(Ed. note: This is a guest post by Ryan Michael, a pro football analyst, interviewer, and blogger. To see more of Ryan Michael's work, including his multigenerational quarterback grading systems QBS and QBS2, visit his website at www.quarterbackscore.webs.com.)
If before the 2014 season started, someone told you that your team's starting quarterback would finish with 39 touchdown passes, over 4,700 passing yards and a QBR above 77.0, the words decline, struggle and slump wouldn't likely spring to mind.
If someone told you that he'd be paired with an offensive line that mimics musical chairs, a third-string running back with no prior history of productivity and a receiving corps. that falls victim to concussion, after concussion, after ankle-injury, after suspension, after (insert next injury/issue here), then you might expect him to struggle.
If someone told you that this same quarterback hasn't been Johnny Manziel's age since Sega Dreamcast was the next-gen console on the horizon, you might think him ancient. But that won't stop him from playing at a dehydration-level close to 5%, with a side-order of flu.
"He who must not be named" led the NFL in Week 15 with a 93.2 total QBR-though you probably didn't catch that stat on the front page of anything notable. Instead ESPN, who themselves developed total QBR, treated viewers to a segment that broke down the recent struggles of the NFL's best "regular season quarterback."
Funny how they never miss a chance to use that moniker, even though by their own advanced statistical measure, Manning ranked 1st in the 2013 postseason amongst quarterbacks with multiple starts.
2013 Postseason NFL Leaders in QBR (multiple-starts)
T-1. Peyton Manning: 77.4
T-1. Colin Kaepernick: 77.4
3. Andrew Luck: 71.8
4. Tom Brady: 70.0
5. Russell Wilson: 53.4
6. Philip Rivers: 47.8
7. Drew Brees: 45.5
Manning also has a higher postseason passer rating (89.2) than Troy Aikman (88.3), Tom Brady (87.5) and Ben Roethlisberger (83.3), but that's a commonly known, frequently publicized stat, right?
Anyone who's ever said "perception is reality" is fooling themselves. That's been the case in 2014. No, Manning has not equaled his record-shattering 2013 campaign. Seriously speaking, did anyone really expect any quarterback to be able to do that? I suppose Peyton did.
"I will enjoy it while it lasts. I'm such a fan of the game, a student of the history of the game," Manning said last year. "So obviously this is a big thing for me. But personally, I feel all these passing records are going to fall. [Tom] Brady will probably break this next year."
The rule changes made in the offseason have definitely made it easier to throw touchdown passes, only nobody came anywhere close to Manning's record.
2014 Touchdown Pass Leaders
Andrew Luck: 40
Peyton Manning: 39
Aaron Rodgers: 38
Tony Romo: 34
Tom Brady: 33
In 2014, Manning produced only the sixth season in NFL history with a 66.0+ completion-perentage, 4,700+ passing yards and 39+ touchdown passes-joining himself (2013), Drew Brees (2013, 2011), Tom Brady (2007) and Daunte Culpepper (2004).
You won't hear Manning's name mentioned much in MVP discussions though. Sure, his name will be kicked around for discussion's sake, or for many, mentioned just to line the bottom of someone's short-list. Fair arguments can be made in favor of Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo, but not Tom Brady.
Before reading further, try to guess where this future Hall of Fame quarterback, having what many consider to be an MVP-caliber season, might rank in passing efficiency (yards-per-attempt). You may be disappointed to learn that Brady doesn't crack the Top-5. Romo ranks 1st (8.5), Rodgers 2nd (8.4), Roethlisberger 3rd (8.1), Fitzpatrick 4th (8.0) and Manning 5th (7.9).
What if I were to tell you that Brady ranks below Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer, Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill? Yep. Brady ranks 18th in the NFL (7.1). If before reading on, you didn't guess Brady would rank outside the Top-15, you probably haven't been getting your "analysis" from a source that evaluates on-field performance.
Somewhere along the line, it was decided that 2014 would be the year of Manning's slump, Brady's return to perceived dominance and Rodgers' ascension to the throne he lost after 2011.
Manning has out-performed Rodgers, in totality, since he joined the Denver Broncos, but that hasn't stopped many from crowning Green Bay's quarterback in spite of advanced statistics that paint an entirely different picture.
Since returning in 2012, #PeytonManning has out-performed #AaronRodgers by a considerable margin via #QBR and #DVOA. pic.twitter.com/8UqRSY1699— Ryan Michael (@theryanmichael) January 8, 2015
As a general rule of thumb, anti-Peyton headlines are emphasized while pro-Peyton dominance is minimized. "He breaks records all the time" they'll tell you. Ho-hum. Anyone who unwittingly refers to Manning's 2014 season as an off-year is really giving him the highest of praise.
Manning recorded nine games with a passer rating of 110.0+ (1st in the NFL)-the fourth most in NFL history, surpassing his own mark of eight in 2013 to establish a new Broncos franchise record.
Victim of the "Manning Standard", Peyton has regressed from "record-shatterer" in 2013 to a mere "record-breaker" in 2014. After 17 years, that's unremarkable.
There's nothing new to see in Denver. Move along.