John Elway thinks Peyton Manning has what it takes to go down in history as the greatest quarterback in the history of football. But to accomplish that, Elway needs to put the right team around Manning.
In Elway’s opinion, if Manning were to close out his career by winning two Super Bowls as the Broncos’ quarterback — the same way Elway closed out his own Hall of Fame career — that would be enough for Manning to be considered the best ever.
“Winning championships, that’s the only way,” Elway told NFL Network’s Albert Breer. “If he wins two more championships, he’ll be, without a doubt, the greatest quarterback ever to play the game.”
Of course, Elway knows that Manning can only do so much to ensure that he’ll win two Super Bowls. When Elway finally won his two Super Bowls in his 15th and 16th NFL seasons after falling short so many times earlier in his career, it wasn’t because Elway was better than he had been in his first 14 years in the league. It was because the Broncos built a better team around him. Likewise, if Manning wins two Super Bowls with the Broncos, it will be partially a testament to his own greatness as a quarterback, but also a testament to Elway’s work as an executive.
Manning has already won a record four regular-season MVP awards. If he were to come back from a year away and win a fifth MVP in Denver, he’d have a good case for being the best quarterback ever regardless of what happened in the playoffs. But Elway is correct that quarterbacks are remembered to such a large extent for their teams’ success or failure in the playoffs that Manning probably can’t go down in history as the best ever as long as he has only one Super Bowl ring. And he probably will go down in history as the best ever if he retires with three Super Bowl rings.