The League

Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Manning makes it

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As much as the heart cries out to pick New Orleans to win the Super Bowl, the better to continue a ravaged city's remarkable recovery from an apocalyptic disaster, the head says it's far more prudent to predict that Indianapolis prevails on Sunday.

One number keeps coming up in all the pre-game analysis by paralysis. That would be the record of first-time Super Bowl teams going up against franchises that have been to the big game before. The team with SB experience has won 15 of those 19 match-ups, one very good reason the Colts are listed as 5 ½ point favorites.

The best reason of all, however, is the presence of Payton Manning in the Colts huddle, or no-huddle. It's been fashionable all week among the media mob to talk about Manning's place in history among the greatest all-time NFL quarterbacks, especially if he gets to hoist his second Vince Lombardi Trophy in the last four years.

I started covering the game full-time in 1973 and grew up watching the NFL in the 1950s and '60s. My own No. 1 choice has always been John Unitas, with Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Terry Bradshaw, Sonny Jurgensen, Roger Staubach, Tom Brady and Manning somewhere in my top ten of quarterbacks I've seen up close and personal from a press box perch.

At the moment, Manning has definitely moved into top five territory, and I'm starting to agree with CBS broadcaster Phil Simms, an astute analyst of the game and the position, who said recently if Manning continues to put up the same sort of numbers over the next few years, he'll move to No. 1 on his all-time list.

I like Manning for other reasons. He's clearly a throwback to an era when quarterbacks essentially called most of their own plays. I know he hears the play call from the bench in his headset, but he has the option on every play to do something else. It's obvious he's pretty much on his own, an offensive coordinator on the field with a grasp of his offense arguably unrivaled by any quarterback playing in the modern game.

I love the fact that Manning never missed a beat even after his favorite target, Marvin Harrison, was released by the team and he's been forced to break in several untested receivers on the fly, with the same stunning numbers as ever.

New Orleans' Drew Brees is pushing into upper echelon quarterback circles himself and seems to be a terrific young man who gives you everything he's got on the field, and gives back so much to his adopted city. But it says here that Manning will be the difference as the Colts prevail, 35-24, with tight end Dallas Clark catching 10 passes and
earning game MVP.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  February 5, 2010; 12:48 PM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , New Orleans Saints , Super Bowl Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Pick the Super Bowl winner | Next: Stats favor Saints

Comments

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OOPS YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHO DAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: charrmer77 | February 7, 2010 10:26 PM

Manning Chokes, Sorry !!!!! Who Dat????????

Posted by: kjordan10 | February 12, 2010 8:59 PM

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