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Leading up to the 1998 NFL Draft, there were many questions about who would be the first overall selection, quarterback Peyton Manning from the University of Tennessee or quarterback Ryan Leaf from Washington State University. The Indianapolis Colts decided to go with Manning with the first overall pick, which left Leaf to be selected second by the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers trade its third overall pick, a future first round pick, a second round pick, and Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the second overall pick (does this remind anyone of how the Redskins gave up three first round picks and second in exchange for the second overall pick, which is how they drafted Robert Griffin III?). This was the Chargers were guaranteed to get one of the top two quarterbacks. Leaf’s career in San Diego never took off because he had behavior issues on and off the field. He was out of the NFL with four seasons of being drafted. The Colts must still be ecstatic about making the right decision in ’98.


Peyton Manning played thirteen seasons for the Indianapolis Colts. He led them to the playoffs for the first time in his career in 1999 and they won the AFC East division. The next two seasons were very disappointing for the franchise and following those two, Indianapolis was moved into the newly formed AFC South Division. Jim Irsay decided to take the team in another direction and hired Tony Dungy to be the team’s head coach.

 

Peyton Manning was the face of the franchise. He put the team on his back and put the organization on the map. Manning’s skills got fans into the stadium. He is, without a doubt, the best regular season quarterback ever. Manning, along with star receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, led one of the most high-powered offenses of the time. Whenever Manning would drop back in the pocket, there was always a chance of a touchdown. This core offensive unit was always one of the best in the league. The team finally reached the Promised Land in 2006 and beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. The following year, Peyton Manning’s younger brother, Eli, won his first ring.


The Colts were a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl contender with Manning behind center. As long as he was there, the team would be fine; they really didn’t need that much more to compete. With him, the team won the AFC South seven times, made it to the playoffs with three wildcard births, and made it to two Super Bowls. Manning also won four MVPs. The highlights and awards would go on forever.

 

But, the Indianapolis Colts official ruled Peyton Manning out for the 2011 season on September 7, 2011 ending his streak of 227 consecutive starts. He had neck surgery the previous May and then towards the end of the summer, doctors told Manning that he would need to have spinal fusion surgery.  Peyton Manning ended up having a total of four surgeries on his neck. That season the Colts went 2-14 in one of the most drastic turnarounds in football. He should have won the MVP award. The Colts went from 10-6 in 2010 to 2-14 without him in 2011. Many critics believed his career was over. The Colts released Manning on March 7, 2012. In the offseason, the Colts drafted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. He was considered by many to be the best quarterback to come out of the draft since he predecessor, Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning visited during his only time as a free agent, but chose to sign a five year $96 million contract. From the start of the season, Manning had something to prove to the reset of the public. During his first regular season game in a Broncos uniform, he threw touchdown number 400 to Demaryius Thomas. He threw 37 touchdown passes the 2012 season and led the Broncos to the AFC West title. The team lost in double overtime to the eventual Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Playoffs.
     

Last year, Manning had a historic season. The Broncos opened the season against the Ravens and Manning threw seven touchdown passes. This was only the beginning for the high-powered offense. The Broncos broke the record for total points scored, total touchdowns, most games with 50+ points, and the list just keeps going. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker all had at least ten touchdowns. The team made it all the way to the Super Bowl but got their asses kicked by the Seattle Seahawks.
 

The Broncos started this season with a chip on their shoulder following how badly the season ended last year. After five games, the team was 4-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of the Seahawks in Seattle. The game went to overtime before Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown. This past week, the Broncos took on the San Francisco 49ers at home. Going into the game Manning had a total of 506 passing touchdowns, two away from Brett Farve’s record of 508. After the first quarter, Manning had thrown two touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker. Denver once again worked the ball down into the Niners redzone with a couple of minutes left in the half. Everyone was on edge. In a normal Broncos game, they would hand the ball off, but everyone knew it would be a pass play. Manning hiked the ball and quickly threw a strike into the front corner of the endzone. Demaryius Thomas grabbed it and dragged both feet. 509. That was it. Peyton Manning set the record for the most touchdown passes by a quarterback. But he wasn’t even done there. He threw another touchdown pass later on in the game. If the 49ers were able to keep up with the Broncos high scoring offensive, Manning would’ve stayed in the game and could have thrown more touchdown passes.

Since Peyton Manning has been on the Broncos, he has looked even better. Manning is 37 years old but he isn’t playing that way. He has not lost a step. Peyton Manning is still without a doubt, a top tier quarterback, if not THE BEST. He is under contract for this season and then two more. Manning has thrown 19 touchdown passes this season and is on pace for about 50 total. That would leave him around 530. Then, throwing 70 touchdowns over the following two seasons shouldn’t be too difficult if he continues playing this way. Don’t be surprised if Peyton Manning surpasses 600 touchdown passes by the time he hangs the cleats up. Also, I expect him to win another ring. Peyton Manning is without a doubt, the best quarterback in the last quarter century.

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