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The gold standard: Peyton Manning named a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer


The gold standard of quarterbacks will soon slip on a gold jacket.

Peyton Manning, who spent the last four seasons of his nearly unmatched 18-year career with the Broncos, has been officially elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Manning, who helped lead the Broncos to two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl 50 title, is the third first-ballot Hall of Famer in franchise history, joining John Elway and Champ Bailey.

His election is anything but surprising. A five-time Most Valuable Player and two-time world champion, Manning has been destined for Canton since he peeled off his No. 18 jersey for the last time on Feb. 7, 2016. Longtime Colts reporter Mike Chappell, who presented Manning's candidacy during January's Hall of Fame selection meeting, spent mere seconds on the case.

"Every generation or so, you end up with someone like Brett Favre or Peyton Manning," Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said. "… Everybody knows that they belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

The only real drama arose from when Manning would be announced as part of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 during NFL Honors on Saturday night. The Hall of Fame, appropriately, saved the best for last.

"The combination of Peyton's deep love of the game, intense work-ethic and relentless preparation will never be matched," Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said. "From his teammates to the coaches to the staff, Peyton raised the standard with the Broncos. His leadership made everyone better and we have great respect for him throughout our entire organization. All that Peyton was able to accomplish with the Broncos — the countless wins, his MVP award and our Super Bowl 50 run — would not have been possible without his remarkable perseverance and mental toughness in overcoming injury. He's a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in every sense as an incredibly special player and person who has meant so much to this game."

Manning will join John Lynch in the Class of 2021, as the Broncos will have two representatives in a class for the second time in three years. Bailey and late Broncos owner Pat Bowlen were enshrined in 2019. Steve Atwater, a member of the Class of 2020, is expected to also receive his gold jacket this fall.

"I went two years ago [to the enshrinement]," Manning said. "I remember Steve Atwater and I were sitting in the audience watching Champ Bailey get his gold jacket put on. I could just tell how excited Champ was and what that moment meant to him. I'm so happy for Steve that he's getting to go in finally even after a year of the delay due to the pandemic. I feel like I have it in the right perspective. I'm honored to be a part of it, and looking forward to joining this new team."

While the totality of Manning's 18-year career is arguably the greatest statistical portfolio of any quarterback in league history, one could argue that just his four years in Denver merit Hall of Fame consideration. In four seasons, Manning was named the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year, the 2013 MVP, a two-time first-team All-Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler. In 2013, Manning set single-season passing records that still stand, as he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns as the Broncos advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII. Two years later, despite missing six games due to injury, Manning wonhis second career world championship as he earned head-to-head playoff wins over Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton in his march toward a Lombardi Trophy. He is the only quarterback in league history to win the Super Bowl with two different teams.

A near certain bet to join the Broncos' Ring of Fame later this year, Manning posted 140 touchdowns and 17,112 yards in four seasons in Denver. He ranks second in franchise history in career passing yards, completions and touchdown passes and ranks first in franchise history in completion percentage.

Including his time in Indianapolis, where he spent 14seasons after being selected with the first-overall pick in 1998, Manning accrued 200 total wins, 539 touchdown passes and 71,940 passing yards. Those totals ranked first in the NFL at the time of his retirement. Manning's 14 Pro Bowl nods remain tied for first in NFL history, as do his seven first-team All-Pro selections among quarterbacks. His five MVP honors are also the most in league history, and he is one of a select few athletes from any sport to win five MVP awards, including Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Manning earned another honor in 2020, as he was one of 10 quarterbacks named to the NFL 100. The list was designed to celebrate the best players in NFL history.

He is expected to be officially enshrined later this summer and will join Lynch, Atwater, Bailey, Bowlen, Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Terrell Davis, Floyd Little and Shannon Sharpe as Broncos in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I think Peyton Manning's legacy is bigger than football, to be honest with you," Baker said. "He is certainly one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game. … I think he is clutch, I think he is a great player, I think he is a great leader [and] I think he's a wonderful ambassador for the game."

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