Coin Toss: Does Peyton Manning deserve his hero’s farewell?

Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Jake Mauff at jacob.mauff@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @Jama4737CMCI.

Super Bowl 50 could very well be Peyton Manning’s last NFL game, but after his shaky last season, should fans be showering him with gratitude and appreciation? The CUI’s Justin Guerriero and Jake Mauff debate whether he’s earned his hero’s departure from the NFL.

Justin Guerriero: I’m going to be straightforward about this. In the larger scheme of things, yes. Peyton Manning has earned his majestic ride into the sunset after winning Super Bowl 50. He’s without a doubt one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League. The laundry list of NFL records that he holds is an irrefutable testament to that.

But let’s cut through this picturesque ending for a moment. Manning deserves about as much credit for the Broncos winning the Super Bowl as the Winklevoss brothers do for creating Facebook.

I mean, come on. Manning just had the worst season of his career. It was worse than his rookie campaign in 1998. He registered the lowest completion percentage, average yards per game and quarterback rating of his nearly two-decade NFL career. In fact, he was the worst starting quarterback in the NFL this season in terms of overall quarterback rating.

Defend him all you want, Jake, but not agreeing that Manning was a liability for the Broncos for much of this season is sheer lunacy.

I’m all for celebrating the careers of the likes of NFL legends like Manning, but for me, “The Sheriff” was lifted to victory in Super Bowl 50 by the best defense in the league. Von Miller and the Broncos’ D ruthlessly shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense.

And let me tell you something — I did not enjoy watching Manning embrace Papa John and casually mention Budweiser in the postgame festivities before he walked off the football field for quite possibly the last time. That truly was the cherry on top in terms of putting a bad taste in my mouth. I guess I’m just a bit hesitant to be handing out pats on the back to Manning. He deserves one for the overall quality of his career, but he doesn’t deserve one for this past season.

Jake Mauff: Yes, he had a terrible season. I love Peyton as much as the next Broncos fan, but that I can’t deny. Most of the time, it felt like he was playing for the other team.

He had more interceptions than regular season games, and he only played in 10. In two of those games he only played for the first half, so he really only played nine total games! That’s bad. But despite that fact, the Broncos won. That’s the important part. Football, like everything else, is a team sport.

There are 52 other people on the team, and this Broncos team was the best 52 other guys of Peyton’s career.

It’s time for a bit of a Jake rant. Everyone goes and bashes Manning because of his postseason record. It certainly isn’t great, but there is one. And a pretty substantial one. Do you know where the Colts were before they got Manning? The bottom of the league, that’s where. Success wasn’t imminent — he didn’t have a very good supporting cast.

Look at the situation Tom Brady went into and compare it to Manning’s. Brady’s totally wins that comparison — by a landslide. The quarterback always gets the credit, but no one deserves it more than Manning. The one season he missed brought the team a 2-14 record. Brady left and the Patriots still went 11-5. Yes, Manning didn’t do much in this game, but he’s done so much up until this point that he deserves the farewell. The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, but Peyton’s accomplishments transcend that.

JG: I’m not going to argue about Manning’s lifetime achievements. Like I said, he’s one of the best players to ever take the field in the NFL. I’m not suggesting that we need to run the guy out of town for having a bad year, but I just think it’s a downright lie to act like his last season was not disappointing.

I think he should have to answer for his lackluster campaign. It seems that everyone is so hellbent on defending him until the end of time due to the merit his overall resume holds. So Broncos fans, I ask you this: If Manning elects not to retire, would you be comfortable with him leading the offense in the upcoming season? Perhaps a follow up question to that would be: If that scenario were to happen, could the Broncos’ defense take charge and assume the role of being the deciding force in games due to The Sheriff’s inability to effectively play professional football anymore?

Why do we have to be so kind? What’s wrong with being upfront and saying, “Peyton Manning, you were atrocious this season. You were rather insignificant in the Broncos’ Super Bowl run.” Why is that such a criminal offense?

Jake, again, I have to say that I do think Manning deserves to be respected and admired. If me saying that disqualifies me from winning this argument, then so be it. But I am absolutely unwilling to overlook the calamity of a season that he produced this past year. I just want Manning to be judged fairly. He played awful in the regular season and wasn’t that electric in the postseason. People shouldn’t be hesitant to acknowledge that.

Manning will go down as one of the league’s all-time best. But I think at the end of things, and all flattery and admiration aside, Broncos fans understand that Manning played a minuscule role in the team’s overall success this season.

JM: I always like winning arguments, but I will agree with your point. I’ll be one of the first to say Brock Osweiler would have led to bigger margins of victory in the playoffs if the defense had played the way they did. But, by coincidence or by the powers that be, the defense played much better with Peyton on the helm. Why? I’ll never know. But that was what happened, and the team won. So be it.

This season might leave somewhat of a tarnish on Manning’s record, and it should be argued as to whether he really helped the team. In the playoffs, you said he wasn’t “electric,” and you’re right, he wasn’t. But he didn’t need to be. All Manning needed to do was not turn the ball over, something he had done every full game he had played before the playoffs. When he didn’t turn it over at the same frequency, the games were still close, but the team still won. That’s the important part.

While he wasn’t the best player on the team, he did everything he needed to win. Doing more could have resulted in a blowout win in the Super Bowl, and I would be fine with that, but it was still a win. A convincing win at that. The heavy underdogs won by two scores.

He’s being painted as a hero for all the right reasons. Though the offense didn’t execute as well as it could have, he helped the team with his pre-snap ability, something that’s not always visible. Much of the narrative of Manning being a hero comes from a sports media that is now going to be without its most popular sports in the media cycle at this time of year. It has airtime to fill and fans’ football fantasies to meet. But he’s earned it. His team won, that’s the important part.

The last time the Broncos went to the big game was not pretty, and that’s putting it kindly (I still have nightmares). He helped the team adjust when the opportunity arose again. It certainly wasn’t just him, but the start of the game this last Sunday was a lot different than the one in 2013, which set the tone for the entire game. Plus, he’s a leader on and off the field.

Are we really going to knock the guy that spends so much time doing charity work?

Justin Guerriero

Justin Guerriero is a senior managing editor for the CUI from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He studies broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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