— Between them, they have seven most valuable player awards, two Super Bowl rings and a card that enables them to get out of jail free and go directly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What is left for Brett Favre and Peyton Manning to prove?
Really, not much. But don’t tell them that. It might take the edge off the championship games this weekend.
While there may not be much for either to prove, they both still could enhance their reputations in different ways.
Manning’s critics still like to say he’s not a big-game quarterback, though he has dispelled this notion on many occasions, including when he helped the Colts win Super Bowl XLI. Maybe it’s because his teams are 8-8 in the postseason. Maybe it’s because he has been on the best team in football only once, compared with Tom Brady, who has done it three times.
At one point, Brady’s Patriots had beaten Manning’s Colts in six straight games. But now Manning’s Colts have won five of their past six against the Pats.
Manning’s performances in big games was a topic of discussion in the Colts' locker room this week.
“In my opinion, he’s won a lot of big games,” receiver Reggie Wayne said. “I feel like he had to win that Super Bowl in ’06 to get some of the critics off his back. But even after he did that, there were still some people out there pointing fingers saying, ‘He can’t beat this team. He can’t do that.’
“The only thing he can do is play the team that is on the schedule … I don’t think there is much more than you can say about the cat. He does everything he is asked to do. He’s come through in the clutch plenty of times. Every week, he’s breaking some kind of record. The only thing we can do now is to continue to build off of that and help him out a little bit. If we take care of this week then we will move on to the Super Bowl and hopefully we can get that done and that will be another accolade that he has tackled.”
A better question than whether or not Manning can win the big game is whether or not he is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. No other quarterback has won four most valuable player awards. No other quarterback has thrown for 3,000 yards in 12 straight seasons. He has won more games than all but three quarterbacks in history, and Manning is only 33 years old.
Another Super Bowl victory certainly would enhance the argument that he stands alone among quarterbacks.
“I decided four or five years ago that he's the best I've ever seen, and he's only continued to confirm that,” former Jets quarterback Joe Namath said according to the Indianapolis Star. “(The Jets) are going up against, in my opinion, one of a kind. You can give him any kind of team and he's going to operate it better than anyone else.”
Whether it’s fair or not, many people judge quarterbacks by championships. So some hold others — like Bart Starr, who has five championships, Joe Montana, who has four, Terry Bradshaw, who has four, Otto Graham, who has three, Brady, who has three, Johnny Unitas, who has two and John Elway, who has two — in higher esteem than Favre and Manning.
Favre didn’t have to play this year to prove he is one of the all-time greats. There isn’t anything he has not accomplished. But by coming back this season so he could be proving something else — that he is capable of playing better football late in his career than any other quarterback in history.
Can you imagine this 40-year-old winning the Super Bowl? He is two years older than the oldest quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl. Winning the big game is a remarkable accomplishment for any quarterback; it would be an unheard of accomplishment for Favre, who was basically given up on by two teams.
“I came back for the opportunity and hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl, no doubt about it,” Favre said this week. “People may think that I’m pulling their leg, but I really don’t feel like there’s anything left to prove.
“The thing with playing 19 years is … people actually forget that I actually had success, had been in a Super Bowl. I have to remind them of that sometimes: ‘Hey, you know I’ve played in the Super Bowl.’ And, they say, ‘Really?’ I guess I’ve played so long that I kind of have to re-justify that I was actually a pretty good player at one time. I’ve played in a big game before.”
He’s played in games big and small, and never missed one. That alone makes Favre a one of a kind.
But winning a second Super Bowl at his age would make him one of a kind in a different way.