Peyton Manning threw four more touchdown passes Sunday, giving him 35 in just 10 games this season. He is, of course, on pace to shatter the single-season record for touchdown passes (48) and the football world is agape in wild wonder.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts are no less impressed. We answer only to the harsh, inalterable reality of raw numbers and Manning's performance this regular season is nothing less than impressive.
But the Cold, Hard Football Facts have rarely come down in favor of Manning and, in light of his performance this season, our critics are getting a little vocal. They want to know how we can continue to label Manning a Fraud. Well, it's quite easy.
1) Until Manning performs like this – or even close to this – in the postseason he will continue to be one of the most notorious choke artists in NFL history. People say Manning hasn't won in the playoffs because of his defense. The truth is that only once in Manning's four playoff losses (in six games) has his defense surrendered more than 24 points. In those same four games, Manning has posted passer ratings of 60.9, 82.0, 31.2, and 35.5 and put up 16, 17, 0 and 14 points (11.75 per game) respectively. That's a far cry from the 100-plus ratings and 30 points per game he's generated over the past two regular seasons. Manning's record-breaking season will be meaningless if he coughs up another sub-40 passer rating in a 20-10 postseason loss. Our money, and history, is on the side of another postseason collapse.
2) Manning's pedigree has given him a longer leash and a bigger reputation than he's ever deserved. In Manning's rookie year he tossed 28 INTs and even in his fourth year in the league he threw for 23 INTs (to just 26 TDs) – all while being surrounded by a bevy of Pro Bowl talent. And only once before this year did Manning throw more than 30 TD passes in a season. Yet "pundits" have called him an elite quarterback from the very beginning. But it was not until 2003, Manning's sixth season in the league, when his performances finally caught up to his reputation. Several quarterbacks around the league (the name Tom Brady comes to mind) have posted better passing statistics in their first five years in the league without earning the same fawning praise for their passing ability from the "pundits." Some of these quarterbacks (Brady) have also performed better in the postseason.
3) Finally, the Cold, Hard Football Facts find it more than coincidence that Peyton Manning rules the NFL the season after the NFL instituted the Peyton Manning Rules. Manning's 2003 season came to an inglorious end, of course, when he spit a ball of cat hair out of his throat with four interceptions in a 24-14 loss to New England in the AFC title game. No sooner had the game ended that Indy management cried "foul" and declared that they lost because Manning's receivers had been roughed up during the game. (Forget the fact that Manning has lost to the Patriots five times in five attempts.) Apparently, Indy management wanted a kinder, gentler NFL. In other words, they wanted an NFL that's more amenable to a softball like Manning. The league wilted like Manning in a postseason game and acquiesced to these demands. It dictated to NFL officials that they crack down on defensive backs and call more pass-defense penalties (holding, illegal contact, pass interference). Manning, of course, has been a primary beneficiary. His opponents this year have been called for costly pass-defense penalties an average of twice per game.
Elsewhere in Fraudland, things are not going so well for Dallas coach Bill Parcells. The Cowboys are 3-7 following Sunday's pathetic 30-10 loss to Baltimore. The Cold, Hard Football Facts say it's finally time to tie a cinder block to the Parcells' legend and throw it overboard.
Parcells last won a Super Bowl in 1990, yet this Fraud is still treated by his legion of lemmings like the second-coming of Vince Lombardi. Sorry lemmings, but Parcells is no Lombardi. In fact, he's no Weeb Ewbank, either. Ewbank won three NFL titles and did it with two different teams in glorious fashion. He was the coach of the Baltimore Colts when they won the 1958 NFL title game, the first overtime game in league history and touted by many as the greatest game ever played. He and the Colts won the NFL title the following season, too. Ewbank also coached the 1968 New York Jets, who beat the Colts in Super Bowl III, widely believed to be the biggest upset in NFL history.
Since his last championship, Parcells is just 3-4 in the playoffs. His fraudulence should have been clear for all to see in 1996 when, as New England's coach, he scuttled his team the week of the Super Bowl because he had an axe to grind with the owner. A decent human being, let alone a "great" coach, would have sucked it up for another week. Instead, Parcells sold out an entire organization days before the biggest game in its history because his pride had been wounded. He sold out his legend that day, too. A third title would have been irrefutable evidence of Parcellian greatness. Instead, he chose to inflict a disfiguring wound on his overinflated career. Parcells has one other shining moment of "glory" since 1990: leading the New York Jets to a 23-10 loss to Denver in the 1998 AFC title game. Not exactly the stuff of legend.
The modern NFL, meanwhile, is filled with active coaches who have better career records than Parcells: Joe Gibbs, Dennis Green, Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, and Andy Reid, just to name those with multiple years of coaching experience. Two of those coaches – Shanahan and Belichick – have won as many Super Bowls as Parcells. Both have done it more recently. Gibbs, of course, has won three Super Bowls. And before you rush to Parcells' defense, consider this: Gibbs was out of football for 12 years. Even he's won a Super Bowl more recently than Parcells.
Parcells is certainly an entertaining personality. But like Peyton Manning's pedigree, Bill Parcells' personality has earned him more credits than he deserved. Ker-plunk! The Parcells legend is sinking fast.