For all the NFL records Peyton Manning owns — and there are plenty — he is one victory away from the one accomplishment that eventually might define his legacy more than any other.
If Manning's Denver Broncos beat the Seattle Seahawks next weekend, he would become the first starting quarterback to win Super Bowl titles with two franchises.
Manning is already a larger-than-life figure in Indianapolis, of course, widely credited with turning a basketball town into a football town by making the Colts truly matter. He led them to two NFL championship games, winning in 2007, losing in 2010.
And now Manning, at the age of 37, two years removed from sitting out an entire season after a series of neck operations, has a chance to forever stamp himself as a figure of similar importance in Denver, too. As it is, he already has joined Craig Morton and Kurt Warner as the only QBs to lead two clubs to the Super Bowl, although they didn't win with both.
"If he can win this game, he definitely will be an icon in two cities," said Morton, who was in Denver for six of his 18 NFL seasons. "Well, he probably already is. But ... there's so much focus on the Super Bowl. If you win, you're in granite. If you lose, you're in the mud."
Spoken from experience.
Morton went 0-2 as a Super Bowl starter, losing with the Dallas Cowboys in 1971, then the Broncos in 1978. Warner went 1-2, winning with the St. Louis Rams in 2000, then losing with them in 2002, before losing with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
There are similarities.
Morton eventually lost his starting job in Dallas, spent some time with bad New York Giants teams, then rebuilt his career in Denver. Warner eventually lost his starting job in St. Louis, spent some time with the Giants (before being replaced by Manning's younger brother, Eli), then rebuilt his career in Arizona.
"Everybody thought I was done. They thought I couldn't play anymore. So to get back to that level and go back to the Super Bowl is a great accomplishment," said Warner, who works for the NFL Network. "It's cool to have Peyton there, after there were all the questions about his health. Similar to me, he was let go and sent off to greener pastures. He's such a special player anyway, but here's an opportunity to put some icing on that cake and separate himself from all the other great quarterbacks."