Let the legacies of this era's great quarterbacks be established when their careers are over

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

One game doesn't define Peyton Manning any more than it does Ben Roethlisberger or Tom Brady or Eli Manning. Let their careers finish before trying to put them in their all-time place.

Pro football's holy trinity of quarterbacks have fallen on hard times. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger don't deserve the criticism and disrespect. If anything, they deserve more respect.

Brady overcame the loss of his three best receiving targets to lead New England back to the AFC title game for the third straight year. But since the loss to Denver, some media experts have begun to question Brady's ability as the Pats' streak of non Lombardi Trophy seasons stretched to nine.

After leading a team from the brink of destruction to one missed field goal from the playoffs, Roethlisberger barely received any Pro Bowl consideration after one of the finest seasons of his career.

Manning is left to defend his legacy after the Broncos dispirited 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Never mind the fact that he led Denver to their first Super Bowl in 15 years less than three years after undergoing four neck surgeries.

This all seems hypocritical.

Super Bowls wins by a quarterback has been what the media has measured a quarterback's greatness over the last few decades, eschewing what people did before the Super Bowl era and that winning that game is a team effort. "He never won a Super Bowl," they said of Dan Marino."We can't compare him to today's guys because he played in the pre-Super Bowl era," they said of Otto Graham.

(Non-related rant: go back and research the great passers in the NFL's first 50 years. Guys like Graham, Sammy Baugh, Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin, and Johny Unitas are often overlooked in the greatest quarterback conversation. Even Bart Starr, the only quarterback to lead a team to three straight NFL titles, is rarely mentioned among the elite.)

So if we're going to play the media's game of evaluating today's quarterbacks, the trio of Brady, Roethlisberger and Manning brothers are still at the top of the heap, in that order. Brady has three rings in five Super Bowl appearances. Big Ben has two rings and three trips to his credit. Eli Manning is 2-0 in the Big Game while Peyton won the first of his three trips.

Don't agree with me? Then I guess you don't agree with today's society. The media tries to turn topics that are gray into black and white. It's easier for them to make bold statements without doing any real research or knowing anything about the game or the intricacies of the position.

The comical part of this is that the media doesn't even follow their own rubric for judging great quarterbacks. If they did, they'd be praising Big Ben much more than they do. It used to be that one ring solidified your place among the all-time greats. I guess that isn't the case anymore.

All you heard last week was that Manning's season was the greatest ever, ignoring what Warner did in '99, what Favre achieved in '96, Young's performance in '94 and so on. After Sunday, do you still want us to believe that Manning's 2013-regular season and playoffs- surpassed Warner, Favre and Young's seasons? The media was too quick to judgement last week, and now, when the question is Manning's legacy, they're too quick to judge again.

Each generation of quarterbacks has their own unique obstacles. Brawshaw, Tarkington, Stabler and Staubach each called their own plays. They also took fierce beatings from defenders that aren't allowed today. But they were also able to play with the same core of players for 5-8 years, sometimes longer. That's why Bradshaw and Montana's record of four Super Bowls won may never be matched.

Any level-headed fan knows that winning a Super Bowl is a team accomplishment; no quarterback has ever willed a less superior team to a Super Bowl victory (although John Elway tried three times in the 80s). Ben got help from the defense in Super Bowl XL. Brady was also aided by his defense and the most clutch kicker in post season history. An opportunistic secondary and running backs Joseph Addai and Dominique Rhodes helped Manning overcome the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. It's takes an entire team to win the big game, just as it takes to whole team to lose it.

I agree that Super Bowl appearances and wins has to mean something. No matter how great a team is, the quarterback more often than not has to do something special during the playoffs or in the Super Bowl to get his team to the top. The "Immaculate Tackle" comes to mind in regards to Big Ben, along with the game-winning drive and throw to Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII (people also seem to forget how well Big Ben played in the '05 playoffs prior to Super Bowl XL).

Manning engineered a comeback for the ages in the '06 AFC Championship game, while Brady seemingly morphed into a clutch passer before our eyes in the closing minute of Super Bowl XXXVI, even though his coach told him to play for overtime. His comeback through a snow flurry  weeks earlier against Oakland wasn't too shabby, either.

Manning didn't play his best Sunday. Ben struggled when the Steelers were 0-4 earlier this year. Brady was ineffective in the AFC Championship game. Roethlisberger and the Steelers bounced back, and so will Brady and Manning. Isn't that what defines legacies, how people handle adversity? If so, the legacy of these three thus far is pretty well in tact.

Portraying President George W Bush, comedian Frank Caliendo was asked about his legacy during a mock interview with David Letterman. He responded: "I don't really know what that means."

Apparently, Manning doesn't know either. He understandably struggled with that question all week. But who knows a person's legacy while they're still writing one?

Maybe instead of trying to define legacies, let's just enjoy watching them play while they're still in uniform.

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