The only way Super Bowl XLVIII was going to affect Peyton Manning's legacy is if he'd led the Denver Broncos to a victory. Because he didn't, Manning's legacy is no different than it was entering 2013. It's the same as it was when he signed with the Broncos a little less than two years ago. For now, Peyton Manning will go down as an all-time great NFL quarterback who came up small when the stakes were the biggest.
All this talk that Manning's legacy took a hit because of the 43-8 loss suggests Manning's legacy had a hit to take. But you can't hurt a reputation that never existed. His regular season dominance will never be in doubt. The playoffs are the only question mark at this point in his career. Failing again sustains that narrative.
Even this Super Bowl stinker won't change much. It looms large now, but with the benefit of time we'll remember this as a dominating Seattle Seahawks performance, not a Peyton Manning clunker.
The most important thing to remember is that Manning's legacy isn't written yet, even after this Super Bowl flop. It won't be finalized until well after he's retired from the NFL. Unless he surprises the world and calls it quits this offseason (and there's no indication to think he will), he'll still have two or three seasons to change things for the better.
He won't have to look far for inspiration. The man who signed Manning to come to Denver, John Elway, was in the same situation at this point in his career. Heck, his straits were even more dire. Thirteen months before Elway retired, he wasn't just a quarterback who had never won the big game, he was the guy who flopped spectacularly in his three previous appearances. (At least Manning has a Super Bowl win.) Then, in his final two seasons, Elway negated all the previous playoff talk by leading Denver to two straight titles.
If Peyton Manning comes back next year and hoists a Lombardi Trophy, all the stink from Super Bowl XLVIII disappears. If he retires with only one Super Bowl title to his name, Super Bowl XLVIII will go down as just another disappointing playoff performance for the greatest regular season quarterback in history.
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)