Editor's note: Our two-week series, "The Best," looks at the NFL's best in a number of key categories.
The Best: Quarterback
Jeffri Chadiha: Peyton Manning, QB, Colts
He edges Tom Brady because he finally has a Super Bowl ring. Manning runs the Colts' high-powered offense with stunning efficiency and he's blessed with an impressive combination of both intelligence and instincts. And as good as he is, he has a strong work ethic that enables him to stay at the top of his game year in and year out. His critics knock his poise when he faces heavy pressure but that's really the only bad thing you can say about the guy.
John Clayton: Manning
The Peyton Manning-Tom Brady debate wages on now just like the Joe Montana-Dan Marino quarterback debate raged in the 1980s. Montana won out against Marino because of the Super Bowl titles. While Brady still has the edge in Super Bowl titles (3 to 1), Manning made a huge step this past season, winning his first title. While Brady was winning his three Super Bowls, Manning struggled to find a way to beat Bill Belichick's defense. But over the past two years, Manning has figured out how to beat the Patriots, leading the Colts to three straight wins over their AFC rivals.
Merril Hoge: Manning
The best quarterback in the league is Peyton Manning. There are other quarterbacks in the league who possess his mental and physical toughness. There are quarterbacks in the league who have an arm as strong or stronger than his. But there is no quarterback in the league who combines those talents the way Manning does.
His knowledge of the game has been covered ad nauseam. He's a film room rat who knows everything the defense is going to do and everything his offense is capable of doing. But it's his passion to be great that stands out to me. Manning has practiced to be a great NFL quarterback since he was in short pants. I'm not talking about practicing to be just an NFL quarterback, but a great one. He knew growing up that every moment in the film room and weight room put him that much closer to being a great player. Now he's reached that mark and he's still putting in the work and sweat to be even better every day.
No, the great Manning-Tom Brady debate will be passed down to future generations of bloggers. Since my efforts to abstain from this argument have been rebuffed, I'm going to say Manning is the best quarterback in the league. Of course, Brady will always be able to "scoreboard" Manning on Super Bowl titles unless the Colts make a remarkable run. Brady led the Patriots to three world titles in four years with less talent around him than Manning had. Of course, he also had a better defense, but let's come back to that another time. If we based this solely on winning, Brady's obviously your guy.
In addition to his first Super Bowl win in February, Manning had one of the most magical seasons in league history in 2004, when he threw 49 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions to break Dan Marino's record.
Manning, a nine-year veteran, already has two more touchdown passes than 49ers great Joe Montana, who played 15 seasons. He may end up being the greatest quarterback in league history, and since he's still in his prime, I have a hard time putting anyone in front of him. Since I'm limited to 100 words here, and can't possibly build a strong argument for Manning in that amount of space, please join me on the Hashmarks blog for further discussion.
Len Pasquarelli: Manning
With the Indianapolis Colts' victory in Super Bowl XLI, Peyton Manning checked the last item on the career to-do list that most critics look to in assessing great quarterbacks. Truth be told, the nine-year veteran qualified long before he won his first Super Bowl ring, but the victory over the Chicago Bears filled out his résumé nicely, and hopefully silenced whatever few detractors remained.
When it comes to just the physical art of throwing a football, only a few quarterbacks in history belong in Manning's class, even though several might have had superior arm strength. But in terms of the complete package -- what transpires in the huddle, at the line of scrimmage and then when the ball is snapped -- Manning is unparalleled. And his study habits, which make him one of the smartest ever to play the position, are singular as well. Think about this: In the history of the NFL, only 10 times have other quarterbacks posted seasons with passer ratings of 104.0 or better. Manning, who has won the past three passing championships, has an efficiency rating of 105.8 for the last four campaigns. With an apology to Tom Brady of New England, arguably the only other quarterback who belongs in Manning's galaxy, there is none better. Manning has said he plans to play another eight or nine seasons and, if that's the case, he'll put every league passing record out of reach.