Friday, January 26, 2007

Peyton Manning and the Patriots: Parallels

The Colt's victory over the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl reminds me of a few historical parallels. I'm sure I'm not the first to think and write of these, but I'd like to discuss them anyway.

Steve Young and the Cowboys, 1994
Young and the 49ers had lost to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game for '92 and '93. They had also lost to the Cowboys in the regular season in '93. Furthermore, Young had never won a Super Bowl as the starting QB, as was living in the shadow of Joe Montana. In 1994, the 49ers passed the Cowboys and dominated the Super Bowl, as Young got the proverbial "monkey off his back."

Look at Steve Young's playoff numbers for 1994. In a 44-15 win over the Bears, Young threw just 22 passes, for 143 yards and 1 TD pass. Young could have thrown right-handed and the Niners would have beaten the Bears. In the NFC championship game, a 38-28 win over the Cowboys, Young actually coompleted less than 50% of his passes (13-29, for 155 yards and 2 TDs). The Niners were helped by a 21-3 lead that was mostly the result of Dallas turnovers. Young did, however, throw a devestating end of the half TD to Jerry Rice that seemed to bury the Cowboys' hopes. Then in the Super Bowl, Young dominated, throwing 6 TD passes. Young was good, but it was the great Niner teams that were able to help get him to the Super Bowl (it's always a great team that helps a QB get to the Super Bowl).

Peyton Manning didn't dominated the first two playoff games of '06. He was better than you think in the win over the Chiefs (despite the INTs, he was 30-38 and had something like 14 completions for first downs), but admittedly the defense came alive to win the Baltimore game (though Manning did help the team win). Manning did more to beat the Patriots in this AFC championship game than Steve Young did to beat the Cowboys in the '94 NFC Championship game.

Michael Jordan and the Pistons
Jordan and the Bulls lost to the Pistons in the playoffs in '88, '89, and '90. Like Manning, Jordan was recognized, through statistical brilliance and simple observation, to be the best in the league--with an asterisk. He hadn't brought his team to a championship. Like Manning, Jordan was a dominant offensive player who was often contained and frustrated by just one defensive-minded opponent. For Jordan it was the Pistons, for Manning the Colts. And finally, in '91, Jordan and the Bulls swept past the Pistons. There are even some similarities in how the opponent reacted--didn't Isiah Thomas and others leave the court early as the Bulls had it clinched? I didn't see it, but I've read on several blogs that Tom Brady left the field without congratulating Manning (or anybody), and Belichick sort of brushed him off.

Not only does Jordan now dominate the conversation of the greatest basketball player ever, but he is universally recognized as one of the greatest playoff performers in sports history. He's given us so many memorably clutch performances and moments, and he ended up winning 6 championships. But at the time, there was one team he supposedly couldn't handle, and it was only further playoff success that hindered the perception of his unparallelled brilliance.

The French in the Hundred Years War

The French lost virtually ever battle of the Hundred Years' War. Over and over again, they were dominated in battles by the English. Perhaps the most memorable British route was the Battle of Agincourt, dramatized by Shakespeare in Henry V. But the most famous person to emerge from the Hundred Years' War was Joan of Arc, and eventually the English failed to keep any of the holdings they had won in war.

Much like few people argue that Troy Aikman was the best QB of the '90s just because he won the most championships, it is possible that in ten or twenty years, nobody will argue that Tom Brady was the best QB of the '00s just because he won the most championships. Peyton Manning, like Joan of Arc, may end up being the most memorable player, and considered the best player, of this decade.


  1. you are certainly the only person to compare peyton manning to joan of arc. the comparison is a stretch even for humor. joan of arc was exploited and cheated by everyone from God to her own government and finally murdered by the British religious nuts. Peyton Manning had a bunch of bad play off games and then won a couple play off games and laughed to the bank the whole while. meanwhile ladainian tomlinson is the best player of the decade.

  2. You've made far dumber comparisions to Favre.