On Leadership, Greatness and The Legacy of Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

When Greatness Just Isn’t Good Enough…

This recent Super Bowl brought to mind the complexity of defining the legacy of Peyton Manning.

I must confess that I am part of “Team Tom Brady” and a New England Patriots fan, so if this excludes me in your mind from being able to write on this topic then please read no further…

Great Respect

First, let me start by saying that I have great respect for Peyton Manning. He is a great quarterback and a great leader. He has accomplished so much in his time in the NFL. However, with this said, what I don’t like is how he seems to be so loved by everyone, and that no one dares say anything negative about him.

It’s like that kid you are so fond of that even the not-so-good things they do get a pass and you still try to find the good in them.

The complexity of Peyton Manning is a rare, but real leadership phenomenon. This rare phenomenon is when individual greatness just isn’t good enough. In leadership and in life we run into situations when we have to accept on those rare occasions that our individual best was great, yet it still was just not good enough to complete the task. This seems to be the reality of Peyton’s much-debated legacy which dates back to his college playing days at the University of Tennessee.

Contradictory Results

Here we see someone have the best season ever for a quarterback and win the NFL MVP for the 5th time; yet loses miserably to the Seattle Seahawks in what could be argued as the worst performance ever in a Super Bowl by an NFL quarterback.

What was his problem? Is he overrated? The numbers would say not at all.

In fact, the numbers tell us he is head and shoulders above the rest. This is where our leadership lesson begins; although numbers never lie, they don’t always tell is the truth.

There’s No “I” in Super Bowl

The truth is, sometimes individual greatness is just not good enough. John Elway was also a great Broncos’ quarterback, but his greatness was not good enough until his team added more talent around him. As an organization, we must recognize that we can have great individual people, and great individual leaders, yet still not be good enough to out-due the competition.

The Few or The Many

In the Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seattle Seahawks’ overall team was better than the Broncos. And the perceived greatest offense in league history led by Peyton Manning was expected to beat the Seahawks. But Peyton alone couldn’t get the job done. Not by a long shot. It was “embarrassing” for him.

Some leaders are great enough to take a team to the next level. But most, on the other hand, need some help to reach that higher ground.

We can get so enamored with individual greatness, that we lean too much on that one or those few people instead of building a great team. As a football coach, I had a saying that a good team could be great individuals any day. This, in my opinion, has been the achilles heel for Peyton Manning; in the end, he simply gets beat by better overall teams.

Learning from a Legacy

Learning from the Legacy of Peyton Manning, here are 3 things to consider when individual greatness just doesn’t seem to be good enough to take your organization to the next level:

  1. Are you depending too much on the greatness of a few, instead of the good of the many?
  2. Are the few who are great, willing to sacrifice personal accomplishments and accolades for the overall improvement of the team?
  3. Are you willing, if necessary, to lose extremely talented individuals in order to establish an identity and a culture of being a talented team (like the Seattle Seahawks)?

Being the best means there can only be one. The Seattle Seahawks prided themselves on being a bunch of nobodies who became a great team. The Super Bowl is a reminder that having the greatest player doesn’t assure you of having the better team. Are you willing to make changes in your organization when the individual greatness that exists may just not be good enough? Are you willing to invest in excellence at every level to help make the whole into champions? What can you do to start building better teams? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Dr. Tommy Shavers is President of Tommy Speak LLC. and Unus Solutions Inc.
His lenses are Teamwork, Leadership, and Communication
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Dr. Tommy Shavers on February 6, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Reblogged this on tommyspeak.

  2. soulmatebrotha on February 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Good read. I’m a Colts and Cowboys fan, so I was definitely rooting for the “Indianapolis Broncos” or “Broncocolts” as I have read through the media. I agree with your point of view…

    The Broncos just got beat by a better TEAM. Unfortunately, Peyton happened to be on the wrong side of the ball that day. Seattle was built to beat boys up, and they did it well. If you look at the stats, the teams are almost neck and neck…First downs (17 vs 18); 3rd down efficiency (almost identical); time of possession (32 mins vs 28 mins)…

    But turnovers….and special teams. Those killed the Broncos. Even at 22-0, many probably felt “there’s a chance”….and then the run back at beginning of 3rd Qtr. Game over.

    The beauty in what Seattle did is they took a bunch of players other people either gave up on, or just never had confidence in, and they built those players up. Like you said in your final three points, good of the many over the greatness of few, while those great few sacrificed for the good of the team.

    Good article bro!

    • Dr. Tommy Shavers on February 6, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts! Interestingly enough I actually told a few friends that Seattle could win big. On the surface this sounds like an insane thing to say about the most prolific offense in NFL history, however when you look at the overall team, you began to see that Denver could have too much to deal with. Think about it, the best QB in the league, was actually facing the best Free Safety, Strong Safety, and Corner Back in the league all on the same team. Not to get too footballish, but that was an example of how the Seahawks organization built a great team made of uniquely talented individuals.

      Thanks again!