That’s what some of the humanitarians on ESPN were suggesting before the Colts’ charter back to Indianapolis and a heroes’ welcome had even left Miami. I’m sure they’re not alone.
These are the same people who keep saying that if Dan Marino, whose records Manning is on his way to breaking, lacked only a Super Bowl ring to validate his own career. Just one ring, they say. It would make all the difference, they say. Put him up there with Montana and Bradshaw and the other all-time greats. Just one.
I’ve said that, too, about Marino, who got to just one Super Bowl early in his career and never got back, just as I said it about Elway before he won his ring. A championship does mean a lot to a quarterback’s career. It’s like that for a great basketball center and a great hockey scorer. These are the players we demand such things of, because they are the ones who have the greatest ability to lift a team to a title seemingly all by themselves.
It’s not totally fair, because even the greatest players need supporting casts. But that’s what we demand, so when the Knicks get to the Finals twice and don’t win, Patrick Ewing gets blamed. And when the Dolphins get to the Super Bowl and don’t win, Marino gets blamed.
If you want to say two or three more will add to his greatness, that’s fine. It’s also obvious. But Manning already is the best passer anyone has ever seen, and he has his ring. He got to the big game and won it.
You’d have a point, but you’d also be missing how Manning managed the game against a tough Bears defense. The one time the Bears blew a coverage on a blitz, Manning avoided a ferocious rush, found Reggie Wayne all alone behind the secondary and delivered the long ball for a touchdown.
He showed extraordinary patience, taking the short passes the Bears gave him and handing off to Addai and Rhodes, happy to direct long, clock-eating drives and settle for field goals instead of the big-play drives that have so characterized the Colts’ explosive offense. Ron Rivera, the Bears’ defensive coordinator, said he was surprised at Manning’s patience.
A lot of observers should have been, too. It was crucial, keeping the Bears defense on the field and wearing it down and keeping the Chicago offense off the field, preventing it from finding any rhythm.
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