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Ranking the Career Records of Peyton Manning

Barring some truly tragic turn of events, Broncos QB Peyton Manning will break Dan Marino’s career total passing yards record this Sunday versus the Kansas City Chiefs. With 71,836 yards through the air over 14 seasons, Manning stands only 3 measly yards behind the legendary Marino, whose mark once seemed unbeatable when he retired by the end of the last century. Manning already had a chance to break the record in Week 9, but his final pass was intercepted and sealed Denver’s loss in Indianapolis, where Manning initially forged his legend. Instead, Peyton will get the opportunity to do it at home, against a franchise he has obliterated by winning 12 of his 13 starts against it.

This new record will be a welcome addition to the seemingly endless collection of records that the elder Manning holds in NFL annals. While we could chuckle and point out how he leads the world in commercials and endorsements, or try to question his place in history by pointing out his questionable track record in the postseason, it is undeniable that Manning still holds a special position in the evolution of the league. He will retire as a first-ballot, inner-circle Hall of Famer, while many of his records are bound to be unbreakable or at least hold serve for a long time.

As Peyton’s career starts to dwindle and we may be getting to the point of no return, he seems bound to get another shot at the playoffs, and has at least the rest of this season to break more records or pad his stats in the ones he already holds. With his eventual rise to the top of the NFL’s career passing leaderboard, today we take a look at some of the most relevant records held by Manning and rank them according to their importance and impressiveness. Even if some of these records are eventually broken, I bet we will be talking about Manning 20 years from now with the same kind of awe.

#10 – Most 4,000+ Yards Seasons (14)

The quarterback 4,000-yard season is akin to baseball’s 50-homer year, as it passed from a rare, unique feat to a commonplace occurrence (at least in the height of baseball’s PED era). In the old NFL, with a 14-game schedule and bigger emphasis on rushing, only Joe Namath was able to surpass this mark. However, as passing became the norm and the game evolved, 4,000 no longer seemed as elusive. Just in 2012, we saw 11 quarterbacks reach the mark (including Josh Freeman and Matt Schaub!).

Still, there is a lot of value in what Manning has been able to accomplish, especially considering he reached the mark during a stretch of 15 seasons played, while his lowest career mark to date were the 3,739 yards thrown in his rookie season. His current pace of over 2,000 yards in half a season suggests he should be able to add a 15th year to his total, but even then this record could be at least tied in the foreseeable future. With the league trending towards even friendlier passing rules, it should be possible.

#9 - Net Yards per Pass Attempt (7.24)

In this stat, devised by Pro Football Reference, passing yards are adjusted taking into account sacks and the yardage that is lost to them. In many ways, it is best suited for the modern game, as passes are travelling farther through the air and coaches are not shy of calling high volumes of pass plays despite their obvious drawbacks.

Manning’s career mark of yards per attempt stands at 7.24, which is good for 13th all-time. However, this adjusted number places him at the top, while Aaron Rodgers is second at 7.18 net yards per pass. 12 of the top 20 quarterbacks in this statistic are still active, which suggests that Peyton’s mark will be at risk. And yet, it remains an impressive number that correlates well with another record on this list.

#8 - Single Game Passing TD (7)

On the opening week of 2013, Manning had his most prolific day as a pro quarterback, leading the Broncos to a 49-27 win over the Ravens. Peyton was almost unstoppable that day, with 462 yards and a record-tying 7 touchdown passes, with Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Wes Welker each catching two. The final TD came through a 78-yard pass to D. Thomas, and so history was made in what would end up being a season full of records.

Manning shares this mark with seven other QB’s, as it was first achieved by George Blanda in 1961 and most recently by Drew Brees in 2015. Even if Peyton is not alone in this record, it seems unlikely that anyone could throw 8 or more touchdown passes in a single NFL game.

#7 - Most MVP Awards (5)

This record is a bit different, as it is determined by outside voting and thus not completely objective, but even then it seems fair to consider that Manning produced enough to earn as many MVP trophies as he has. With the NFL handing only one such award in a 32-team league, the number of players who have won multiple awards is short, as only eight other players have done it. Manning’s five MVP’s stand well above second place on the list, as Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, and Brett Favre won 3.

The active players who have also earned multiple MVP’s are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but they are long shots to even sniff Manning’s total. This record should be safe for a long, long time.

#6 - Career Passing Touchdowns (539)

This record is both a testament to Manning’s talent and the great receivers he’s had around him, as this record is bound to be almost unbreakable. With 539 passing TD’s, Manning is only one of two players in history with at least 500 (Brett Favre is the other), while Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the closest among active players with “only” 414. His favorite receiver was always Marvin Harrison, with 112 of his touchdown passes, while Reggie Wayne is second with 67.

With at least, presumably, 8 more games on his schedule, Manning could easily finish this season with 550 TD passes.

#5 - Sack Percentage (3.11%)

This record is certainly a bit obscure, but it deserves recognition for Manning’s natural instincts and the unique way in which he has always played quarterback. While it is clear that he’s never been mobile, he has always been able to avoid trouble by releasing the ball on time or audible to launch quick passes when the blitz is coming.

As mentioned before, Manning is the career leader in net yards per pass mostly due to his ability to avoid sacks, and this other record validates that notion. With pass rushers becoming more and more specialized, it is likely that this mark will stand for a long time, as even elite quarterbacks tend to hover around 4 and 5 percent in terms of sack rate. Second place among active players is Drew Brees at 3.95%.

#4 - Comebacks (43)/Game-Winning Drives (54)

Even as Manning is often deemed unable to perform in big spots in the playoffs, his regular-season knack for the dramatic is certainly special. In 2003, he led one of the most shocking comebacks in NFL history, as the Colts rallied from 21 points down with 5 minutes to play in Tampa Bay. That he did it in front of the nation on Monday Night Football made it a bit more special.

With 43 4th-quarter comebacks and 54 game-winning drives, Manning is first by a reasonable margin, with Tom Brady at 36 and 47, respectively. With Brady’s team usually not in need of late-game heroics to seal up games, Manning’s record looks safe for the foreseeable future.

#3 - Approximate Value (269)

Approximate Value is another stat devised by Pro Football Reference, and its purpose is to attach a number for each season for individual players, based on a number of factors and adjusted by era. In many ways, it is similar to baseball’s WAR, as it serves to compare players regardless of when they played and which position they took on the field.

Manning’s number of 269 is 14 points higher than #2 Brett Favre, while his closest active competitor is Brady at 206. By comparison’s sake, Aaron Rodgers stands at 118, which makes sense considering the extended injuries he has sustained. Just by longevity and level of play, this record certainly looks unbreakable or at least very close to it.

#2 - First to Beat 31 Franchises (2007) – Win vs. all 32 Teams

Way back in 2007, Manning became the first quarterback ever to earn a win against 31 different NFL franchises, which was remarkable by itself. Then, on opening week of 2014, he was able to beat his former team, the Colts, to complete the whole NFL cycle and join Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in history with a win against every franchise.

Manning has won 186 of his 264 career starts, and owns a winning record against 24 teams. His only true nemesis have been Tom Brady and the Patriots, against whom he is 6-13. He has more than made it up with complete dominations of the Ravens (9-2), Bengals (8-1), Browns (7-0), Texans (17-3), Chiefs (12-1), Raiders (10-2), and many other teams that have been unable to stop Manning for many years now.

#1 - Single Season TD (55) and Passing Yards (5,477)

Manning’s 2013 season was a thing of beauty from the start, with his 7-TD game being just a preamble for what was to come. On his way to leading the Broncos to a 13-3 mark, Manning threw at least 2 scores in 15 of the season’s 16 games, and threw for 300 or more yards in 11 of these contests. This led Manning to break all relevant quarterback records for a single-season performance, with 55 touchdowns (versus only 10 interceptions), and 5,477 yards.

Manning finished with a 115.1 passer rating for the year, and ultimately led the Broncos to a Super Bowl berth. Even as Denver was infamously blown out by Seattle, that doesn’t take away much from what Manning and his receivers were able to achieve in the regular season. While the yardage mark could fall in an inspired year, the touchdown mark is probably here to stay for a while.

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