Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Perception Is Reality: Why The Myth Of Manning's Playoff Failures Isn't True

Jason Whitlock, a sometimes reporter for and most-time shill for his particular loves in life (Donovan McNabb, Jeff George, Younger Women, preferably strippers), last week wrote a column about Peyton Manning. The gist is that Manning needs to win another Super Bowl or he won't retire as "the greatest quarterback of all time."

He admits that by the time Manning retires he will own every meaningful QB record in NFL history. He admits that yes, Manning is the only person to ever win 4 MVPs in NFL history. And yes, Manning has already won a Super Bowl.

But apparently that isn’t good enough. He then goes on to cherrypick stats to show that Manning doesn’t have an “ability to execute efficiently when pressure is the highest.” Whitlock never puts these statistics into context. He complete ignores the teams Manning played on and how good (or bad) those team’s defenses were. He ignores the fact that the Colts haven’t had a running game in 3 years or that Manning is basically the team’s offensive coordinator, surveying the defense and calling the play off of what he sees. Or that Manning was poised to go undefeated this season while breaking in 2 rookie receivers for over 100 catches total. (Garcon played about 9 minutes last year; he’s basically a rookie.) None of that is important I guess.

No Whitlock is sticking with the argument that Manning isn't a clutch QB. This despite the fact that in Manning’s career, he has had 35 4th quarter comebacks and 44 game-winning drives. Tom Brady, who Whitlock puts on the first tier of “high-pressure-performing QBs," has had 21 4th quarter comebacks and 29 game-winning drives. Montana had 31 4th quarter comebacks and 33 game winning drives. Brett Favre—who, mind you has just one Super Bowl ring as well—has 30 4th quarter comebacks and 44 game-winning drives, despite playing 816 more years at QB than Manning.

No matter. Perception is reality, and nowhere more so than in sports and since the perception of Manning is that he isn't a big game quarterback, Whitlock regurgatates the case that he isn’t. He recites the tired argument that (at the time of his writing) Manning’s postseason record was 7-8, ignoring the fact that the majority of those performances came before 2005 and that Manning is 4-2 (not including this season) in his last 6 playoff games, the same record as Brady, and has won a Super Bowl. He also ignores the fact that in those 2 recent playoff losses, Manning’s QB rating averages out to 94.05 and Manning went 58 for 86 (a 67.4 completion percentage). In those two losses, his running backs, despite the well-executed passing offense, ran for 110 yards on 40 carries.

This is not to overly praise Manning or to knock Brady, Montana or anyone else. This is to ask—why the perception of Manning not executing in big games? Is it just because since college, Manning has had that tag stuck to his back, and that nothing he can do will shake it? I mean, Manning has a higher QB rating than Tom Brady, Brett Favre or John Elway in playoff games, yet he is not a big game QB? His playoff completion rating is higher than all those guys and is percentage points behind Joe Montana, but he still doesn't come up big in playoffs?

Now yes, Brady won three Super Bowl rings. But can anybody tell me that the Colts defense of the 2000s compared in any way to the Belichek-led Patriots defenses? Or that the 49ers of the 80s didn’t have some of the most complete teams in NFL history? (I mean Steve Young was a backup fer crissakes.) Montana’s 4 teams that won Super Bowls—their defenses ranked 2nd, 1st, 8th and 3rd in those years. To contrast, the Colts team that won the Super Bowl...their defense was ranked 23rd that season.

I guess we shouldn’t be shocked, though, at the Whitlock article. Whitlock always sticks to his core tenets no matter the reality. For instance, in the next segment of his article, what does he do...he defends Donovan McNabb. Whitlock blames Andy Reid for the Eagles’ failure in the playoffs and vehemently defends Donovan McNabb. Donovan, by the way, went 19 for 37 in the playoff game against the Cowboys. Again, no matter what the truth is, Whitlock's attacks the man who has won a Super Bowl and has performed comparably with the greats of the game and defends the guy who has no ring and laid an egg in this year’s playoff.

Again, we shouldn’t be shocked by a guy who implied back in 2006 that steroids were painted by the media as a “black” or “foreigner” problem, but not an issue for whites. Who, when the media crucified Roger Clemens, wrote:
The leaders of the Barry Bonds witch-hunt need Clemens. In order to prove their lack of bias and agenda, they must tie and burn Clemens at the same stake they used to roast Barry the last five years.
Who said it was “shameful” that Andy Reid (remember, Whitlock decided he was bad) was coaching the Eagles after his sons got busted on drug charges.
But let me tell you what’s most troubling about all of this: Andy Reid’s cowardice and the fact that we’re letting him get away with it.
But when Tony Dungy’s son was busted for drugs and for writing racist things on the Internet, what did Whitlock say?
I respect and appreciate everything that Dungy stands for. He’s good for the game and a terrific role model.
Did Whitlock ever call out Dungy for his son's drug use, his racism? (Of course, before Dungy's son committed suicide—I, of course am not asking Whitlock to blaspheme the tragic death of his son.) Did Whitlock call out Dungy for associating himself with the Indiana Family Alliance, which advocates making Gay Marriage illegal in Indiana?

Of course not. Whitlock makes his mind up on someone first and writes articles to fulfill his vision ever after. And that's the point. The point is not to think. To never think. The point is to take a rumor, a once-truth, a joke, a nugget of data found on the web—and to place it firmly in your mind as Truth. And to regurgitate as needed.

And that's what all those reporters and talking heads—have done. It's what Whitlock has done. He's already made his mind up about Peyton Manning—a while ago. And he's stuck with it ever since. Otherwise, why would he write this about Manning's performance against the Ravens:
"Indianapolis's offense was far from sharp. Peyton Manning missed several throws.”
Manning went 30 for 44—a 68.5 completion percentage. He had 2 TD passes.


Pete S said...

You are right about Manning. His "can't win the big one" reputation started at Tennessee, who could not beat Florida while Manning was there. Oh yeah, he was 39-6 in college.

As for his play-off career, can anyone deny that the Patriots were a juggernaut that nobody was going to beat for a few years? How about those Steelers defenses? Unbelievable.

He has never played poorly against a less than stellar defense in his play-off career, and the Colts recent play-off losses were despite his high level of play. Give the guys props...he's an All Time Great.

Nick Charles Whitman said...

"But can anybody tell me that the Colts defense of the 2000s compared in any way to the Belichek-led Patriots defenses?"

Can anybody tell me that Brady's ragtag receivers from those championship seasons compared in any way to Manning's precious, highly paid receiver corps?

Also, Manning never would have broken Marino's record if the Colts hadn't whined and moaned about the Pats stifling Manning and his receivers in the AFC Championship.

He loses ENORMOUS points for that, IMO. Oh, and what happened when Tom Brady got two top-flight receivers in Randy Moss and Wes Welker? He broke Manning's TD record.