By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The one-line summation of Peyton Manning's Hall of Fame career typically comes across one of two ways, depending largely on where the conversation is taking place.
The statement is either "He does have a Super Bowl title" or it's "He only has one Super Bowl title."
It's a specious endeavor, summing up an entire career based solely on championships in a constantly chaotic sport in which wins can be decided by skill and execution but where so, so much is decided by chance and fortune. But we are sometimes simple people needing simple answers, and so we speak in simplicities. One title. No good. He bad.
Really, the idea that a quarterback wins a title is not generally the best measure. Certainly, the 2007 version of Tom Brady was a much better quarterback than the 2001 version of Tom Brady. 2007 Brady threw for 50 touchdowns and 4,800 yards; 2001 Brady threw for just 18 TDs and 2,843 yards. Both quarterbacks reached the Super Bowl, with the '07 version throwing for 266 yards and a touchdown; '01 Brady only threw for 145 yards and a touchdown.
In fact, both quarterbacks delivered go-ahead drives in the final minutes of those Super Bowls, and '07 Brady even capped it off with a touchdown, whereas '01 Brady relied on a 48-yard field goal to win the game.
The difference, of course, is that the defense for '07 Brady didn't hold the lead. So 2007 Brady didn't win a title; 2001 Brady did.
This is all to say that a quarterback's winning a title does not necessarily mean that greatness took place.
With that in mind, the question is raised: Is Peyton Manning the worst quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl?
No -- not in that way. Manning is the most prolific passer of all time. He is the all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and single-season passing touchdowns. He's set records that will likely stand for some time. He is a historically great quarterback.
But -- but! -- this is an exercise in which we examine exactly how a Super Bowl-winning quarterback performed during that particular postseason, and for Peyton Manning, it is just not a pretty picture.
In the 2006 postseason, Manning completed 97 of 153 passes (63.4 percent), averaging 259 yards per game while throwing three touchdowns and seven interceptions.
That's not very good.
In fact, it's quite bad.
But how bad? Is it the worst Super Bowl-winning performance in history?
The reflexive answer to that question tends to always be Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson. It could be Jeff Hostetler or Jim Plunkett, depending on the age of the person answering, or it could be Joe Namath or even Terry Bradshaw, depending on the football knowledge of the opining party.
So who is the worst? Let's look solely at passer rating, a stat that may have its individual flaws but can generally paint a fairly accurate picture of a quarterback's performance. Here all of the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks who recorded passer ratings of 100 or below during their postseason runs.
- Terry Bradshaw, 1975, 68.4
- Peyton Manning, 2006, 70.5
- Joe Namath, 1968, 74.2
- Johnny Unitas, 1970, 76.3
- Tom Brady, 2001, 77.3
- Brad Johnson, 2002, 79.9
- Len Dawson, 1969, 80.8
- Trent Dilfer, 2000, 83.7
- John Elway, 1997, 83.9
- Tom Brady, 2003, 84.5
- Jim Plunkett, 1983, 85.3
- John Elway, 1998, 85.9
- Bob Griese, 1973, 86.2
- Roger Staubach, 1977, 88.3
- Joe Montana, 1984, 89.8
- Mark Rypien, 1991, 91.2
- Ben Roethlisberger, 2008, 91.6
- Jeff Hostetler, 1990, 92.5
- Doug Williams, 1987, 93.7
- Joe Montana, 1981, 94.3
- Terry Bradshaw, 1974, 94.9
- Bob Griese, 1972, 95.3
- Jim Plunkett, 1980, 96.2
- Terry Bradshaw, 1979, 98.5
- Roger Staubach, 1971, 98.6
- Kurt Warner, 1999, 100.0
As you can see, Peyton Manning's 2006 postseason was the second-worst playoff performance to result in a Super Bowl win in history. The No. 1 distinction belongs to Terry Bradshaw's 1975 playoff run.
Yet, Terry Bradshaw is not the worst quarterback to win a Super Bowl, because Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls. In those other postseason runs, he recorded passer ratings of 94.9, 104.1, and 98.5. And in that not-so-pretty 1975 run, he threw three touchdowns and five interceptions. Manning, you'll remember, threw three touchdowns and seven interceptions in the 2006 postseason.
Some other quirks in the research:
--Troy Aikman was a stud. In his three postseason runs to the Super Bowl, he had passer ratings of 126.4, 104.0, and 106.1. Stud.
--Tom Brady has two postseasons on the lower end of the list (2001, 77.3; 2003, 84.5). But he also has two rather strong postseasons, recording a 109.4 rating in 2004 and a 100.3 rating in 2014.
--Peyton isn't even the best Manning to win a Super Bowl. Eli Manning had ratings of 95.7 in 2007 and 103.3 in 2011.
--Phil Simms lit it up in the '86 playoffs, as evidenced by his 131.8 rating. He had eight touchdowns and zero picks.
--Joe Montana, as you know, was ridiculous. He posted a modest 94.3 rating in his playoff debut in 1981, and on seven touchdowns and five interceptions in 1984, he had an 89.8 rating. But in his early 30s, Montana was money, posting a 117.0 rating in the '88 playoffs before a ridiculous 146.4 rating in the '89 playoffs. He had 11 touchdowns and zero picks that year, which coincidentally matches his Super Bowl stats.
--Every time I thought I had a QB who would be worse than Manning, I was wrong. Jim McMahon -- 106.6. Ben Roethlisberger -- 101.7 and 91.6. Joe Theismann -- 110.7. Even Bart Starr managed to put up ratings of 102.7 and 135.6 in an era where passing wasn't what it is today.
--Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, obviously, meet this weekend, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Brady posted a 103.5 rating last week; Manning had a 74.4 rating. In the NFC, Carson Palmer has a 92.4 rating, while Cam Newton had a 108.3 rating last week.
--Rex Grossman posted a higher passer rating than Peyton Manning in the 2006 postseason.
Sure, there might be some other ways to measure this, but passer rating is generally recognized as an easy, all-in-one, all-encompassing measure of how a quarterback performed over a given period. And in the Colts' 2006 postseason, Manning was dreadful. Even ESPN's wonky QBR couldn't save him, as evidenced by his 54.5 QBR that winter.
So, there it is. Facts are facts. Peyton Manning is the worst Super Bowl-winning quarterback of all time. Facts only.
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