The much-anticipated retirement end of Peyton Manning’s career was the start — actually, the continuation — of another one of those greatest-ever discussions/debates/arguments. In Manning’s case the conversation has been ongoing as the numbers piled up.
Stop it. Pull the camera back and look at a bigger picture for a moment.
Greatest composer of all time? Beethoven or Mozart? Or what about Brahms? But hey, I mean, if you’re a lullaby guy, c’mon, man, gotta be the Big Brahm’ster. (And no, I loved “Beautiful” but I don’t see Carole King in this discussion. Sorry.)
Greatest artist of all time? You say Monet, I say Michaelangelo. Then some guy over in another booth pipes in with how great were the ones who just had sharp stones to work with and did frescoes on cave walls? (Michaelangelo was good, sure, but does he nail that chapel gig if he has to be looking around for saber-toothed tigers all the time?)
Fact is, if we’re playing a pickup game, you take Manning, I’ll take Tom Brady/Otto Graham/Brett Favre, and let’s play. OK, you take Brady, I’ll take Manning, or Graham.
The beauty of all this is that there is really no wrong answer. Ask the players who played with Brady and guess who they say. Or ’06 Colts who beat the Bears with Manning in Super Bowl XLI. Think the ‘70s Steelers would trade anybody for Terry Bradshaw? Not a chance.
The numbers aren’t really much help, since the tectonic plates of the NFL are always shifting so much. Brady won Super Bowls in three of his first four years starting and never threw more than 28 TD passes in any of those seasons. Manning threw fewer than 28 TD passes in just five of his 16 full seasons.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]
Is Manning really better than Brady based on TD passes? Or Brady than Manning because of rings?
None of which is really the point. The beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and just as in any beauty pageant, is Miss USA really, really prettier than Miss Zambia? Really? C’mon, man.
“Best ever” always makes for fun banter. But sometimes it’s just nice to lean back, nod, and say, “Glad you came our way.”