do a ring-count, but reluctant to do the research necessary to understand the actual contributions provided to arrive at said results.


No career touchdown record for Montana, Brady or Elway—but it couldn't be because, gasp, they weren't as good as Manning, Favre, Marino or Tarkenton? Blasphemy!


The record now belongs to Manning, but there's a feat he's accomplished that's far more remarkable than 510.


While he has twice broken the single-season record for touchdown passes, throwing 49 in 2004 and 55 in 2013, he's also led the league in touchdown passes during less pass-friendly seasons, throwing 33 in 2000 and 31 in 2006. The old adage is that "records are meant to be broken", which really translates to "the evolution of the game's rules indicate that throwing touchdown passes will continue to trend upward." Numbers sans context can be misleading, but league ranking on a season-by-season basis paints a more accurate picture of just how dominating Manning has been in his career. He's ranked 1st-2nd in touchdown passes during ten different seasons.


Peyton Manning Season Rankings (Touchdown Passes)

  

  • 2000: 1st
  • 2004: 1st
  • 2006: 1st
  • 2013: 1st
  • 2014: 1st
  • 2002: 2nd
  • 2003: 2nd
  • 2005: 2nd
  • 2009: 2nd
  • 2010: 2nd
  • 1999: 3rd
  • 2012: 3rd
  • 2007: 4th
  • 1998: 5th
  • 2001: 5th
  • 2008: 5th

 

Favre accomplished this feat eight times, Marino six times, Tarkenton four times, Montana three times, Brady three times—Elway once.


If the game's rules change to the point in which 50 touchdown-pass seasons become common, or if the season expands to 18 games, someone the likes of Andrew Luck may eventually break Manning's record. But Manning's most impressive record, ten seasons ranking 1st-2nd in touchdown passes, will be virtually impossible to break.


Manning's absolute worst season left him ranked 5th in touchdown passes—Luck ranked 14th in 2012 and 11th in 2013. To catch up to Manning's staggering average (2.5th), Luck could lead the NFL, ranking 1st in touchdown passes for the next 13 years consecuitvely (2014-2026) and still have a career average (2.53rd) lower than Manning's. That's how far ahead Manning is from the rest of the competition, in terms of past, present and projecting towards the future.


In the present, Manning continues to dominate at a level unseen in NFL history. With 19 touchdown passes in only six games, Manning is on pace to throw 50.66 touchdown passes in 2014—which would rank second only to Peyton Manning, who threw a record-shattering 55 touchdown passes in 2013.


Humbly, if not inaccurately, Manning predicted that Tom Brady would break his single-season mark in 2014.

 

"I will enjoy it while it lasts. I'm such a fan of the game, a student of the history of the game. So obviously this is a big thing for me. But personally, I feel all these passing records are going to fall. [Tom] Brady will probably break this next year." -Peyton Manning


2014: Touchdown Passes Projected Thru 16 Games

  

  1. Peyton Manning: 50.66
  2. Andrew Luck: 43.43
  3. Aaron Rodgers: 41.14
  4. Philip Rivers: 38.86

 

Brady is on pace to throw 29.71 touchdown passes, more than 25 touchdowns short of Manning's record.

 

Manning's total QBR is currently 88.9, which if maintained, would break the all-time QBR record of 87.2 set by Peyton Manning in 2006.


What other quarterback could be on-pace for the second highest touchdown pass total in NFL history, while posting the best total QBR ever, and not be the MVP front runner? Instead we hear about Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Demarcco Murray in the media's annual attempt to push for an MVP not named Peyton Manning.

 

On First Take, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discussed Manning's receivers.

 

"Lets not forget the weapons he has at his disposal. I am in now way, that's why I want to start off this show talking about the greatness of Peyton Manning. You don't want to take anything away from him. But lets understand something here, Emmanuel Sanders, Demariyus Thomas and Julius Thomas, with Wes Welker are four of the most, and when you combine them, it's four, it's four of the most lethal weapons we have seen from a receiving corps. in quite some time in the NFL." -Stephen A. Smith


"But the other side to that coin is: Are you sure that Peyton isn't making those four look better than they might be without him?" -Skip Bayless


"I saw Emmanuel Sanders be Emmanuel Sanders when he was in Pittsburgh for Ben Roethlisberger. I saw Demariyus Thomas look a lot like Demariyus Thomas even when Tim Tebow was there. I saw Wes Welker do it for Tom Brady. So again, they been other places with other people where they have shown that their level of production could be comparable to what we're witnessing right now." -Stephen A. Smith

 

On what planet was Emmanuel Sanders circa 2010-2013 productively comparable to Emmanuel Sanders in 2014?

 

  • Sanders currently ranks 8th in receptions per-game and 8th in receiving yards per-game.
  • His pre-Peyton career highs were 40th in receptions (2013) and 50th in receiving yards (2013).

 

And on what planet did "Demariyus Thomas look a lot like Demariyus Thomas when Tim Tebow was there"? 

 

  • Thomas ranked 4th in receiving yards in 2012, 4th in receiving yards in 2013, and currently ranks 1st in receiving yards per-game in 2014.
  • His pre-Peyton career high in receiving yards was 80th (2011).
  • Thomas ranked 7th in touchdown receptions in 2012, 2nd in touchdown receptions in 2013, and currently ranks 3rd in touchdown receptions per-game in 2014.
  • His pre-Peyton career high in touchdown receptions was 63rd (2011).

 

Regarding seeing "Wes Welker do it for Tom Brady", he must not have been talking about catching touchdowns.

 

  • Welker averaged 6.8 touchdown receptions per-season with Brady.
  • Welker caught 9 touchdowns in his first eight games with Manning—tying his previous career high.
  • Even after missing three games and playing multiple active games injured, Welker caught 10 touchdowns in 2013.

 


Both Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker have only caught one touchdown a piece out of Manning's 19 this season, yet Manning is still on-pace to better the 50 touchdown passes Tom Brady threw in 2007 with the aid of Randy Moss' NFL record 23 touchdown receptions.


Of course, there's Julius Thomas whose 9 touchdown receptions in six games leaves him on-pace to break Moss' single-season record with 24. While there's no doubt that Julius Thomas is a great physical talent, the reality is that he had one reception in his career prior to playing with Manning. Since he began to catch passes from Manning, he currently averages 1.05 touchdown receptions per-game (21 touchdown receptions in 20 games)—which is by far, the highest figure in NFL history.


Touchdown Receptions Per-Game as of 10/21/14

 

  • Julius Thomas: 1.050 2013-2014 with Manning
  • Demaryius Thomas: 0.789 2012-2014 with Manning
  • Eric Decker: 0.750 2012-2013 with Manning

  • Randy Moss: 0.715
  • Terrell Owens: 0.698
  • Marvin Harrison: 0.673
  • Jerry Rice: 0.650
  • Calvin Johnson: 0.612
  • A.J. Green: 0.607
  • Cris Carter: 0.555
  • Antonio Gates: 0.552
  • Larry Fitzgerald: 0.543
  • Tony Gonzalez: 0.411
  • Reggie Wayne: 0.399
  • Tim Brown: 0.392
  • Andre Johnson: 0.385
  • Shannon Sharpe: 0.303
  • Jason Witten: 0.291

 

With Manning, the combination of Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have averaged more touchdown receptions per-game (2.589) than Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have combined (2.520).


Anyone touting Tom Brady's ability to do "more with less" should probably stop eating paint chips. Never, in the history of the NFL, has a quarterback utterly transformed previously unproductive players into touchdown scoring machines of historical proportions the way Manning has in Denver. It's absolutely unprecedented.


Breaking the NFL's all-time career touchdown pass record only added to the finest resumé in NFL history.


Of course, few will come to realize the depth behind Manning's career touchdown record, as his ability to put points on the scoreboard will continue to be glossed over, dismissed as "numbers" deprived of context and overshadowed by stupidity. Turning a blind eye to his remarkable 2014 campaign is only the latest step in a long-line of biased, erroneous "analysis" force fed to masses of fans eagerly awaiting the opportunity to feast upon chips of half-factual, regurgitated drivel. The tradition continues.

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