Does Peyton Manning’s legacy depend on the 2013 NFL season?

Since being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, I have been a huge Peyton Manning fan. Hell, I even named my dog after him. For 14 years, I donned my No. 18 jersey every Sunday from September to February, anxiously watching – in my opinion – the best quarterback ever to play the game attempt to lead my team to the promised land.

Peyton ManningWith Manning now entering his second year with the Denver Broncos, I have had a chance to look at things in a slightly different perspective.

Coming in to the 2013 season, Manning has amassed some breathtaking stats: nearly 60,000 yards, 436 touchdowns to only 209 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 95.7 on the way to a 154-70 regular season record.

But now, entering the twilight of his career, wearing another jersey, representing a team and city he torched so many times in his days with the Colts, questions loom about the legacy of the man with the laser rocket arm.

Despite his amazing regular season record, Manning’s 9-11 postseason record – seven of those nine wins coming from the two years in which he led the Colts to the Super Bowl – has brought serious questions as to whether or not he can truly be considered one of, if not the, greatest quarterback of all-time. As a matter of fact, his dismal record in the playoffs has some people not even listing him among the top 10 signal-callers of all-time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe Manning is one of the greatest gunslingers to line up under center, but even as a die-hard Manning fan, I find myself questioning what his legacy will truly be. This season, oddly enough, he finds himself in a defining year of his career as we find ourselves less than two weeks away from the 2013 NFL regular season.

His weapons on offense rival the days when he had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Edgerrin James, and all of the other players who made Pro Bowl careers out of catching passes from No. 18. Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has speed, agility and a nose for the ball. When healthy, fellow wideout Eric Decker is a solid veteran who has the ability to make big plays. And the final piece of the receiving puzzle is Wes Welker (a man that Manning watched his rival Tom Brady throw to more than any other receiver in the NFL) is now catching passes from Manning.

Where the big difference for Manning lies this year is on the other side of the ball. With a roster of hard hitting defenders like Von Miller, the Broncos defense may just be the best defense he has ever had on his side.

Super Bowl or bust? I think so. One may go as far as saying that not only do the Broncos need to make it to the Super Bowl, but they must win in order to protect the legacy of one of the league’s best regular season signal-callers.

Peyton Manning may be the best regular season quarterback of all-time, and there’s no doubt he will have his bust enshrined in Canton on the first ballot. But without another Super Bowl ring, or with another early playoff departure, is Manning’s legacy tainted?

I leave this for you to discuss:
• What is Manning’s legacy?
• What do this year’s results for the Broncos do to help or hurt Manning?
• Does anything short of a Super Bowl diminish all of the other accomplishments Manning has made?
• Where do you rank No. 18 in the all-time list of quarterbacks?

Follow Myles B. on twitter: @djMylesB
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