|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
His knowledge of the game has been covered ad nauseam. He's a film room rat who knows everything the defense is going to do and everything his offense is capable of doing. But it's his passion to be great that stands out to me. Manning has practiced to be a great NFL quarterback since he was in short pants. I'm not talking about practicing to be just an NFL quarterback, but a great one. He knew growing up that every moment in the film room and weight room put him that much closer to being a great player. Now he's reached that mark and he's still putting in the work and sweat to be even better every day.
Over the next two weeks, our series, "The Best," will look at the NFL's best in a number of key categories.
• May 28: Player to start with | Vote
• May 29: Quarterback | Vote
• May 30: Coach | Vote
• May 31: Wide receiver | Vote
• June 1: Player you've never heard of | Quiz
• June 4: Defensive player
• June 5: Running back
• June 6: Leader
• June 7: Rookie
• June 8: Owner
No, the great Manning-Tom Brady debate will be passed down to future generations of bloggers. Since my efforts to abstain from this argument have been rebuffed, I'm going to say Manning is the best quarterback in the league. Of course, Brady will always be able to "scoreboard" Manning on Super Bowl titles unless the Colts make a remarkable run. Brady led the Patriots to three world titles in four years with less talent around him than Manning had. Of course, he also had a better defense, but let's come back to that another time. If we based this solely on winning, Brady's obviously your guy.
In addition to his first Super Bowl win in February, Manning had one of the most magical seasons in league history in 2004, when he threw 49 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions to break Dan Marino's record. Manning, a nine-year veteran, already has two more touchdown passes than 49ers great Joe Montana, who played 15 seasons. He may end up being the greatest quarterback in league history, and since he's still in his prime, I have a hard time putting anyone in front of him. Since I'm limited to 100 words here, and can't possibly build a strong argument for Manning in that amount of space, please join me on the Hashmarks blog for further discussion.
When it comes to just the physical art of throwing a football, only a few quarterbacks in history belong in Manning's class, even though several might have had superior arm strength. But in terms of the complete package -- what transpires in the huddle, at the line of scrimmage and then when the ball is snapped -- Manning is unparalleled. And his study habits, which make him one of the smartest ever to play the position, are singular as well. Think about this: In the history of the NFL, only 10 times have other quarterbacks posted seasons with passer ratings of 104.0 or better. Manning, who has won the past three passing championships, has an efficiency rating of 105.8 for the last four campaigns. With an apology to Tom Brady of New England, arguably the only other quarterback who belongs in Manning's galaxy, there is none better. Manning has said he plans to play another eight or nine seasons and, if that's the case, he'll put every league passing record out of reach.