Manning vs. Elway: The mighty Broncos QB debate

Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports

Choosing between Peyton Manning and John Elway is impossible.

Both have won Super Bowls. Elway has two titles and Manning has won one. Both have set records and both have been called one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history.

But as Broncos fans, who is the better and more important quarterback in Denver?

Manning is having the best start of the a season in not only Broncos’ history but NFL history. He has Denver off to a 4-0 start and has the team averaging 44.8 points a game, which is 17 points better than anybody else. The future Hall-of-Famer has 16 touchdowns and no picks in his second season in Denver.

Just unbelievable numbers.

But Elway is part of Broncos’ lore. He played his whole career in Denver after being traded on draft day from the Baltimore Colts in 1983. He took the Broncos to five Super Bowls and brought two Lombardi trophies to Denver.

He is the definition of Broncos football.

After Manning was cut from the Indianapolis Colts two offseasons ago, Elway, who is now the Broncos Vice President of Football Operations, was the one clamoring for Manning to come to Denver.

Elway was one of the main reasons Manning picked to sign in Denver. Manning wanted to play for a well-run organization and Elway had that. Playing for a Hall-of-Fame quarterback had to be a perk for Manning as well.

Elway said himself he wanted Manning to end up as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. But Elway knew that meant Super Bowl titles in Denver and Manning has at the moment failed to produce that. It has only been a year and four games but the team was the No. 1 seed going into the loss in the playoffs in January.

At this moment the choice for best Broncos quarterback has to be Elway.

Elway and the Broncos go hand-and-hand. When Manning goes in the Hall of Fame he will most likely go in as a Colt not a Bronco. Manning was a free agent while Elway was brought here on draft day and never played another game with another team. Denver has always been his home.

Both have given Denver fans postseason heartbreak along the way. Of course Manning lost last season to the Ravens and Elway has the 1996 Jacksonville playoff loss on his record as well as three blowout Super Bowl losses. Game-winning drives are and were the norm for Elway and Manning but both have been questioned in the big game as well. There were plenty of “can they win the big one” questions for both of them.

If you take into consideration the whole body of work, Manning is the better quarterback despite only winning the one Super Bowl. In every major statistical category, Manning is ahead of Elway. Touchdown passes, passing yards, completion percentage and total wins all belong to Manning.

Being leaders and carrying teams is nothing new to either man during their careers. Elway took three inferior Broncos teams to the Super Bowl and really didn’t win a thing until there was a team around him with Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and others. Manning is carrying the Broncos right now as two of their best defensive players in Von Miller and Champ Bailey sit out because of suspensions and injuries.

As far as being a quarterback on the field it is a dead heat. Elway and Manning mean everything to the Denver Broncos in the past and now the present. With quarterback being the most important position in the NFL, the Broncos have been set with these two under center. There were a ton of questionable times in between.

It comes down to who will mean more to Denver in the long run and the undeniable answer is Elway.

With his car dealerships and golf tournaments and the fact that he is the boss of the Broncos, Elway’s name will never be forgotten. Of course the two titles help that as well.

Manning was received with love by most in Denver. There were the small group of Tim Tebow supporters that went off the deep end but that is long gone now. Fans flocked to the stores to buy No. 18 jerseys as fast as possible. And with good reason.

Manning is the current.

But the No. 7 and John Elway is forever in Broncos’ history.

If the choice has to be made, mark me down for No. 7.


Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.

Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke

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  • Jeff

    … and manning chokes in the playoffs