Good morning, Broncos Country!
It is a better-than-usual weekend-to-be because this Broncos fan is headed to the Mile High City for the second Broncos-Chiefs showdown, and I could not be happier about leaving the beach and heading to the Rockies.
I've been preparing all week.
And while I had hoped Peyton Manning would have broken his two NFL records last week against his former team, I won't lie about thinking it's pretty cool I'm going to be at the game where he will no doubt break one and will most certainly break two. (thank you, football gods!)
The irony is, I hadn't given much thought to the true magnitude of either record until yesterday when I read this piece by Mike Tanier in Bleacher Report (don't let the B/R part scare you; it's an incredible read by a gifted writer with some serious historical perspective).
Plus, Tanier has several wise words for the always-annoying Patriots fans who like to crash every Manning record party with their senseless "we've got more rings" diatribe as if that's what was being compared:
"If you are the type of fan who takes us on a tour of Tom Brady's trophy case every time Manning breaks a record, don't bother. We get it."
But the real magic in Tanier's piece is the subtle reminder of how special Manning's all-time passing yardage record really is, calling it "the most prestigious record in American sports."
That may sound overstated until you consider it. To accomplish this, a quarterback must play at an elite level for a long time. If we weren't so accustomed to that in Denver, we might recognize how improbable doing both of those things is. The next two current quarterbacks closest to this record are Drew Brees and Tom Brady - and both are more than 13,000 yards from reaching it.
Playing this game for 18 years as a quarterback is astounding in itself. For Manning to continue doing it to the point of eclipsing Brett Favre's 71,838 career passing yards is nothing short of remarkable, regardless of championships or rings. The record stands on its own as a major feat.
Manning will likely break this record the first play of the game, and there will be a brief recognition from the NFL that will unfortunately not allow the 18-year quarterback - nor his fans - to really appreciate what he has done.
And in truth, most fans won't really care about the record and will just be concerned about whether that "record-breaking pass" was for a first down and whether he's going to break the other record for most career wins.
But it will be a shame if we let the record go by without acknowledging how incredible it is that Manning will hit that historic mark as a Bronco. And part of our apathy stems from being a team the last three decades that is so often in contention for the championships, that any records become an afterthought - if a thought at all.
"Manning is breaking one of the most prestigious records in American sports Sunday," Tanier writes. "It's a mark that has been passed from undisputed Hall of Famer to undisputed Hall of Famer since professional football rose to prominence. Manning is further cementing his status as one of the titans of professional sports history. We shouldn't act like he is grubbing after some kind of runner-up trophy."
In fact, Tanier effectively points to a litany of all-time greats in NFL history who have consistently been the best of the best but haven't had the luxury of a supporting cast to vault them to the pinnacle of NFL success - from Brett Favre and Dan Marino to FranTarkenton and Johnny Unitas.
And if there is anything Broncos fans have learned the hard way, it is that one great player - even a handful of great players - does not bring home a Lombardi. And in fact, only a handful of great players every year can be on that championship-winning team while the rest are left "hoping for next year" or more often than not, finish out good careers without nearly enough fanfare.
"The all-time passing-yardage leaderboard is not a clearinghouse for quarterbacks not good enough to win multiple championships," Tanier says. "It's safe harbor for quarterbacks who weren't lucky enough to play for dynasties. It's a place for quarterbacks who had to do a little more, for a little longer, than their also-legendary counterparts who enjoyed extended runs at the heights of their powers with super coaches, super playmakers, super protectors and super defenses."
If there were ever the perfect distinction between the careers of Manning and Brady, that paragraph sums it up.
Manning has been on some very good teams. He has not been on dynasties.
And to those who continue to argue that Brady is the greater quarterback than Manning because he has four rings, Tanier so eloquently responds, "who cares?" because greatness doesn't need to be an either/or.
"The passing-yardage crown has been the place for quarterbacks remembered for their unique talents and contributions...When we close our eyes, we see them passing and running. When we think of the other guys, we think of them surrounded by their teams or just hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the confetti flying."
But of all Tanier's poignant comparisons, my favorite is this:
"Championships represent single events. Passing records represent long-term commitments. ...When Manning breaks Favre's passing record, it will represent greatness that accompanied us through autumn Sundays for a generation."
For football fans, nothing compares to the feeling of their team winning the Super Bowl. Nothing.
But that doesn't mean that when Manning inks his name on that football headed for Canton (again) - this time for all-time passing yards - that we shouldn't be proud our quarterback allowed us another beautiful autumn Sunday in which greatness accompanied us in a game.
Peyton Manning's Passing Records Matter, No Matter What the Haters Say | Bleacher Report
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