Debunking a Manning Myth

A number of NFL pundits have claimed that Peyton Manning is having a poor season, especially by his standards. A closer look at the numbers tells a different story.

Peyton Manning has thrown for 28 touchdowns so far this season. With two games left and with Manning likely to see significant playing time on Sunday, there is a very strong possibility that he will amass 30 touchdown passes or more this season. Since he had 31 last season, it will mark the first time in his career that he has compiled 30 TD passes in consecutive seasons. It will also be the fourth time he's hit the 30-touchdown milestone in his career, with the others coming in 2000 and his record-setting 2004 season.

One of the criticisms of Manning has been that he's been more careless with the ball this season than at any other point this century. He currently holds a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio and that is down from a 3:1 ratio in 2006, 2005, and 2003, and a 5:1 ratio in 2004. Exacerbating the situation is that Tom Brady currently holds a 9:1 ratio. Additionally, this may be the first season since 2003 that Manning doesn't register at least a 100 quarterback rating for the year. It must also be noted that his efficiency rating for 2003 was 99.0.

Peyton Manning is closing in on another 30-touchdown season
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

This season, however, his quarterback rating stands at a very respectable 95.2. If you take out the six-interception debacle against the Chargers — which no one would argue, having looked at his season and career, was an aberration — his rating for the season jumps seven full points to 102.2. Additionally, that brings his touchdown-to-interception ratio back up to 3:1.

In a lot of ways, Manning's remarkable consistency throughout his career may be his worst enemy. His career quarterback rating (94.4) is only slightly lower than his rating this season and, every season since coming into the NFL, he has thrown at least 26 touchdown passes and started every game. Since everyone expects statistical excellence and consistency from him, it makes a six-interception game and a season with under a 100 rating seem like an off year.

2007 has been a passing TD season for the ages, with three quarterbacks — Brady, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger — throwing for 30-plus touchdowns and five more passers within five TD passes, including Manning. That is likely contributing to the criticism as well as lack of historical perspective.

To put 30 touchdown passes in a season in perspective, consider the following:

  1. Until this season, the Dallas Cowboys, who have won five Super Bowls, have been quarterbacked by Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, had never employed a quarterback that tallied 30 TD passes in a season.
  2. The same goes for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but change the Hall of Fame quarterback to Terry Bradshaw.
  3. Warren Moon, who played several seasons for the Houston Oilers in their "run-and-shoot" offense, threw 30 touchdowns in a season only twice, and never consecutively.
  4. John Elway never accomplished this feat.
  5. Until this season, neither had Tom Brady.

So, while it may appear to some that Manning is having a down season on the surface, a deeper look into the numbers, NFL history, and his own history show that thinking may simply result from a lack of perspective. Add in the fact that he has been without Marvin Harrison for most of this season, Reggie Wayne has been the only Colts skill position player on offense to start every game, and he's had to break in rookie wideouts Craphonso Thorpe and Anthony Gonzalez, and Manning's 2007 accomplishments appear even more impressive.

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