I am a Peyton Manning Apologist

23 Jan

These next two weeks will be some of the most difficult for Peyton Manning. We will hear for two weeks about how Tom Brady has distanced himself in the argument of who is the best quarterback of our generation. Further, we will hear about his brother Eli becoming the best Manning to ever quarterback in the NFL. And since those two guys are competing in a Super Bowl taking place in a dome that is in Peyton’s city and is only in existence because of the success of Peyton, there will be mixed emotions for him, I am sure.

This is not, however, meant to be an attempt to get you to empathize with Peyton’s plight, as I’m sure it is a “better” situation than just about everyone reading this would have. The purpose, however, is to take a stand for the greatness of Peyton Manning, as the onlought of his detractors is about to begin. Clearly nothing I say will completely convince those of you who are dye in the wool fans of Eli, Tom, the Patriots, or the Giants, but for those of us who look objectively, I think we can side with Peyton still being able to compare favorably to those two guys.

First, I believe all three of these men are Hall of Fame level quarterbacks. Second, I will state that the presupposition with which I begin is that value is most determined by the replacement value. There are other methods to determine value, to be sure, but the truest test of just how valuable you are can best be determined by what it is like to fill in for you. Every other standard is reliant upon other factors.

The fact that the Colts won as many games as they did and were a challenger for “Team of the Decade” from 2000-2009 (or 2001-2010) is a testament to just how great Peyton Manning is. If the Colts can win more games than every NFL team over a 10-year period and yet, were utterly terrible without Manning, you have to concede that he is great. His replacement value trumps others.

This became my standard when I was in high school Calculus studying the Leontief production function, which in large part came about to answer the Heckscher–Ohlin theorem, which also gave us the Rybczynski theorem and the Stolper–Samuelson theorem. Now before you google these things to see what kind of nonsense I am pilfering, let me just say that these are mostly economic theories. And when you attempt to extract one element of a team (or, if you prefer, economy), it cannot be simply replaced, but there are adjustments by all the other members of the team. Similarly, merely looking at stats, which are intrinsically reliant upon the effort of others cannot be our only test.

Before I irreversibly bore all you sports fans, let me put it in this perspective. The fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers had the best record in the NBA in back-to-back seasons, then had the worst record in the league after losing LeBron is the primary way to judge his value. Similarly, the fact that the Indianapolis Colts had at least ten wins in 11 of the preceding 12 seasons, then had the worst record in the NFL shows his value. While Mark Schlereth (and I) has been saying for years that the Colts had four wins per year talent without Peyton Manning, that was really proven this year.

Now certainly, we cannot discount that there are other elements to evaluate. And the primary knock on Peyton Manning is the fact that his detractors will say he is not “clutch.” Now again going back to the economic concepts addressed above, which I will henceforth call the Rybczynski group, I can’t look at anything in a vacuum, but let me try. Quarterback rating (which is clearly imperfect, but it is an amalgamation of all the stats) of the three quarterbacks in the playoffs are between 88.4 and 89.4. That’s pretty much a wash.

This is where people will look at the vastly superior won-loss records of Tom and Eli. Of course, I will submit that the years Tom Brady won a Super Bowl (before this year), New England’s defense was 6th, 7th, and 9th in the league. When Eli won, his defense was ranked 7th. On the other hand, when Indianapolis won, their defense was ranked 21st. Obviously, rankings are not the tell-all and can be deceiving, but there is definitely a pattern there. As Tom Brady’s defenses have gotten worse statistically, his winning percentage has been more of a mirror of Peyton Manning’s winning percentage.

Therefore I return to my initial thought. Let’s look at the teams around these three great quarterbacks. First, Eli joined a team that averaged 10 wins a season from 2000-02 (and had even been to the Super Bowl in 2000). Then after starting 4-4 in 2003, there were articles written about how the team gave up on Jim Fassell, and they finished out by losing 8 in a row. This was a talented bunch that just did not do well. They started 2004 with Kurt Warner at quarterback and were 5-2. Eli took over and the team finished 6-10. He quickly adapted and the team made the playoffs the next year. Since then, the Giants have been to the Super Bowl twice (including this year), missed the playoffs twice, and lost their first playoff game the other three times. They are at their best record-wise when the defense does better and the running game is functioning well.

Tom Brady, as previously mentioned, has done best (record-wise) when his team had a great defense. As his personal stats have become better and the offense has become more statistically impressive, his playoff record has become worse. Further, the one year where he missed the whole year (2008) his team went 11-5 behind Matt Cassell, which is actually better than they did in 2009 (10-6) when Tom Brady returned. Granted Matt Cassell is a decent quarterback, who has proven to be better than the guys around Peyton Manning, but I think that furthers the point. The Colts were absolutely justified in getting rid of Bill Polian. They just did not surround Peyton Manning with as much talent as the Patriots have.

The Indianapolis Colts won 9 games in the strike year (1987), but the last time they won more than that without Peyton Manning was 1977. In the eight years before Peyton got going, they had four seasons of winning four games or fewer (compared with 0 for Brady and 1 for Eli Manning). He went to a worse team, and they have been consistently better than the NY Giants in terms of regular season record. In years Peyton was the starter, they have averaged 10.8 wins (and that includes his 3-win rookie season), Eli’s teams have averaged 9.3, and Tom Brady’s teams have averaged 12.3 wins.

Since Tom didn’t really play his rookie year, if you wish to equalize it by taking away Peyton’s rookie year, the numbers get much more comparable. Remembering of course that New England won 11 games in their season without Tom Brady, while Indianapolis won 2 in their season without Peyton Manning. Let’s assert that each of these are two games off (or 12.5% of the NFL season in random) and The 2008 Patriots SHOULD HAVE won only 9, while the 2011 Colts SHOULD HAVE won 4. You still have Brady’s net value as 3.3 wins, while Manning’s is 6.8 wins. Tom Brady’s post season record is better, but the rest of his team has, as a whole, been vastly better.

I think the only argument that you can use to further criticize Manning is that he also calls his own plays, so he must contribute to his own ineptitude. Of course while Manning was calling the plays, his team averaged 26.2 points, while this year they averaged 15.2 points. The real ineptitude for Peyton Manning is that the rest of his team has always been terrible and that not only has he turned them into a regular season juggernaut, but he has almost a .500 team in the post season, against real, difficult competition! In short, I am a Miami Dolphin fan and if he wants to (or is forced to) leave Indianapolis after this year, we’ll take him, and I’ll guarantee that Miami will be instantly relevant!

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3 Responses to “I am a Peyton Manning Apologist”

  1. Jenni May 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Well, I see from reading this post that I cannot convince you otherwise about Peyton, so I shan't try to.

  2. Anthony Lellinger August 15, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Beast article.

  3. AskThePhatMan August 15, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    Thanks Anthony!

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