Just like that, and Denver’s Peyton Manning is on the wrong side of the room.
For most of his career, he has been among the most celebrated of quarterbacks. He has the nifty nickname, “The Sheriff.” He has all the records. He has so many comebacks.
Forever, the comparisons to Manning have been lofty. He has been compared to Tom Brady, to Johnny Unitas, to the best the game has to offer. But these days, coming off what statistically was his worst season, Manning is being compared to the less impressive quarterbacks the Super Bowl has had to offer. It’s a sober realization, one that still doesn’t seem right.
Injuries and age have been taking away from Manning, though. He no longer seems to have the zip on the ball. He no longer can wedge it into tight spaces.
He has won only seven games. He has nine touchdown passes to 17 interceptions. He has a rating in the 60s. Those are the numbers you might expect from Trent Dilfer, or from Vince Ferragamo, or from Rex Grossman.
Still, there is a chance.
Len Dawson found one. You might not remember, but Dawson had a brutal season before winning Super Bowl V. He was only 5-2, and he threw nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Yet, he led the Chiefs to a victory.
Joe Namath, for all his bravado, wasn’t very good in 1969. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. But he won one of the most memorable Super Bowls in history against the Colts.
Terry Bradshaw, before he was immortal, was just another guy. He was 5-2 in 1974 and his rating was only 55.2. He threw for only 96 yards in the Steelers’ victory over Minnesota. But he would lead Pittsburgh to four straight titles.
Jeff Hostetler had only two career wins before 1990, when he led the Giants past the favored Bills. Dilfer has been called the worst quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl, but win it he did. Doug Williams didn’t have a win as a starting quarterback (he won three off the bench) for the Redskins before going 3-0 in 1987 and winning MVP honors.
And so it goes.
So who were the worst of the Super Bowl quarterbacks? Well, Rex Grossman had a rating of only 39.3 the year his Bears made it. Ferragamo was at a 49 rating and won only four times during the season.
Here’s the thing, though: with the rule changes, with free agency, with more competitive games, the quarterback has become more and more important for a Super Bowl team. Run-of-the-mill quarterbacks such as Kerry Collins or Mark Rypien don’t make it much anymore.
So, yeah, there is pressure on Manning to play well on Sunday. It’s hard to envision the Broncos winning otherwise.
One last dose of magic.
Does Manning have it in him?