In 13 seasons as a starter, he has completed 4,781 regular-season passes to 73 different players. A hard worker who demands hard work, Manning’s methods have lifted receivers to their best years.
9:36PM EST October 2. 2012 – DENVER — Even after four neck surgeries and a full season of not playing football and all the questions about whether a 36-year-old, rebuilt, rusty Peyton Manning was still an NFL difference-maker…
He was already making a difference.
Shortly after he signed a free-agent contract last spring to replace Tim Tebow at quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Manning was on the phone recruiting veteran tight end Joel Dreessen, a free agent who was on the verge of re-signing with the Houston Texans.
“If he hadn’t signed here, I’d probably have stayed in Houston,” Dreessen says. “It’s no secret that whoever he plays with, he makes them better.”
Then Manning was calling all the players in the Broncos passing game and organizing unofficial workouts on Denver high school fields. It took young wide receiver Eric Decker about a half-second to agree to whatever, whenever.
“It was like summer school — I mean, it doesn’t really count,” Decker says.
“But you showed up because you knew you had to be there.”
Once training camp arrived, Manning demonstrated to his new teammates that his reputation for an unwavering work ethic was well-earned, and that he expected no less from them.
“If you don’t put the work in, you won’t be playing for Peyton for long,” says veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who played with Manning in Indianapolis and has reunited with him this season on the Broncos.
Give Manning a few months with a team, and it’s no surprise he can put together the kind of passing game he and the Broncos had against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, when Manning completed 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-6 victory.
Give him 13 years as the starter with a team, like he had with the Indianapolis Colts, and he can make them consistent title contenders. With the Colts, Manning played in two Super Bowls, winning one, and was named the NFL’s MVP four times.
He ranks third in career NFL passing yardage behind Brett Favre and Dan Marino.
Manning, who on Sunday will lead the Broncos (2-2) against Tom Brady and the Patriots (2-2) at New England, has done more than enough to assure his future enshrinement in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Along the way, for the wide receivers and tight ends who caught his spirals as well as his occasional wobblers and also adapted to his frenetic traffic-cop routine of changing plays at the line of scrimmage, Manning improved their careers and lives in innumerable ways, padding their statistics and their bank accounts, enhancing their understanding of the game — and winning.
Manning’s overall record as a starter in regular-season games is 143-69, and almost 20% of his losses came in his rookie year (3-13 in 1998). He has completed 4,781 regular-season passes to 73 different players. His targets have included sleek first-round draft picks from major college teams who look like they could be Olympic sprinters (hello Reggie Wayne), but also mid-rounders from small-time schools who look like they could be selling motor oil at AutoZone (hello Brandon Stokley).
Manning ‘just a winner’
How much credit does Manning deserve for the five-year, $42.5-million contract former Indianapolis wide receiver Pierre Garcon signed with the Washington Redskins before this season?