ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For 17-plus seasons, Peyton Manning has played quarterback in the NFL. That’s 264 regular-season games, 24 postseason games and one very long, diverse list of teammates.
So with Manning on the doorstep of two more NFL records -- he needs a victory for No. 187 of his career and needs three yards passing for 71,839 -- it’s a good time to sift through the years and the people who have played alongside him on offense to pick the best -- an All-Manning team, as it were.
So here they are, the best, most-productive Manning teammates on offense, during the time they played or are playing with Manning:
Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk was in the Indianapolis Colts' backfield during Manning’s rookie season in 1998 and Joseph Addai had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons. But the pick is Edgerrin James, who had four 1,500-yard rushing seasons as Manning’s teammate, two of which ended in rushing titles (1999 and 2000). James also had five 50-catch seasons.
Julius Thomas parlayed three seasons with Manning in Denver into a five-year, $46 million deal in free agency -- including back-to-back 12-touchdown seasons in 2013 and 2014 -- while Ken Dilger had four 40-catch seasons with the Colts and Marcus Pollard had three 40-catch seasons. But in the end Dallas Clark had a 100-catch season in 2009, three 50-catch seasons and had 44 receiving touchdowns in the eight seasons he and Manning were in the lineup together.
Since Manning has spent plenty of time in a three-wide set in his career, the three-pack here is pretty clear cut. Nineteen receivers have had 1,000-yard seasons as Manning’s teammate, but Manning completed passes for 23,368 yards combined to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison with the Colts. That total alone would rank 15th among active quarterbacks in career passing yardage. The Broncos' Demaryius Thomas is the third receiver with three 1,400-yard, 10-touchdown seasons with Manning. Thomas is on pace for a fourth 1,400-yard season this year.
Tarik Glenn started 138 games at left tackle in front of Manning and was selected for three Pro Bowls. But many personnel executives would say Ryan Clady, at his best, has been the best left tackle to protect Manning. Clady has made two of his four career Pro Bowls since Manning signed with the Broncos. Clady missed all but two games in 2013 because of a foot injury that landed him on injured reserve and will miss all of this season with a torn ACL. But at his peak he had the combination of athleticism and intelligence to flourish in an offense Manning was running.
Adam Meadows started five seasons with Manning in Indianapolis at right tackle. But Ryan Diem, who started at right guard in his first two seasons in the league before moving to right tackle for 131 starts at that position, is the pick on the strong side.
Overall, this position has featured the most turnover for Manning in his career. There were eight players who started regularly at right guard in Manning’s time with the Colts, and no player was the regular starter for more than four years at either guard spot for Manning in either Indianapolis or Denver. With that in mind the pick at left guard is Steve McKinney, who wins narrowly over a group that included Rick DeMulling and Ryan Lilja. But McKinney was the most durable of the group, with 60 starts at left guard in Manning’s time with the Colts.
It’s rare to find a player with even two years as the starter at right guard during Manning's career -- Jake Scott, Mike Pollak and Louis Vasquez pretty much comprise the list. While Scott started the most games at right guard with Manning at quarterback among those three, it's Vasquez who has played the best at the position. Vasquez was an All-Pro right guard in 2013 and likely was headed that way in 2014 until the Broncos bumped him out to right tackle to settle the offensive front.
Jeff Saturday is a clear-cut pick here, having started 172 games at center with Manning at quarterback -- which would have been more had the Broncos been successful in their pursuit of Saturday in 2012. Saturday was named to five Pro Bowls in seasons he played with Manning and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2005 and 2007.