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Manning's Great, But He's Not the Best

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I hate the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl because to this day I think it's ridiculous for there to be a two week build up to a game that everybody in the country already knows about. It also increases the chances of players being caught coming out of clubs in the wee hours of the morning (good work Reggie Bush) or trying to solicit oral sex from an undercover police officer as Eugene Robinson did in 1999, the night before the big game.

This year though what has really irritated me has been the non-stop discussion over whether the Colts' Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. I disagree on that point though I admit he's in the discussion, but today I finally read something that I had to respond too. Unfortunately it comes from somebody who's far more knowledgeable about football than I could hope to be, ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Schefter is far and away ESPN's best football insider which he combines with an excellent knowledge of the game from the time he's spent covering the NFL. Today however he led off his article with an argument that the only athlete to compare Manning too now is Michael Jordan because of their sheer dominance and pure ability.

Okay buddy. Hold the phone.

There are many that will argue that Manning is not even the best quarterback of his generation and that New England's Tom Brady is superior to him. If we expand this list to greatest quarterbacks of all time you'll hear numerous arguments for Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham and Brett Favre among others as the greatest at the position.

The point is when it comes to the greatest quarterback of all time there is a great debate that continues to rage on.

The problem right now is that we are so focused on the here and now and how Manning has dominated it that we are failing to recognize the past. In an article on ESPN just two years as the Patriots prepared to face the Giants, a game which everyone expected them to win, many believed that Brady would become the greatest quarterback of all time.

For Schefter to anoint Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time and then compare him to the most dominant player in the history of the NBA and maybe sports is not smart.

He points out that in basketball is easier for one player to dominate than it is in football which accounts for the difference in Jordan's six championships, to Manning's one.

No debate here, so let's compare their regular season and playoff numbers. Regardless of their teams we can see how they individually responded to the pressure of the playoffs.

In the regular season, Jordan for his career averaged 30.1 points, 5.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and shot 49.7% from the field. In the playoffs MJ averaged of 33.4 points, 5.7 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals and shot 48.7% from the field. The field goal percentage drop of one percent is significant, but is offset by an increase in the frequency with which he got to the free throw line.

In the regular season Jordan averaged one free throw attempt every 4:41 he was on the floor. In the playoffs he averaged one free throw attempt every 4:14 he was on the floor.

Manning's regular season numbers are out of this world. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards 10 times in his 12 years and has had five 30 touchdown seasons. He has the fourth highest passer rating ever of 95.2 and his career completion percentage is 64.8. Pretty amazing all around.

Come playoff time though and Manning's numbers take a spike. His passer rating drops to a still good, but not great 87.5 and his completion percentage drops to 62.4. Additionally while in the regular season Manning averages 2.02 touchdowns for every interception he throws, in the playoffs that drops to 1.5 touchdowns for every interception.

This isn't a knock on Manning. In the playoffs there are no easy games as you face the best teams in the league, but the same can be said in basketball.

To compare Manning's dominance to Jordan's is an act of futility. Hall of Famers like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley never tasted championship glory because of 23's existence. Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler only won championships because MJ decided to go play baseball for two years.

If Jordan had never left basketball, barring any injury to him, the Bulls would have won 8 consecutive NBA championships. Only the Boston Celtics from 1959-1966 have ever won eight consecutive titles.

If you were looking to compare Jordan to any of today's athletes it would be Roger Federer. 16 Grand Slams and counting at the age of 28, is an impressive feat, but I'll leave that comparison for a different day.

Back to Manning. The reason why it's foolish to even compare Manning to Jordan is because there is still a debate about who is the greatest quarterback. There are many that don't believe he's even the best of his generation, forget in the history of the NFL.

With Jordan there is no debate. It is universally accepted that Jordan is the greatest player to ever step onto the hardwood.

Manning is an absolute legend, but before we compare him to the G.O.A.T. let him move into a class where no questions about where he ranks among football's greatest quarterbacks exists.