Everything you could possibly do as a quarterback in the NFL, Peyton Manning did. Even more impressively, he did it with two franchises, leading both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos to Super Bowl championships. He is undoubtedly one of the best Broncos players of all time.
Manning has had a lot of individual accolades throughout his career. When he hung up the cleats, he was the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, among other categories. But it is his MVP count that bears the most discussion.
An NFL Record for MVPs
Manning came in with a world of hype, the 1st overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. Even after a rookie season filled with interceptions, he never stopped living up to that hype. He had major individual accolades of all kinds.
When all was said and done, Manning had collected an NFL record five MVP awards. No one has matched that total, though Aaron Rodgers did manage four during his time with the Green Bay Packers in his storied career. Let’s look at each of Manning’s MVP seasons, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning is one of 10 QBs selected to the #NFL100 All-Time Team!
🏆 2x Super Bowl Champion
🏆 5x NFL MVP ('03, '04, '08, '09, '13)
🏆 7x First-Team All-Pro, 14x Pro Bowler
🏆 Set single-season NFL records for pass yards (5,477), pass TD (55) in 2013 pic.twitter.com/KXFZK6Huas
— NFL (@NFL) December 28, 2019
2003: First MVP
Manning took a bit to shed a reputation for throwing a lot of interceptions, eventually finding himself to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Heading into the 2003 season, Manning seemed poised to take the step to the next level.
Manning would throw for 4,267 passing yards and 29 touchdowns that year. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was also a First-Team All-Pro. That alone would have been an impressive accolade, but it was far from enough.
Manning would earn his first NFL MVP, winning co-MVP honors with Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titans. Unfortunately for the Colts, Manning and company were shut down by Brady’s Patriots, sporting the top-ranked defense in the league. It would set the tone for the next several years of the rivalry.
2004: Second MVP
Anyone expecting a setback following his first MVP season in 2003 would be very disappointed by Manning. Despite losing 27-24 to the Patriots in the opener, it did nothing to deter Manning and the Colts going forward.
Manning won AFC Player of the Week four times. He also broke a vaunted NFL record, throwing his 49th touchdown of the season to Brandon Stokley, breaking the record of 48 previously set by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins.
Manning threw for an incredible 4,557 yards in addition to those record-setting 49 touchdowns. Some years later, Manning’s 2004 season was voted the second greatest in the history of the league. Even better, Manning threw just 10 interceptions, though the Colts again failed to reach the Promised Land. The Colts were again handled by the Patriots’ defense, losing 20-3 in the Divisional round.
2008: Third MVP
Though he had not managed to capture any more individual accolades in the four years between 2004 and 2008, one important development did happen. The Colts got over the hump, beating the Patriots 38-34 in the AFC Championship Game, leading to the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history (Manning won MVP).
The Colts started slowly in 2008, but it wouldn’t take long before Manning heated up. Manning won AFC Offensive Player of the Week three times in the year and even passed Marino for the most wins of that award with his 19th total win.
Manning finished the year with an NFL record 9th-straight 4,000-yard passing season (4,002), throwing 27 touchdowns along the way. Even more impressively, Manning tied Brett Favre for the most MVP awards with three, a mark that would last all of one year.
That first Super Bowl feeling 😏
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) June 10, 2021
2009: Fourth MVP
Even a new coach could not stop Manning from dominating the competition. The team started 7-0, with Manning passing the 40,000-yard mark in Week 9. The Colts wound up dominating that year, going 14-2 in the process.
After dominant shows against the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round and the New York Jets in the AFC Championship, the vaunted season ran into a roadblock. In Super Bowl XLIV, the Colts led 10-0 but would ultimately succumb to the New Orleans Saints 31-17 in Manning’s first Super Bowl loss.
Manning’s fourth MVP award would become the record from then on. He led the NFL in completion percentage (68.8%), throwing for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns in the process. Manning was the most dominant quarterback on the planet and wasn’t close to being done for quite a while.
2013: Fifth MVP
In Manning’s second season as a member of the Denver Broncos, things would go well on an unprecedented level. The Broncos, now a powerhouse in the NFL, racked up win after win, even besting Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Despite being destroyed in the Super Bowl that year by the Seattle Seahawks 43-8, the season was an unmitigated success. Manning built on his NFL record for MVPs, earning his fifth and final award in his 16th season in the NFL.
It was how he won the ward that garnered the most attention. Manning led the NFL in completions that year with 450, but that was a footnote. Manning set the NFL single season record in passing yards with 5,477. Even more incredibly, he also set the record for the most passing touchdowns in a season with 55. Both of those marks still stand the test of time today. There has never been a greater individual season in the history of the NFL for several reasons.
Most NFL MVP awards:
5 — Peyton Manning
4 — Aaron Rodgers*
3 — Brady, Favre, Unitas, Brown
*Probably, definitely. pic.twitter.com/meEyQOGBXZ
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 3, 2022
Manning left the game as the greatest ever to that point. While his arch-rival Tom Brady would eventually surpass him in some respects, Manning left an indelible mark on the game. Racking up five NFL MVP awards will do that. It may be some time, if ever, before someone is able to achieve that feat themselves.
His legacy is matched by almost no one. Even though Brady would earn more championships and wind up with the statistical records, Manning showed how dominant he was by being the very best a whopping five times.