Manning's Monkey Business

by Chris Stansbury

The monkey gets around. This cursed animal currently holds residence on the shoulders of Peyton Manning, as the best quarterback to never win a big game.

In college, it was the Florida Gators that prevented Manning and the Tennessee Vols from playing Rocky Top in the National Championship. In the NFL, the New England Patriots cast its spell over the Colts as the team they couldn't beat, no matter how good Peyton Manning played.

He threw 49 touchdowns in 2004, won the AFC Central title and lost to New England in the playoffs.

In 2005, Manning focused on winning, not stats. Only 32 TD's (2nd in the league by the way) and leading Indy to the top seed in the AFC. In the conference championship, the Colts trip over a Pittsburgh team that ultimately won the Super Bowl.

This season, Manning leads Indy to another 12 win season and tops the league in TD passes (31). And with the old nemesis New England standing in his way in the AFC title game, Manning and the Colts come back from a 21-3 deficit to beat the Pats and are now Super Bowl bound.

Could this be the progression that finally gets that damned monkey off Manning's shoulder? 2nd Round in 2004, AFC Title Game in 2005 and Super Bowl in 2006.

The stigma has hampered many an athlete for their career and for some long after they leave the game. Others hold the title, then win the big one and its smooth sailing from there.

John Elway was the best without a title. He finally broke through and won two Super Bowls. Dan Marino was the best without a title...and still is the best without a title.

Phil Mickelson was the best without a major. He won the Masters and now hold three major championships.

So, will this be the year the monkey leaves Peyton's Place?  Stay tuned.

Chris Stansbury