When Peyton Manning takes to the field early Sunday evening at MetLife Stadium for what will be his third Super Bowl, some will claim he has about four hours to save his legacy.
That doesn’t seem fair, or even right.
A legacy is not made because one person wins or loses a single game.
We’ve become so myopic as a society, so concerned only with a “what have you done for me lately” outcome, that we forget that what’s happening now doesn’t necessarily speak for what has happened in the past.
Manning’s legacy, regardless of what happens against Seattle, will remain intact.
Just ask Nelson Stewart, Newman’s current football coach and former Manning teammate.
“Everywhere I go, whether it’s a clinic or conference, the first thing people think of is Payton Manning,” Stewart said this week.
The Greenies were an academic institution with the occasional on-field or on-court successes prior to Manning’s taking over the quarterback position in 1991.
He immediately led them to within an eyelash of a state championship game appearance as a sophomore, a round they haven’t reached since.
And according to Stewart, families still choose to send their children to Newman because of what Manning began at the Jefferson Avenue campus two decades ago.
“One of the things I hear is the things he has accomplished, that has opened up doors for kids to come play football,” Stewart said
Stewart’s team is part of the Manning Family legacy at the Uptown private school. Peyton and his brothers, Eli and Cooper, still own offensive records. They’ve donated money to upgrade aspects of the locker room. The jersey they wore is hanging in the football dressing room, signed by each.
But make no mistake, it’s the middle Manning who set the tone for the football program.
“And to this day we’re known as a pass heavy offense,” Stewart said. “That’s all because of him. He took Newman football on his back in the early 90s.”
Still, I understand that people are questioning his NFL legacy, so, let’s get myopic.
In 15 NFL seasons, he has led his team to the playoffs 13 times. He has helped his teams go 10-6 or better 13 times and 12-4 or better 10 times. He’s 11-11 in the playoffs as a quarterback and has changed the fortunes of two different franchises, going to four AFC championship games.
Should the Broncos win, he would be the fifth quarterback listed by the NFL as having won and played in a Super Bowl at the position for two different teams, but would be the first to be the primary starter for both teams.
He has about 7,000 fewer passing yards than Brett Favre, the NFL’s career leader in the category, but has played five fewer seasons.
In his 15th season, after four neck surgeries nearly ended his career, he set NFL records for passing yards in a season (5,477) and touchdowns in a season (55). He led the league in completions (450) and attempts (659). He earned the first-team All-Pro designation and will likely earn another league MVP.
Yet, myopia isn’t necessarily our best trait as people. A legacy is about much more than one phase of someone’s life.
Listen to Newman’s current quarterback and you’ll hear all you need to know about the legacy that matters, ultimately, for Manning.
“He gives back to the football program and the school,” Jabiari Tyler said Friday after a pep rally the school held in Manning’s honor. “Peyton means more than this guy who used to go our school who is now in the NFL and is about to play in the NFL. We want to look up to him. We want to be what he’s doing because he’s actually giving back to us.”
And that’s really the only legacy that truly matters.