- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was the overwhelming winner in an ESPN NFL Nation poll of the most respected player in the league.
Manning received 86 votes of the more than 320 players polled anonymously in every NFL locker room. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tied for second with 24 votes apiece.
That Manning won in a landslide is hardly a surprise.
He was a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer before suffering a career-threatening neck injury. Despite missing the 2011 season following two separate neck surgeries, changing teams and returning to the NFL while on the wrong side of 30, Manning has been better than ever.
He set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55) in a season in 2013, and he was the unanimous first-time All-Pro selection.
Manning will soon add a fifth MVP award to a résumé that could stretch from Denver to Indianapolis.
I am a tad surprised that the gap between Manning and Brady, the best two quarterbacks of their generation, is so wide. I wonder if that reflects a likability factor that exists in NFL locker rooms as well as in the league’s fan base in general when it comes to the two quarterbacks who are so closely linked.