Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Here's a Vote for Manning

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Here's a Vote for Manning

Article excerpt

Still more evidence that scouting the NFL is an unscientific process at best . . .

Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning.

Remember when there was actually a debate?

Silly as it sounds now, only a year and a half ago, many NFL personnel types believed Leaf had more "upside" than Manning.

I bring this up this week not because Leaf is the NFL's resident punk, but partly as evidence of the importance of picking the right player -- particularly the right quarterback -- for a franchise. The Chargers picked Leaf No. 2 overall last year and will miss the playoffs. The Colts picked Manning No. 1 and are one of the favorites to make the Super Bowl.

Mostly, though, mentioning Manning vs. Leaf now -- on the final Sunday of the regular season -- is timely because Manning should win his first NFL Most Valuable Player Award this season.

Manning, to be certain, may not win the award, and if he does win, he won't be a unanimous choice.

Kurt Warner, a quarterback for the Rams, may be the front-runner, and if he's not, the front-runner may be his teammate, Marshall Faulk, the Rams' dynamic, elusive running back.

The argument for Manning isn't that Faulk and Warner may split their votes -- although that may happen -- but that Manning simply deserves the award.

Warner and Faulk each had magnificent seasons, but for the same reason many doubted the Jaguars throughout the season, I'll doubt Warner and Faulk. The Jaguars and Rams played similarly easy schedules. The Rams played in the NFC West, which meant they had eight easy games against some of the NFL's weakest defenses.

Manning had no such luxuries. The AFC East wasn't as good as people thought before the season, but it was still very good, and the reason was the division's defenses.

Miami. The Jets. Buffalo. Even the Patriots. All good defenses, far better than average, and it was against such competition that Manning went from a player with potential to one of the NFL's best players. …

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