It’s finally over. Peyton Manning has decided to retire. Let all the gushing hosannas of unrelievedly soporific exclamation points come oozing out of the woodwork. Let his mob of disciples grovel before him on their hands and knees, calling him the greatest there ever was and ever will be. He is the “classiest” player in history too; those accusations of HGH use and disgusting sexual impropriety are just “nonsense.” Let them call him a “genius” because he constantly changes plays at the line of scrimmage, often confusing his teammates. Is Tom Brady “dumb” because he reads plays off that “cheat sheet” that runs half-way up his arm? Brady’s winning percentage in the regular season is .70 higher than Manning’s—and we don’t need to point out the differential in playoffs now do we? So much for “genius.” It certainly revealed itself in his 77.4 passer rating in four Super Bowls that was 20 points lower than his regular season number, and that he threw just 3 touchdown passes in those four games (and intercepted five times). Unflappable in the face of his own genius—or just dazed and confused?
So we can finally move on to the future without having to be bombarded with constant exultations of this “gold standard” in quarterbacking, based solely on the quantity of his statistics. Or at least for now. If Brady plays two more seasons, he will break the tie between Manning and Brett Favre for most regular season victories (he already holds the record for playoff wins). At the present time, Manning holds the career lead in TD passes and passing yards (Favre still holds the records for pass attempts, completions and interceptions), but Drew Brees could pass him in career yardage if he plays three more full seasons; if not, Matt Ryan—who has 32,757 yards passing in his first eight seasons, and he is still just 30—could also threaten that record if he remains healthy and consistent. Then the “gold standard” will be just as muddled as before, as when people forgot about Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and Fran Tarkenton.