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Introducing: Old Manning

This is the first in a multi-part series this week that will seek to answer the question:  What can we expect from Peyton Manning over the next few years?

Everyone knows that over the past six seasons, Manning has won three MVP awards and a Super Bowl.  Now that he’s one of the elder statesmen of the NFL QB club, many have wondered aloud if Manning’s best days might soon be behind him.  No one is expecting a slowdown in 2009, but might we see one not long after?

It’s impossible to know of course, but we can look at the careers of other greats of the game and gain an idea of what 18’s final few seasons might look like.

In order to get a fair sampling, I’ve used the “Similar Players” list on Profootballreference.com as a guide.  I’ve taken some liberties (I took the top 9 that he’s most similar to through 11 seasons, and added Steve Young who is second in similarity to Manning for their careers) in assembling my sampling. The result is a solid class of Hall of Fame quarterbacks comporable to Peyton.

That list is: Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Roger Staubach, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, and John Elway.

Not all these players are the same style of QB as Manning, and not all have played in the same era.  Still, it gives us a baseline to work with.  Over the course of the next few days I’ll examine how these QBs fared after age 33 to see what we can learn about possible future seasons for Mr. Manning.

Today, we’ll start with something easy:

Is it likely that Manning will play in another Super Bowl?

Now obviously, this question has much more to do with the Colts as a team than with the play of just the quarterback, but it still merits investigating if HoF quarterbacks have any history of leading their teams to championship games late in their careers.

The Data:

Player Conference Championship Games Super Bowls
Unitas 3 2
Young 3 1
Montana 3 1
Marino 0 0
Favre 1 0
Moon 0 0
Fouts 0 0
Elway 2 2
Staubach 3 3
Kelly 1


As you can see from this list, 7 of the 10 QBs managed at least a conference championship appearance after their 33rd birthday, and 6 made at least one Super Bowl appearance.  Three of them went to multiple Super Bowls after their 33rd birthdays.

It’s hardly a large sampling, nor is it scientific evidence, I admit, but it is encouraging data.  Should Manning’s career continue to follow a similar path that of the 10 QBs he’s most like, the odds are good that he will make at least one more Super Bowl appearance before he’s done.  At the very least, there is ample evidence that great QBs older than 33 have guided their teams deep into the playoffs before.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the 10 legends and try to project Manning’s quarterback rating arc for the rest of his career.

Note:  This piece will eventually be compiled into a larger article for access via the Articles Sidebar