It's too late for Peyton's legacy to change

It's too late for Peyton's legacy to change
January 17, 2014, 11:45 am

They’ve played 433 regular season games and 46 postseason games between them.
 
Combined, they’ve been in the league 30 seasons.
 
They’ve appeared in seven Super Bowls and been selected to 22 Pro Bowls.
 
Both missed a season due to injury and came back brilliant.
 
In a couple of weeks, they will have seven MVP trophies combined over the past 11 seasons.
 
If you haven’t by now figured out which quarterback you prefer – Tom Brady or Peyton Manning - then take your hand-wringing, navel-gazing, waffling, wavering, indecisive posterior somewhere else you fence-sitting clown.
 
The runup to the AFC Championship has been framed as a referendum on which quarterback will ultimately leave the more storied “legacy” behind.
 
As if you’re going to get more info this Sunday or in two weeks that cements things?
 
You are a Brady guy because of his three Super Bowl wins, five Super Bowl appearances, the 16-0 regular season, his 10-4 record against Manning, his absurd TD-INT ratio, his habit of doing more with less (2001, 2010, 2013) and raising the level of his teammates, his unanimous MVP in 2010 with a bunch of brand new players, his 18-7 playoff record and his ability to rise to the occasion in the biggest games of his career rather than Manning’s habit of shrinking from it.
 
Or you are a Manning guy because of his soon-to-be five MVPs, his record-setting regular-season passing marks, the fact he’s done it with two different franchises, multiple head coaches and with all the responsibility of an offensive coordinator on his shoulders.
 
If you are one or the other you should be entrenched. And, if you try to climb over the ramparts Sunday night and join the other side, you deserve to be shot in the back for desertion (with a Nerf gun . . . no bloodlust here).
 
Sunday’s proceedings are moot when it comes to Brady’s story. That the Patriots are even in the AFC Championship this season given the repurposed Patriots offensive cast is the accomplishment. They had no business expecting to be a game away from the Super Bowl when the season began and when the injuries hit, the proposition was even more unlikely.
 
The Broncos and Manning are right where they were supposed to be in terms of most people’s preseason opinions. It’s maddening for those who tirelessly defend Manning’s supremacy as the greatest quarterback to ever play, but – given the team around him – he’s done nothing out of the ordinary (save for the statistical records) in getting the Broncos to the AFC Championship game.
 
Which makes me wonder what the spin will be if Manning does, for example, erase a deficit in the final minutes, throw a touchdown pass and head for NY/NJ?
 
We’ll be told, I’m sure, that will be the capstone. But would it wipe out a pick in the Super Bowl against the Saints that was returned for a touchdown when Manning was on another “legacy” drive? Seems to me it would be a wash. Or merely a little whipped cream on the not-so-pretty dessert that has been a very disappointing postseason career.
 
With Brady, there are steady reminders that he hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2004. That he led a comeback drive that put the Patriots up 14-10 with 2:43 left in Super Bowl 42 seems pertinent though. As does the fact he hit Randy Moss from 70 yards away in the closing seconds on a pass that could have sent that game to overtime. That Brady threw a Hail Mary that was inches from being caught in Super Bowl 46 seems pertinent too.
 
In the Patriots two Super Bowl losses, Brady wasn’t dead until the clock hit :00. In Manning’s Super Bowl loss, he drove the sword into the Colts’ belly.
 
It’s hard for me to look at Brady-Manning and not think of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
 
The difference between the two rivalries is this: while Bird had the upper hand early with championships and MVPs, Magic caught him then passed him.
 
That can never happen with Manning. It’s too late now. Sunday won’t change anything.