TundraVision: Manning Prepares to Overshadow Favre's Legacy

At age 38, Peyton Manning will likely crack 500 career TDs, a milestone that took Brett Favre until age 41 in his final, gimping year as an NFL quarterback. Manning shows no signs of stopping and many of Favre's legacy career marks are likely to fall to Manning soon. 

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning by Joe Nicholson—USA TODAY Sports.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning by Joe Nicholson—USA TODAY Sports.

On October 11, 2010, Minnesota Viking Brett Favre threw his 500th career touchdown pass to Randy Moss in a Monday Night Football on the way to a loss against Favre's former team.

Now, for a Green Bay fan, there's a lot wrong with that opening sentence, but at least let me allieve some of your angst: The former team was the Jets, not the Packers. Ten days later, however, Indianapolis Colt quarterback Peyton Manning threw for four touchdowns against the Patriots, breaking the tie for second-place for career TDs. WIth just 100 more touchdowns to throw, it seemed inevitable that Manning would one day break all of Favre's records.

But in 2011, Manning's entire career was derailed and his future put in doubt following neck surgery and his inability to complete a throwing motion. While sad for Manning and Colt fans, it appeared that many of Favre's records were suddenly safe from any threats for the foreseeable future. Of course, at that time, Packers fans were still in the middle of Favreageddon angst and many would have preferred if all of his records were stripped from him by Roger Goodell, because Vikings.

But with the recent thawing of relations between the Packers and the Favre's, and an NFL Hall of Fame induction on the horizon, many of us are realizing the specialness of those records held by a man who set most of them as a Packer. For all the things that Favre can and might be remembered for, the Ironman legacy might be the record that defines him the most.

Especially because a resurgent Manning is now in position to swipe the rest of them away. Today, Manning will likely throw his 500th touchdown against the Cardinals and will stand only eight TD strikes away from Favre's first-place career mark. A quick look at Manning's stats this season shows this isn't a slow crawl to the record, like Favre's last year might have been. At 38, Manning is as prolific as ever, trusted by the Broncos to throw as often as he did all those years as a Colt.

For comparison's sake, Favre threw his 500th touchdown in his swan song season as an NFL player, a mere shadow of the man who once stood behind center, now hobbled and desperately hanging on to the end of his career at age 41. Remember, Favre hadn't missed a start since 1992. The fact that Manning has achieved these lofty numbers in a fraction of the time as Favre is a testament to his amazing production—especially when you consider his missed an entire season and started over with a completely new team.

Other records likely to pass from Favre to Manning soon:

Career passing yards: 71,838 - 65,778 = 6,140 left to go

Career passing completions: 6,300 - 5,606 = 694 left to go

Career passing attempts: 10,169 - 8,563 = 1,606 left to go

Meanwhile, Manning already owns career marks in two other desireable categories: game-winning drives and comebacks. He also has no chance to ever catch Favre two less desireable categories: sacks and interceptions. While Favre was certainly a prolific quarterback, many of those career records come from his 298 starts (opposed to Manning"s 243 at this point). Maybe no other average quarterback would have ever started as many games as Favre, or kept up their production as long as they have.

But Peyton Manning is no average quarterback. He's also no average Hall of Fame quarterback.

If there's a "magic age" for Hall of Fame quarterbacks, its the age of 36. That's the age where many of the very best quarterbacks, the historically legendary quarterbacks, either decide to hang it up for good or see their numbers take a huge turn for the worse.  Troy AIkman and Steve Young retired at age 36. Terry Bradshaw retired after he was 35. Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana were never quite the same after they were injured at age 35 and 34, respectively. Dan Marino and John Elway extended their productive years by one past age 36, but both were surrounded by running games that overshadowed what they did on the field. Heck, even Brett Favre hit the end of his "I can carry this entire team on my shoulders" years when he turned 35 in 2005, his worst season as a starter.

And you only need to look over towards New England to see what turning 37 has done to Tom Brady.

But at age 38, Manning isn't just still productive, he might actually be MORE productive than in his youth. You'd be hard pressed to find, anywhere in NFL history, a quarterback having even close to as prolific as a season at age 38 as Manning. Of course, you're hard pressed to find a quarterback having ANY season when they are 38, which makes the search process that much easier. In fact, the're not even enough to fit on one hand. And one of them is Brett Favre, who had his 2007 gem of a final season in Green Bay, going 13-3 and coming within an inexplicable interception of another Super Bowl. Interestingly enough, you can also look at John Elway's last season, a Super Bowl win with the same Denver Broncos that Manning now plays for. It wasn't a statistical gem for Elway that season, relying more and more on Terrell Davis and his defense, but you can't deny that it was Elway holding that Lombardi Trophy above his head.

Warren Moon also had a nice year when he was 38, leading the Minnesota Vikings with 4,000+ passing yards and 18 touchdowns. He'd actually have his best season with the Vikings the following season, when he was 39. 

Staying this productive, for this long, isn't normal. It isn't even natural. Just through the law of averages, every quarterback should have had too many concussions, too many hits, too many injuries, or too much competition from younger players to even last until age 35.  And for those of you not wanting to watch, Aaron Rodgers will turn 31 in December this year. It's not going to be long before Packer fans start worrying about Rodgers' legacy, getting him "one last Super Bowl ring" as we did with Favre. It's not going to be long before the grumbling starts every time Rodgers doesn't throw like he did when he was 28 and in his prime.

That's natural.

Peyton Manning isn't natural.

So, as you watch the game today, you'll see Manning come that much closer to one of Favre's most precious of career records. It takes nothing away from the legacy of Favre---after all, there's only ten thousand or so other quarterbacks in NFL history that couldn't come close to the rarified air that Favre and Manning inhabit.

But it is a credit to Manning's amazing resilience and the trust of coaches to place offenses completely on his shoulders, all the way well into retirement age for most other players. Even as Favre falls to second place in so many of the record standings, he'll never, ever lose that consecutive start streak. He will always be remembered as the "Ironman" quarterback.

But Manning? He'll likely be remembered as the "Greatest of All Time." Tune in and watch today. Someday, you'll be telling your kids about it.

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C.D. Angeli is a lifelong Packer fan and feature writer at CheeseheadTV. You can hear him weekly on the Packer podcast Cheesehead Radio and is the good cop over at PackersTalk.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TundraVIsion.

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dullgeek's picture

October 06, 2014 at 07:56 am

I remember watching Montana in his prime and thinking it would be impossible for anyone to ever be that good. Peyton Manning proved that wrong. IMHO, he's now the one to beat for the moniker of "greatest of all time", unseating Montana.

I don't think of Favre when it comes to that. I think Rodgers - if he can last that long - *could* be in the conversation. But that's a long way off yet.

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