On Monday night against the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning broke another NFL record.
Yes, it’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but Manning has already started putting up a season for the ages.
Manning torched the Raiders’ secondary by completing 32 of 37 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions. His third TD toss of the night was a pitch-and-catch to tight end Julius Thomas. Manning’s 12th TD pass set a new NFL record for most touchdown passes to start a season, breaking the record of 11 previously held by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Manning started out the NFL season by tying another record with seven TD passes in the Broncos’ Week 1 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
And Manning has yet to throw an interception to boot.
Monday’s game was vintage Manning. He completed a personal-best 86.5 percent of his passes and used the entire field, distributing the ball to eight different receivers.
And to think, just over a year ago, many were wondering if Manning could ever be the same player after undergoing four surgeries to his neck. In fact, some contemplated whether he’d ever play again.
It’s safe to say that question has been put to rest.
Manning returned last season in his first year with the Broncos to throw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, compiling a league-best 84.11 QB rating. Through this season’s first three games, Manning is already leading the league with an even higher 89.71 QB rating and 1,143 passing yards.
Not too shabby for a 37-year-old with four neck surgeries under his belt.
Manning is just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 60,000 career passing yards, and his 448 touchdown passes already rank second in league history behind Brett Favre.
Given how good he looks right now, it’s certainly not inconceivable that he could surpass Favre in both categories.
But is that enough to call him the greatest quarterback in the history of the game?
During this generation, Manning has been compared to Brady. In fact, current Broncos receiver Wes Welker, who has played for both, said it was like comparing Picasso to Michelangelo.
A number of pundits and experts point to Brady’s five Super Bowl appearances and three victories as a deciding factor. Manning has won one Super Bowl and lost in 2009 to the New Orleans Saints.
That in itself is more than many others can say. Dan Marino played in only one Super Bowl during his entire career.
Winning will always define a player’s career, especially in a leadership position. While Manning lags behind Brady and Joe Montana and others, the sheer numbers and the way in which he’s compiled those numbers makes the question of whether he’s the best even harder to answer.
If Manning can lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl championship or two before all is said and done, the answer will likely be much clearer.
There are few in the game who see the field like Manning, and even fewer who have the ability to pick apart virtually any defense thrown at them. In Denver, head coach John Fox has built an offense geared towards Manning’s strengths, and Greg Knapp was brought in this season as the quarterbacks coach and assistant offensive coordinator, a role he fulfilled with the Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
The Broncos are a team built to win and built to make a deep run in the playoffs, and with Manning at the helm, one would have to give them a better-than-even chance, especially after the way they won their first three games.
No team has been able to contain Manning to this point, and he’s on his way to putting up a season that could indeed be memorable.
And it’s just another point in his favor in answering the question of whether he’ll go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. If the Broncos and Peyton Manning can go all the way, you just might have your answer.
Note: All player statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.