Every year, when Peyton Manning leads his team into the playoffs, we hear about how Manning can’t pull his team through in clutch moments. Although he may be the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history, he collapses under the weight of key situations, ultimately costing his teams the opportunity to win the Super Bowl.
Let’s stop. This shall be the last year we ever hear about such nonsense – right?
Statistics don’t tell the whole story, but we’ll lead off with some cold hard numbers. Manning’s teams are just 11-11 in postseason play. There’s no denying that’s not an exceptional mark outside the fact that the man has led his teams to 22 playoff games since 1999.
In those 22 games, Manning has thrown for 6,309 yards, which breaks down to just under 286.7 yards per game. He’s thrown 36 touchdowns to just 22 interceptions, and he’s completed 64% of his passes in the playoffs. Aside from the staggering total yards he’s thrown for in postseason play, there’s no number in that stats line that jumps out as extraordinary or terrible. Still, those numbers are solid at the very least.
For comparison’s sake, we’ll look at one of the all-time greatest postseason quarterback’s stats, Tom Brady. In 26 games, Brady is a stellar 18-8 in the playoffs, but that’s where the huge numbers end. He’s thrown for 6,424 yards, or 247 yards per game, and he’s completed 62.1% of his passes. He has thrown more touchdowns, 43, than Manning, and he’s thrown the same number of interceptions, 22, as Manning.
In the end, the NFL is all about the result with little regard for the circumstances, but saying Manning has choked in the past under pressure is ridiculous. In this case, we really do have to consider the circumstances.
Manning’s teams have been one and done in the playoffs, that is they’ve lost their first game, eight times, seven of which came with the Colts. In his first three playoff appearances, the Colts were out of their depth, much like the current Colts under Andrew Luck. Manning was winning enough games in the regular season to drag the Colts into the postseason, but against the best of the best, the Colts had little chance.
In his time with Indianapolis, Manning was constantly working with a one-dimensional offense and little defensive support. It’s unfair to blame all of the Colts’ playoff failures during the Manning era on their quarterback. Football is quite simply a team game, and the Colts rarely put a solid team around Manning.
In the playoffs a year ago, the Ravens were able to upset the Broncos, but if you’ll recall, Manning had the game won for his team, but defensive errors allowed the Ravens to push the game into overtime. Again, it’s hard to blame Manning when his team lets him down.
Tom Brady hasn’t dealt with the same problems Manning has. The Patriots have always functioned as a more balanced team than Manning’s squads, and that point shows up in the wins and losses columns. Does Manning choke in the playoffs? No, he doesn’t. He’s had a handful of off games, but to say he’s choked throughout his career devalues the influence other players have on the outcomes of playoff games. To win in the NFL, teams need a great quarterback, but there’s more to the formula than just that, and any team that can field Manning as their starting quarterback greatly improves their chances to win any game, including ones in the playoffs.