JERSEY CITY, N.J. - So once more with feeling, Peyton, let's talk about your legacy.
"This legacy question keeps popping up and I guess I've had a little more time to think about it," Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said yesterday as Super Bowl XLVIII crept another day closer.
"If I had my choice, what my legacy would be, [it] would be that I played my butt off for every team that I ever played on, I was a really good teammate and I did everything I could to win. Whatever happens along in that time is fine with me. But those are the things that I care about."
Win or lose Sunday against the Seahawks, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to dispute that Manning isn't all of the above.
Win or lose Sunday, he still is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer 5 years after he retires. Win or lose Sunday, he still will be considered one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.
But for NFL quarterbacks, the ring's the thing. Fair or not, greatness at that position isn't measured in passing yards or touchdown passes or completion percentage. It's measured in Super Bowl victories.
"Regardless of what happens in this game, Peyton still is one of the greatest who's ever played," said Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman. "What he's done this year is amazing. Two years ago, many people, including the Broncos, weren't even sure he was going to be able to play again. And he comes out and has the best year any quarterback has ever had in the history of the game.
"It's been a terrific season. Unfortunately for some - not for me because I've won three [Super Bowls] and didn't lose any - but for some, this game carries such importance that just getting here isn't enough. Ask Jim Kelly about that. He made it here 4 years in a row. That's unprecedented. It's crazy. And yet, because they didn't win any of those games, no one talks about those [Bills] teams.
"This game is special, and it'll mean a lot more to Peyton and all that he's accomplished if he's able to win one more."
Manning has the second most passing yards in NFL history (64,964). He has the second most touchdown passes (491). If he plays two more seasons, which certainly is a possibility, he almost certainly will own both of those records now held by Brett Favre.
He also has the second highest passer rating in history (97.2), is tied for fourth in completion percentage (.655) and is first in game-winning drives (51, tied with Dan Marino) and fourth-quarter comebacks (40).
But there is just the one Super Bowl title on his resume, which he won in the 2006 season with the Colts. His chance for a second was spoiled 3 years later by Drew Brees and the Saints.
He has the fifth best postseason passer rating - 90.1 - in league history. Only Brees and Kurt Warner have better postseason touchdown-to-interception differentials than Manning (plus-14).
But with an 11-11 postseason record, he is 22nd among quarterbacks with at least 10 playoff starts in postseason winning percentage (.500), behind good but certainly not great quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb (.563), Phil Simms (.600), Joe Flacco (.692), Ben Roethlisberger (.714) and even his kid brother, Eli (.727).
One Super Bowl title is nice. It prevents people from ever suggesting you could never win the big one.
But there are a ton of average quarterbacks with one Super Bowl title. Trent Dilfer has one. Mark Rypien and Doug Williams each have one. Brad Johnson has one, for crying out loud.
None of those guys could carry Manning's cleats. But their obit will list the same number of Super Bowl titles as Manning's right now.
If he can lead the Broncos past the Seahawks on Sunday, though, he moves into an elite neighborhood. There are only 11 quarterbacks in history who have won two or more Super Bowl titles, and none of them - not even Tom Brady - has the rest of the resume that Manning has.
"Peyton doesn't need a win to secure his legacy," said NFL Network analyst Brian Billick, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, with Dilfer as his QB. "He's a slam-dunk Hall of Famer.
"But if you want to argue him vs. Tom Brady, would a win Sunday, which would give him Super Bowls with two different teams, would that be the nail in that argument? Sure.
"But when you're putting those in the room that you consider the all-time best, Peyton Manning is in the room regardless of what happens in this game."
Said Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson, who won two Super Bowls as head coach of the Cowboys in the early 1990s: "Peyton already is one of the greatest that's ever played. That said, the more rings you have, the more credibility you have.
"Putting up numbers in professional football, that doesn't do it. You've got to have the championships. Because a guy can go and throw for a tremendous amount of yardage. But because they're not running the football or because they don't have balance or because they're throwing interceptions, they lose games.
"So the real credibility comes from winning a ring."