Remembering Peyton Manning.
Where do I begin?
Small confession here.
In the adolescence of my NFL obsession, I was not a Raiders fan.
I know, I know.
I'm a blasphemous traitor and an unfaithful swine.
I know that you're supposed to pick one team and just stick with it for life!
But I didn't.
In fact, my first favorite NFL team was the Indianapolis Colts.
I loved watching the prodigy, Peyton Manning sling the ball around and leave jaws hanging like astounded corners.
I used to defend the hell out of Peyton Manning and bash that scumbag, Tom Brady at any opportunity.
The best part about the Manning vs. Brady debate is that both sides have valid arguments, so it never ends.
"Peyton Manning has more touchdowns than any other player in NFL History"
"Tom Brady is the master of the playoffs, and has 2 more rings than Peyton."
"Yeah? Well Brady has always had better defenses than Peyton"
"Give Brady weapons like Peyton has had, then we'll see who has better stats".
It goes on like that forever and ever. And I hope it's always like that.
Eventually, I got older and learned more about who I was, and I guess somewhere I realized I wasn't really a Colts fan, but a fan of ol' #18, and I decided the Raiders suited me.
Please stop laughing or judging me, the Raiders have a rich history, and it's more fun to root for a bad team.
I'll explain that some other time.
Even as a Raiders fan, I still rooted hard for Peyton, and during his free agency, I even entertained the idea of a silver and black number 18 jersey.
Then it happened.
He signed with my least favorite team in the NFL.
My hatred for Denver goes back before I donned the Silver and Black, to a time where a young Ryan filtered through my father's profanity-laced rants about that "horse-faced John Elway".
And slowly I faded away from Peyton, and even joined the "Tom Brady is the best ever" fan club.
Hell, I even rejoiced when the Seahawks trounced the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Now he's gone, and I don't know how to feel.
On the one hand, I'm thrilled.
No more Peyton in the AFC West?
I won't give my Raiders another banner just yet, but at least I can scratch off two obvious losses.
On the other...
He was a legend.
One of the very best ever, a 5 time MVP, the QB with the most TDs in NFL History.
But to me, he was more than that.
He was the QB that got me into football.
Here are my Top Ten Peyton Manning Moments.
Before we get started... How about a quiz?
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10. Peyton Manning hosts SNL.
What? THIS ISN'T ABOUT FOOTBALL.
No. I guess it's not.
But hosting SNL was still a big deal at the time, and for Peyton, he got to show off a sense of humor that's only ever teased in commercials (the older ones, screw the new ones.
Please sing *I hate this damn commercial* to the nationwide tune.) and surprised a lot of people.
My personal favorite was the United Way commercial.
"Spend time with your kids... So Peyton Manning doesn't."
9. Peyton gets picked first.
Since the merger in 2970, there have only been 44 "first overall picks".
Some worked out, like Terry Bradshaw, Earl Campbell, Jake Long, and... If I'm speaking too soon? Andrew Luck.
Some didn't, like Jamarcus Russell, Bo Jackson (for Tampa Bay), David Carr, or Aundray Bruce....
Aundray Bruce? Give that a google.
In 1998, the Colts had the first overall pick, and they announced before the draft that they were going to pick a quarterback.
Ultimately it came down to Peyton Manning, and Washington State's Ryan Leaf.
Now obviously they picked Peyton, and well... Judging from the pictures of Ryan Leaf lately, it looks like they made the right choice.
The Colts have a proud history of QBs, and they added another blue chip when they picked Peyton first.
8. The Monday Night Miracle.
Here's the setting.
It's a rainy Monday night in Tampa Bay.
It's Tony Dungy's birthday, and his first game back in Tampa Bay since being fired in favor of Jon Gruden.
The Bucs are defending Super Bowl champions.
The Colts are undefeated.
And heading into the fourth quarter, the Bucs are up 28-7.
What's that? You're confused?
Then obviously you don't remember.
You don't remember how Peyton lead the Colts to score 28th points in the fourth quarter to lead the game into overtime.
Easily one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history, and a monumental one considering the circumstances.
Obviously the Colts won, as Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 29 yard game winner (Leaping?), and it solidified Peyton as a clutch QB.
7. Manning wins in Massachusetts.
This is a theme... You'll see...
Heading into the 2005 season, Peyton Manning was 0-5 in Foxboro, including two humiliating playoff losses.
The "Manning can't beat Brady" narrative was running strong, and it was never stronger than when it was in New England.
However, on one crisp November night, Peyton proved all of the doubters wrong, flawlessly shredding the Pats defense for 3 TDs and 321 yards on the way to a 40-21 win IN New England.
This sparked a hot winning streak for the Colts, who would win their next three, and five of the next six.
6. The P in MVP is for Peyton.
Tom Brady might be the best QB in the history of the NFL.
He has two MVPs.
He's got five.
Five friggin MVPs?
Are you kidding me?!
Tim Duncan doesn't have five MVPs.
LeBron doesn't have five MVPs.
Nobody in the NFL comes close to five!
In 2003, he had multiple games with at least 4 TDs on the way to 29 TDs and lead the Colts to the AFC title game.
The year after that, Manning broke Marino's record with 49 passing touchdowns, the record at the time.
In 2008, Manning won the award AGAIN, when despite only throwing 27 TDs, he lead the Colts to the playoffs after a 3-4 start.
The year after that? You betcha, Manning became the first (and only) player in NFL history with multiple back to back MVP seasons. He threw for 4,500 yards and 33 TDs as he lead the Colts to a nearly undefeated season and a Super Bowl loss.
THEN A-FREAKING-GAIN, in 2013 he won it for the fifth time as he tossed 55 touchdowns, and lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl.
Now, while it's true that he failed in both of his MVP super bowl seasons, it is worth noting that he was super bowl MVP in 2006.
I'm not sure anyone will ever win 5 MVPs again... Quite the accomplishment.
5. Peyton breaks the single season TD record... Again.
Whenever you break a huge record, people remember it, and breaking Tom Brady's record of 50 Touchdowns in a season is certainly one to remember.
He'd broken this record before...
4. Peyton breaks single season TD record (12/26/2004)
You're a football player, and your whole life you idolize and emulate one guy in particular.
From the time you first saw him play, you wanted to be just like that guy.
Not as good as though, because that's impossible.
Well, for Peyton Manning, that hero wasn't his father, Archie, it was Dolphin's QB, Dan Marino.
Not only did Peyton get his very first NFL start against Marino and the Dolphins, but on December 26th, 2004, Peyton Manning broke Marino's most prestigious NFL record by passing for his 49th touchdown in that season.
What a tremendous moment for Peyton.
That's why I ranked it higher than the time he threw six more touchdowns.
Not only did he break a record that had lasted for 20 years, but he broke a record that belonged to a guy he never dreamed he would surpass.
We know now that the record has been broken twice, but for Peyton to have that moment means about as much to him as it does to every fan who wears the horseshoe.
3. Peyton finally wins the Super Bowl.
All Peyton ever heard was how he was just like his hero, Dan Marino, and would never ever win a Super Bowl because he chokes in big games.
All of his 12 win seasons and statistical brilliance was great, but... Compared to the three rings that Brady has? Nothin happening there!
So when Peyton was able to finally shake that monkey off of his back and defeat the Bears after the 2006 season, it was a huge relief, a majestic moment, and the perfect ending to the only underdog story #18 was ever a part of.
2. Manning passes Favre.
It's pretty self-explanatory.
On October 19th, 2014, Peyton Manning threw his 509th touchdown, passing Brett Favre for the most of all time.
The most of all time!
Scoring more touchdowns than any player in NFL history gets you in the Hall of Fame, and it also gets mentioned on this list!
1. The 2006 AFC Championship Game.
As I mentioned earlier, there were just too many negative Manning narratives during his career.
"He can't beat the Patriots."
"He can't win in the playoffs."
"He'll never make it to the Super Bowl".
Well, on January 27th, 2007, Peyton proved everyone wrong, and he did it in spectacular fashion.
Down 21-6 at halftime, it definitely looked like the media was totally right.
That was before Peyton would go on to lead the Colts on four crazy scoring drives that included a TD pass to an offensive lineman, a rushing TD by Peyton, and Jeff Saturday recovering a fumble in the endzone.
He dueled with the playoff master in one of the best games in NFL history and came out on top.
That's why that's my favorite Peyton Manning moment.
Manning has had many awesome moments in the NFL... and few outside of it!
He's a first ballot hall of famer, and will always be mentioned in the "greatest of all time" debate.
The NFL won't be the same without him, and while I wish he had never put on an orange jersey, I'll always remember when he changed the way people played the game.