The PFF 101, No. 3: Peyton Manning

A record-breaking season lifts Manning from his seventh spot in the PFF 101 last year to third overall for 2013.

| 3 years ago

The PFF 101, No. 3: Peyton Manning

2013-101-feat-manningThe 2013 season was a fairy tale for Peyton Manning, that is, right up until he ran into the teeth of the wood chipper that was the Seattle Seahawks defense in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Manning’s night was destined for disappointment from the first snap of the game with Manny Ramirez firing the ball wayward as Manning moved to make an adjustment at the line, fumbling the ball away and setting the tone for a miserable encounter. The way that game went, however, shouldn’t overshadow the season that we saw from one of the game’s greatest passers up to that point.

If the season had not ended the way it did we would be talking about unquestionably the greatest season ever from a quarterback. Even with that crushing end there is a pretty good case to be made that it was exactly that.

Manning sat atop the PFF quarterback grading all year, a significant distance clear of the next best passer – Drew Brees. He smashed the single-season touchdown record with 55 passing scores and the league was so focused on that chase that most people missed entirely the fact he put the single-season passing yardage figure even further past the 5,000 barrier, once seen as unbreakable.

Despite those 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns Manning threw just ten interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 115.1 as he executed a master class in how to lead an offense. The Denver Broncos boasted an all-time great unit on offense, scoring a record number of points in the season and managing to get four different receivers into the end zone ten or more times.

To make things even more ridiculous, Manning did all this at the age of 37 — drawing on his years of experience to operate at the peak of his craft at an age when most quarterbacks are breaking down and bowing out.



Best Game: Week 14 vs. Tennessee (+7.5)

Alterraun Verner, the Tennessee corner (at the time) allowed 100+ yards in a game just once in 2013. Want to guess which game?

It was also the only game in which he allowed more than five receptions and one of just two in which he was responsible for giving up a receiving touchdown. In all, Manning lit Verner up for a passer rating of 127.1 throwing into his coverage. In comparison the rest of the league could only post a rating of 44.3 targeting him last season.

Manning led Denver to a 51 point haul on offense, passing for four scores, no interceptions and almost 400 yards as he methodically picked apart a capable defense as if they weren’t even there. This was the Manning master class in full session, and quarterback play doesn’t get a whole lot better.

Take a look at this throw as an example of the kind of play he was making. Nobody will confuse Manning’s arm for a howitzer anymore, but he read this play perfectly and led his receiver to the ball between a pair of defenders for a touchdown.


Key Stat: All-time best 55 passing touchdowns

Manning scored at a prolific rate last season. He not only broke the single-season passing mark, but the Broncos broke the single-season team mark as well. This may well have been the best offense we have ever seen in the NFL and it was largely down to Manning pulling the strings. At this stage in his career Manning’s arm is adequate at best, his athleticism is minimal, and when he does take a hit it is starting to leave a lasting mark.

If he was a prospect coming into the league his physical tools would be derided, but his mental faculties are off the charts. He keeps the ball in his hands less than just about any other quarterback, averaging less time to throw than anyone else in football in 2013, and has the ability to paper over cracks in his pass protection.

It is no coincidence that Manning’s arrival corresponds to a jump in grade for his offensive linemen, because he has the ability to sense when they are in trouble and get rid of the football before that ever becomes pressure.

Manning’s season ended in defeat in the Super Bowl, but that shouldn’t take away from his season or add to the myth that he can’t get it done on the biggest stage. The bottom line is that the Seahawks were just tailored perfectly to derail that Denver offense, and nothing Manning could do would change that.

Manning rightfully earned his spot at No. 3 in the PFF Top 101.


101–91  |  90–81  |  80-71
70–61  |  60–51  |  
40–31  |  30–21  |  20–11

10. Marshawn Lynch, SEA
9. Andrew Whitworth, CIN
8. Lesean McCoy, PHI
7. Evan Mathis, PHI
6. Richard Sherman, SEA

5. Lavonte David, TB
4. Gerald McCoy
3. Peyton Manning, DEN


Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam 

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Jrue Holliday

    Denver would have lost the Super Bowl no matter who was playing QB. If you disagree, rewatch the game one play at a time. Football is about so much more than just QB play, and that game proved it. The most complete team wins, not the one with the best QB.

  • Tyler

    Hard to feel underrated when coming in at #3 but how is Manning not #1? He rewrote the record books for the most difficult position in the NFL and still isn’t considered the best player for that season? Seems off to me.

    • Jrue Holliday

      It’s all positions equal. Much of what JJ Watt did is not quantifiable to put in record books, but it shows up on game film. Can’t give Manning the upper hand just for the position he plays if it’s all positions equal. If there were an agreed-upon method for quantifying what Watt has done, he’d be rewriting record books as well

      • Tyler

        Would he? He is the best of the PFF era but that doesn’t go back too far. Seems like there are some former defensive greats who would disagree. Unlike the records Manning and the Broncos offense beat/destroyed (depending on which record).

      • SammyDEEEEEE

        The issue I have with this is that all positions are not created equal. Quarterback is maybe the most important position in all of sport. Watt is great, there’s no doubt about that, and his combo of size and ability is unprecedented. But so is 55 touchdowns. And 55 touchdowns puts points on the board.

    • Christopher

      I would hope they’d look at the postseason. Granted, Watt didn’t get in, but a QB gets his team to the postseason more than a DL does. Also, once there, the QB can determine success…& Manning once again, god bless ’em, choked a bit in the Super Bowl. Those INTs at key points were costly. Manning is a top-5 (top-3?) QB all time, but he won a Super Bowl against Rex Grossman, & that’s it.

      • anon76returns

        Interceptions at key points?
        He got hit on the arm while trying to throw to DT. It was the first (and possibly only) time DT beat the coverage- he was behind Sherman and E. Thomas took too shallow of an angle to catch up. Had Manning not been hit on the arm it most likely would have been a 7-15 game at that point. Not really his fault his RT got shoved into his lap on that play.

  • EliandPeytonSuck

    Peyton Manning Isn’t #3 if Tom Brady is only #90 it isn’t a real list it was someone wanted to put Manning top 5 because they’re Peyton Manning fan boys. Skills as a QB aside there is no way that no legs manning is a whole 87 places higher than Brady jst with athletic ability Manning obviously is not held to the same bar as other QBs anymore and is given sch forgiveness for the Super bowl he’ll never ever win again. Tom will be remembered forever as better than Peyton, the Super bowl rings cont for more than just a regular season of giving the ball for his Receivers to AC him into the record books. Oh and Tom Brady EARNED his 3 instead of letting a great running back hand Manning his only 1.

    • Tyler

      As opposed to NE’s defense handing Brady his? How many SB’s had Brady won since offense was the focal point of that team? The answer is zero. Nice try troll

    • Joe

      You couldn’t possibly get any dumber and still be able to use a computer.

    • Jrue Holliday

      Is it possible that there’s more to winning a football game than quarterback play? The gap from 90 to 3 isn’t as big as it seems. They are 2 different players, both all-time greats, who do things differently. The throw in the above article is a perfect example for neither being better, just different. That throw is one that Brady wouldn’t even attempt. I’m not saying he wouldn’t be able to complete it if he had to, I’m only saying that he wouldn’t even attempt it since there’s a chance at an interception. Both players operate differently. Just because the media attaches wins and losses to quarterbacks, that doesn’t mean it’s the intelligent way to evaluate them. If you want to compare quarterbacks (or any position), watch the film. In the case of Manning vs Brady, they both do different things well for there to not be a clear advantage for either.

    • Jesse

      lmaoooo yeah. Joseph Addai, what a great RB. His rookie year. Classic. Let’s not even talk about Adam Vinatieri, I guess

    • chillermonster

      You obviously did not watch much football last season. Brady is a great QB, but he had a very down year while Manning re-wrote the record book. The rankings are pretty damn dead on. You keep on hatin’ with your ignorance though.

    • Dude

      I vote you for the dumbest person to ever connect to the internet.