NEW YORK — Maybe the award should be renamed Most
Peyton Manning became the first player to win The
Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player honors four times. The Indianapolis
Colts' sensational quarterback romped to the award Saturday in balloting by 50
sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.
He received 39 1/2 votes to 7 1/2 for Drew Brees of New
Orleans. Only four players – all quarterbacks – earned votes. The other two were
Philip Rivers of San Diego (2) and Brett Favre of Minnesota (1).
Manning also won in 2003, 2004 and 2008, breaking a tie
with Favre at three MVPs.
"I'm very humbled and grateful to be honored with this
award and I really feel like it is a reflection of our team," said Manning, who
guided the Colts to a 14-0 record before they rested starters in the second half
of two games and finished 14-2.
"I have to believe that starting 14-0 and having seven
comeback wins has a lot to do with this award coming our way, and I'm very
grateful to all the players and the coaches and our fans, who were a big part of
it. There were a number of other extremely deserving candidates."
The Colts play in the divisional round next week and have
home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Super Bowl is Feb. 7 in
Miami, the same place they won it three years ago.
Manning threw for 4,500 and 33 touchdowns this season.
Perhaps most impressive, he led the Colts to all those comeback victories. The
33-year-old quarterback has started every game in his career, 192 in the regular
season and 15 in the playoffs.
He is durable and dynamic, dependable and decisive. In
other words, most valuable.
"He's been such a highly accomplished performer year in
and year out. Just when you think you've seen his best, he improves upon it,"
said Jim Caldwell, who succeeded Tony Dungy as coach and benefited from the same
kind of performances Manning gave Dungy. "This year is one of those in terms of
when you look at his numbers and how he's been able to play consistently well
over a long period of time. It's been remarkable.
"I think a lot of it has to do with his drive. He just
has an innate sort of will to excel. He never gets bored with it. That, I think,
is highly unusual."
Manning joined the truly elite of team sports: Wayne
Gretzky (9), Barry Bonds (7) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6), the leaders for MVP
awards in their sports.
"I'm not comfortable having my name on that list or
drawing comparisons to those guys," Manning said Saturday. "I think all of those
people would probably echo the sentiments that I had before about being very
humbled, especially in football which I think is the ultimate team game."
Manning, the 2007 Super Bowl MVP when he won his only
league championship, noted the support and stability he's enjoyed in his career.
"I've been the beneficiary of having the same owner, the
same team president all four times," he said. "I've received great coaching from
our head coaches and assistants and a number of different teammates who have all
had a huge impact on me."
But even when Dungy turned over the coaching to Caldwell
last year, Manning and the Colts adapted.
"This offseason brought more change than any other year
around here," he said. "We have had that consistency till this year, with losing
a head coach and Marvin (Harrison), sort of replacing by committee with a group
of young receivers. I think dealing with those changes says a lot."
Manning lost his longtime favorite receiver, Harrison,
this season. Harrison's replacement, Anthony Gonzalez, went down with a right
knee injury in the opener.
Manning simply turned to his latest fave, Reggie Wayne,
who had 100 catches for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns. And to Dallas Clark, who
joined Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends with 100 receptions in a season when
he grabbed exactly that many for 1,106 yards and 10 scores.
Plus, Austin Collie tied for the rookie lead in
receptions with 60 and scored seven times. Pierre Garcon, nurtured in dozens of
passing sessions with Manning, developed into a prime deep threat and averaged
16.3 yards on 47 catches, with four TDs.
"What he's been able to do this year with Pierre and
Austin – and obviously Dallas had a year that will go down in the record books,"
linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "And I think it really says
something when you can work young guys like that."