DENVER (AP) – Peyton Manning shrugged off the question about the meaningfulness of inevitably breaking Brett Favre’s NFL record for touchdown passes.
Deep down, though, the only man to win five MVP awards must recognize what an achievement it is.
Next Sunday against San Francisco, or perhaps the following Thursday against San Diego, Manning will surpass Favre’s 508 regular-season TD throws. Manning is two shy after throwing for three scores in a 31-17 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
“I don’t know if any of them are big for me, necessarily, especially in the middle of the season,” Manning said. “We’re trying to win football games. It’s tough. It’s a tough schedule. That’s all I’m thinking about, trying to find a way to win the game.
“If Ronnie (Hillman) wants to run for four touchdowns next week, I’m in favor of that.”
It’s not that Manning doesn’t care about owning these records – and when he is through in the NFL, he might own all of the passing marks. He certainly covets all of those Associated Press Most Valuable Player honors, possessing two more than Favre, the next most frequent winner.
And when he threw for an almost unimaginable 55 touchdowns last season, the massiveness of the accomplishment wasn’t lost on him.
This upcoming record puts him in the category of Barry Bonds – or if you prefer, given the way Bonds’ career accomplishments are muddled, Hank Aaron.
“I think it is a measure of ultimately how productive he is,” said Bill Polian, the man who drafted Manning back in 1998 in Indianapolis and watched him develop into perhaps the greatest of all passers.
“That is the sort of No. 1 task of a quarterback, especially in this day and age, so it is very meaningful. It’s a little like the home run record.”
Manning has been hitting `em out of the park – well, throwing them into the end zone – with incredible regularity since missing 2011 because of several neck surgeries. His work in Denver has been even more impressive given how questionable any comeback was when the Broncos signed him after Indianapolis released him in early 2012.
Two of his three highest passer ratings have come as a Bronco; only in his original record-setting season of 2004 did he rate higher with the Colts.
Manning averaged 46 TD passes in his first two Denver seasons; he averaged just under 24 in Indy. Two of his three highest completion percentages have come as a Bronco; same things for yards passing.
Polian doesn’t see too many adjustments that Manning has been forced to make in Denver.
“He looks to me very much like the quarterback I knew,” said Polian, now an analyst for SiriusXM NFL Radio and for ESPN. “The arm isn’t what it was, but it happens to every quarterback. I don’t think there’s much difference from Peyton in Indianapolis before the injury; his timing still is exquisite.”
It sure is: Denver hosts San Francisco on Sunday night, so Manning can grab the record in prime time. The NFL and NBC have to love that for the ratings it will bring.
Football fans haven’t lost any desire to watch this 38-year-old quarterback. Favre is the standard for longevity – sure, George Blanda played until he was 48, but the last nine seasons were mostly as a kicker; Vinny Testaverde lasted until he was 44, but in a journeyman sort of way. Manning remains at the top of his game, performing at a level few reach in any sport.
To Polian, what Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees still can do is entertaining, educational, and rare.
“They have seen everything that anyone can throw at them,” Polian said. There’s no new wrinkle a defensive coordinator can throw at them, even including terrifically creative guys like Rex Ryan. You are not going to fool them. Peyton and those guys can go back into their memory bank and see where they faced it, and they do just that.
“All of them are exceptionally intelligent and diligent. That long experience gives them an advantage in that it is impossible to fool them.
“One other thing all great quarterbacks have to a greater degree than most – and Peyton may be the best of all – they can manipulate defenses. Only the great ones can. With their eyes, their motions, looking people off, going through progressions, they are trying to make the defense react in a certain away. And they do very frequently. That is a huge advantage for those guys.”
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– By BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
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