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Where does Peyton Manning rank among NFL's greatest quarterbacks?

After 18 NFL seasons, Peyton Manning officially announced his retirement Monday. During his illustrious career, the quarterback finished first in countless categories: career passing yards (71,940), career passing TDs (539), career wins (200), career playoff appearances (15), career 4,000-yard seasons (14), career game-winning drives (54), single-season passing yards (5,477) and single-season passing TDs (55). Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XLI MVP, five-time NFL MVP, 14-time Pro Bowler and seven-time first-team All-Pro.

After winning Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos, Manning joined Jim Plunkett (2), Bart Starr (2), Eli Manning (2), Ben Roethlisberger (2), Bob Griese (2), Roger Staubach (2), John Elway (2), Troy Aikman (3), Tom Brady (4), Terry Bradshaw (4) and Joe Montana (4) as a multiple-time Super Bowl champion.

With all that he's accomplished, where does Peyton Manning rank among the NFL's greatest quarterbacks?

Brady is by himself at No. 1 because of what he's been able to do in the regular season, postseason and his Super Bowl wins. Joe Montana is probably No. 2 because of his four Super Bowl wins. I could put Manning at No. 2, as well, and there are certainly other guys who also deserve to be ranked that high.

Manning is likely at No. 3 on my list, but he's as good as anybody who has ever played the position. Manning will go down in history as one of the best to ever play the game, mainly because he went old school. He changed the game by bringing it back onto the field. The game had escaped the field and gone up to the boxes and the offensive coordinator. Terry Bradshaw called the game on the field back in the day, like so many older quarterbacks did, and Peyton brought it back. For that and what he did in his career, he'll go down as one of the best ever. I can't answer this question, for several reasons. There were so many great quarterbacks in so many different eras. They were all great at the time they played. How do you define the greatest ever? Super Bowl wins? Joe Montana had four and some people consider him the greatest, but Terry Bradshaw also won four and the same people don't consider him. Johnny Unitas was great. Bart Starr was great. Norm Van Brocklin was great, and so was Dan Marino, who never won a Super Bowl. It's so hard to say where Peyton ranks.

No one comes close to the five MVPs he won. He has accomplished so much, and this Denver team might be the best he's ever played on because the defense is so good. If Peyton had played this past season like he did eight years ago, these Broncos would've gone undefeated, you'd think. With his accomplishments, he certainly warrants to be in this discussion. If he's No. 1, I wouldn't argue. Manning is the third-best quarterback we've ever seen in the NFL. He's leaving with plenty of records and a couple Super Bowl wins, but that's not enough to put him at the top. Joe Montana won more championships and led an offense in San Francisco that would revolutionize football. Tom Brady also has four Super Bowl rings -- while playing in the same era as Manning and with a decent shot at claiming some of the same records Manning already holds. That's not to take anything away from Peyton. He did everything a quarterback could do in this game, and five league MVPs is nothing to minimize.

But summarizing a quarterback's legacy also means looking at all the big moments in his career. Unfortunately for Manning, there are two quarterbacks who've done more in that department. It's hard to not rank him No. 1. He played the hardest position in professional sports, was the league's Most Valuable Player five times and holds just about every record that a quarterback can hold. As an individual player, that's where I would rank him.

If we're talking about the team aspect, that's a different ranking. But as far as playing the quarterback position, he played it as well as anyone. Everyone has their favorite of who is No. 1, and Peyton can't be anything less than 1A. Peyton is in my top five, and there are a lot of interchangeable players in that area -- Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Brett Favre, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, to name a few. There are so many amazing quarterbacks. If you're in the conversation of being in the upper tier of all-time quarterbacks, it really doesn't matter what your ranking is. It's such a prestigious and important position in the league that just being in that conversation is what matters.

Peyton did everything humanly possible to routinely put his team in championship contention, which is why I would put him in that top-five conversation. It's hard to answer this type of question. I think winning the second Super Bowl helps elevate Manning to the highest ranks. And while stats certainly mean something in terms of a player's legacy, systems and eras control the numbers.

In the modern era, I have to rank Brady and Montana ahead of Manning. Sure, Montana played with great teams, but his ability to perform in the clutch was magnificent. Brady has had very few standout receivers to throw to. He also, for the most part, has lacked a top running back. Manning consistently had better offensive talent to play with.

All that said, Manning finishes his career as one of the greatest to ever play the game. I have Peyton at No. 3, behind Montana and Brady. With Montana and Brady winning four Super Bowls apiece, it's hard to move Peyton above them. I'm not taking anything away from Peyton because he still had to go out and perform, but he was dealt a good hand and wasn't able to win more titles. He played with talent on the perimeter in Indy, with guys like Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James and Dallas Clark. Then he had young talent in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in Denver.

He's pretty much first on every list when it comes to quarterbacks, from Pro Bowls to passing yards. But at the end of the day, it's all about the Lombardi Trophy. That's why he's not higher than No. 3 on my list. My top five quarterback list goes, in order, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, John Elway and Peyton Manning. I think it's clear that Tom Brady is No. 1 for several reasons. Not only has he won four Super Bowls, but it's what he's been able to do late in his career that impresses me. They say Father Time is undefeated, yet Father Time has not knocked on Brady's door and he is 38. He's also done more with less talent around him than most of these guys. Joe Montana had Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Roger Craig. He's had some miraculous Super Bowl wins with those players. Moon is a sneaky one because he traveled in and out of the NFL, but this guy is a Hall of Famer for a reason. Elway is perhaps the most clutch quarterback ever ... ever! He made magic happen on the field.

I struggled with putting Peyton at five because I wanted to put him higher on the list, but because we saw some meltdowns in playoffs and winning two of four Super Bowl appearances, I couldn't put him there. He played with a lot of talent from Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne to Demaryius Thomas. He's still a great, but I feel like he didn't do everything he could have with the players he was equipped with. He did the least with the most, so that's why he's at No. 5. He's been the premium quarterback in this league for 18 years, along with Tom Brady. Peyton has demonstrated greatness for a decade and a half, which is rare -- and a product of his intelligence and health. The fact that he's been able to stay at the top in this profession is a credit that puts him in the heavens of the best that have ever played the game.

As hard as it is to quantify, I'd rank Peyton fourth. He's behind Tom Brady, Joe Montana and John Elway. I'd place Brett Favre behind him. What an epic, legendary career. What an honor to watch Peyton play for 17 seasons (not including the 2011 campaign, which he missed entirely) and rewrite the NFL record book. I consider Manning to be the smartest quarterback in NFL history and the best ever during the regular season. He made Indianapolis, Indiana, into a football town. He's responsible for getting Lucas Oil Stadium built. Manning's second act in Denver was improbable and amazing, considering how effective he still was after multiple neck surgeries. Peyton's 2013 campaign (55 touchdown passes) is arguably the single greatest season ever at the position.

I think you can intelligently argue Peyton is ranked anywhere between Nos. 1 and 5 all time. He's special. I put him just behind Tom Brady and Joe Montana (more rings), and John Elway. Based on how Peyton won the Super Bowl -- leaning on a great defense -- some people will knock his legacy, but I think it speaks to the greatness of it. He could play at such a high level for so long, and he had to completely remanufacture his game to win this season. It was the way he conservatively mangaged the game that allowed Denver an opportunity to win. Three years ago, he could see the field, throw to any target and make any play. Now he sees the field the same way, knows he can't make the throws he used to and executes his second, third and sometimes fourth option. He obviously belongs in the conversation with Tom Brady and Joe Montana, and those three guys are in the battle for the greatest ever. Peyton's consistency and ability to adjust and change on the fly makes him one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He put players in position to make great plays, had great leadership and was talented. For those reasons, he's No. 4 on my all-time quarterback list. He's behind Brady, Montana and Elway, and I'd round out my top five with Favre. When the debate begins about the best QB to ever play in the NFL, we know that there is no definitive answer. There are names that should be discussed each time the topic comes up (Montana, Elway, Brady, Marino) and names from the past that should be brought up but rarely are (Graham, Luckman, Layne, Starr).

One name that should be in every discussion: Peyton Manning. People who will vote for other signal callers will find ways to poke holes in Manning's incredibly large body of work. But, in taking a closer look at his achievements, it's not just the on-field accomplishments that put him on the Mount Rushmore of QBs -- it's his preparation, his constant chasing of perfection, his love of the game. These qualities added to his play, and helped to inspire numerous winning and dominant teams, contributing to a pair of Lombardi Trophies. Not to mention, five MVP awards for his own mantel.

Argue who you believe to be the best. Just make sure your discussion includes Peyton Manning. If it doesn't ... your discussion is invalid. This is a hard list to make because quarterbacks can be ranked based on so many different things. Regardless, I'd put him third all-time behind Tom Brady and Joe Montana. His two Super Bowl wins, records and other achievements help him to a certain extent, but those other two quarterbacks -- among others -- have Peyton beat in the postseason. It's hard to rank him above players who have four championships. Even though Manning won two titles in four Super Bowl appearances, I would still rank him fourth behind Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Brett Favre. He won Super Bowl 50 on the heels of a strong defense and supporting cast. I think he'll go down as a guy who had a ton of tremendous individual success but I don't know if he surpasses the team success of the other players on my list.

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