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NFL

Broncos star quarterback Manning strives to cement legacy

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 10:33 p.m.
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Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning speaks to the media during Super Bowl media day Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Newark, N.J.

NEWARK, N.J. — Peyton Manning is second all-time in NFL passing yards. He's on pace to eclipse Brett Favre in career touchdown passes early next season. He's favored to win his fifth NFL MVP award; no one else has more than three. He has a record 13 Pro Bowl selections and holds 55 NFL records.

In all-time Super Bowl wins by a quarterback, he's tied for 12th with one.

So is arguably the greatest quarterback of his generation — Tom Brady and his three Super Bowl wins notwithstanding — also THE greatest of all time when he's won as many Super Bowls as Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer? And one fewer than Jim Plunkett?

“Peyton (Manning) is as good of a football player as you could find at any level, at any time, in any state of the history of this game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday at Super Bowl media day.

But in the minds of some of the best players and coaches of recent NFL vintage, Manning might need to win the Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl on Sunday to nudge his status from one of the greatest into the greatest — better than Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas or No. 1 all-time passer Favre. Especially if it's his last Super Bowl.

“He's done enough for me to say that he's in that discussion of the greatest of all time,” said former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, now an NFL Network analyst. “But I find it hard to compare quarterbacks of different eras. I find it hard to compare the Peytons with Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr and that era, even Dan Marino's era. The rules are different. It's a different game. It's a passing league now, and the numbers are going to be extraordinary going forward. … But will another win in a Super Bowl, with two different teams, which nobody has ever done, help? Of course it will.”

Troy Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl winner, also said it can be argued Manning already surpasses all others. But for now, Manning wouldn't be Aikman's choice.

“I didn't see a number of guys, but (four-time Super Bowl winner) Joe Montana is the greatest I've ever seen,” Aikman said. “And I've seen him do it in big games, big moments, bring the team back. … I have an appreciation for guys who have played the position and excelled, and Peyton has done that. We're watching someone who many, many years from now, we're going to be looking back on and saying, ‘Wow, that was a special moment in time to watch this guy play.' ”

Manning, who turns 38 in March, started being asked only a couple of seasons into his career how he will be remembered.

“I'm not sure you can have a legacy when you are 25 years old, or even 37. I thought you had to be 70 to have a legacy,” he said. “I'm not 100 percent sure what the word even means. I'm down the homestretch of my career, but I'm still in it. It's not over yet. It's still playing out.”

That's what Mariucci likes, saying, “We have to remember, he's not done. He's not done.”

But former Broncos running back Terrell Davis is among those who believes Sunday is a must-win for Manning — in part because he's being paid so much money to do exactly that. Manning's contract with the Broncos is worth nearly $100 million.

“You've got to win Super Bowls,” Davis said. “I can't give Peyton Manning a pass when we don't give Tom Brady a pass. We don't give Michael Jordan a pass. LeBron James doesn't get a pass. We want to see the best of the best win it all.

“If I don't win a championship, then I shouldn't be considered great at nothing, because I didn't win it.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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