Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Should Peyton Get the MVP

Here is a great article I read on Fox Sports by Ian O'Connor talking about why Peyton should get win the MVP vote. I thought it was a great article and I agree he should win it.

Peyton Manning is the NFL's most widely marketed player, and yet he was destined to spend this season, as they say, under the radar. Even an alarming injury could not elevate his personal drama to a level of pressing coast-to-coast interest.

As it turned out, his knee surgeries were greatly overshadowed by Tom Brady's.

Manning didn't have to be Manning this year; for all practical purposes, he could've taken the season off. He had his built-in excuses.

He was hurt, he had missed the entire preseason and he'd already taken the Indianapolis Colts to six consecutive playoff appearances and the one Super Bowl title he desperately needed to remove that ugly A-Rodian stain from his otherwise epic career.

Peyton had carried the Colts and the Manning name long enough. With his team at 3-4 and booked for games with the Patriots and Steelers, he could've temporarily surrendered the league to little brother Eli in New York, to the Titans of Tennessee, before picking up next year where he and Brady had left off.

That Manning chose to win seven consecutive games instead came as little surprise to those around him in the immediate wake of his liberating Super Bowl triumph over the Bears.

"Some quarterbacks kind of get what I call 'the pass' after they win the Super Bowl," Manning said that dark and rainy night in Miami. "I don't want the pass."

Manning delivers passes but never accepts them. For building what could be a 12-4 season out of what had 7-9 written all over it, he deserves to win his third Most Valuable Player award.

Peyton's would be an ironic MVP victory, as this year marked the first time anyone dared ask a question that once would've inspired the same news conference reaction caused by the guy who threw his shoes at President Bush.

Is Eli the better player?

They're both going to the Pro Bowl, of course, becoming the first quarterbacking brothers selected for the same game. Eli was named for the first time, Peyton for the ninth. The last two Super Bowl MVPs are once again joined at history's hip.

But there was a time this season when Eli was playing a better brand of football and leading a Giants team that appeared on the verge of a dynastic run. Peyton, meanwhile, had nine interceptions to go with his 10 touchdowns across his first seven games.

The family dynamic was first flipped on its ear the previous January, when Billy Volek's Chargers, of all people, eliminated the Colts from the playoffs on the same day Eli knocked out the top-seeded Cowboys in Texas.

"I have a heavy heart for Peyton," the boys' mother, Olivia, said outside the winning Giants locker room, "but I'm proud of Eli."

The kid brother got his ring a lot faster than Peyton did, kept playing at a high level in 2008 and suddenly people were thinking the unthinkable: Was this Serena blowing by Venus all over again?

No, it wasn't.

With two games to play, including Thursday night's date in Jacksonville, Manning has a chance to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season for the ninth time. He's on track to finish with a completion rate of at least 65 percent for the seventh consecutive year. That 10-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio from October? It now stands at 23-to-12.

Manning's passer rating (90.3) might be the lowest he's posted since 2002, but that vague statistic — however it's calculated — has never been an honest measure of a quarterback's worth. The Colts' running game ranks 30th in the league. Without Manning, this team could've never achieved the way the Patriots have without Brady.

Without Manning, the Colts would be 4-10.

"Peyton really went through a lot with his initial knee surgery, and then when they all of a sudden quietly opened it up again," his father, Archie, said Wednesday morning by phone. "He was rusty when he got back, they were missing some linemen, they couldn't run the ball or stop the run.

"But they kept fighting and scratching. To get to this point, it has to be one of Tony Dungy's best jobs. You look at 10 wins and you say, 'My gosh, how in the world did that happen?' "

It happened because of Peyton Manning.

Funny how these things work out. Dating back to his days at Tennessee, Manning wasn't known as much for his victories as he was for his defeats. When he approached the AFC title game against the Patriots two years back, Boomer Esiason said if Peyton "doesn't get to the Super Bowl, he might as well buy a house next to A-Rod, because they're going to be living in the same neighborhood."

Manning beat New England and Chicago and left A-Rod to his own title-free devices. When Super Bowl XLI was complete, Adam Vinatieri, a three-time champ in New England, approached Peyton and said, "Welcome to the club."

Now Manning is defined by the games he wins, not the ones he loses. This year's Colts have won seven times by six points or less, if only because of their quarterback's fourth-quarter poise.

Indy was staring at an 0-2 record before Manning drove them back from a 15-0 third-quarter deficit against the Vikings. Indy was staring at a 1-3 record and a loss to the Texans before Manning became the first NFL quarterback to lead his team to victory in regulation after trailing by 17 points in the final five minutes.

Peyton set up Vinatieri's field goal to beat the Patriots and get Indy back to .500, then threw three touchdown passes against the Steelers' top-ranked defense to complete a late comeback and give the Colts their first victory in Pittsburgh in 40 years.

Manning set up Vinatieri's field goal to beat the Chargers by completing a 14-yard pass to Marvin Harrison on fourth-and-one at the San Diego 49 in the final seconds.

"I've always been proud of Peyton in the fourth quarter," Archie Manning said. "One time while he was at Tennessee, playing at Kentucky, it was cold and ugly and nasty. Kentucky wasn't a very good team, but they came out and played great and the crowd really got into it.

"Peyton put together a couple of fourth-quarter drives to win it, and I was waiting on him outside the locker room when one of his offensive linemen came up to me and said, 'Mr. Manning, he just wouldn't let us lose.' I've never forgotten that. I still get emotional thinking about it."

Now, Tony Dungy's Colts are on the verge of securing their seventh straight playoff bid, and their 32-year-old quarterback is the reason nobody — not the Titans or the Steelers — wants to see them in the playoffs.

Peyton has outlasted and outperformed Eli as an MVP candidate. He deserves the honor more than an 8-6 Kurt Warner and a 7-7 Drew Brees. Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner have earned their places in the discussion, but the job of quarterback, as Peyton once said, "is the hardest job in sports."

Manning makes it look too easy. It isn't just the genes. After his Friday night games at Isidore Newman High in New Orleans, Peyton used to be there on Saturdays waiting for his coaches when they arrived at 7 a.m.

"I hadn't even washed the uniforms yet," the head coach, Tony Reginelli, would say, "and he'd already figured out the next opponent's cover-one or cover-two defense."

So no audible comes as a surprise, not when pride still matters.

In the wake of his knee surgeries, Peyton refused to play this season as Eli's brother, or as Archie's other son. He refused to concede the season to the Giants or the Titans or anyone else.

More than anything, the record will show that Peyton Manning refused to let his team take a pass.

3 comments:

Peter Robert Casey said...

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