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Colts' Peyton Manning has more work to do to reach the top of all-time quarterback list

Otto Graham took the Cleveland Browns to the championship game in each of his 10 seasons at quarterback.

Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana won four Super Bowls apiece, Johnny Unitas threw a TD pass in an NFL-record 47 consecutive games, and Brett Favre has thrown more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than any other quarterback in history.

OK, now let's begin the discussion of Peyton Manning's place in the pantheon of NFL quarterbacks.

There seemed to be a movement in the last week during all the Super Bowl hoopla to coronate Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time.

Let's slow down a second. The latest is not necessarily the greatest in this ESPN generation of instant enshrinement into Canton.

Statistics get you into the discussion of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. You need the stats, and Manning certainly has those. But championships are what determine your place on the list.

Manning isn't in my top-five quarterbacks of all time, but he is in the top 10. At 33, he probably has five elite seasons left in him. How many championships he wins from this point on will determine where he settles on the list of the game's greats.

Manning can claim NFL title No. 2 on Sunday with a Super Bowl victory over the New Orleans Saints.

I'm a big fan of Manning. Always have been. I admire the way he handles himself. I've found him to be an up-front guy who knows and appreciates the history of the game. He understands the sport is bigger than he is and has embraced his role as one of his sport's ambassadors. He's classy off the field.

Manning also is classy on the field. I like the way he handles the Colts offense. I've long favored quarterbacks who call their own plays. That's a big part of the reason I considered Unitas the best ever. He could beat teams with his arm and his mind.

Today's NFL had produced a parade of robots at quarterback asked to execute what the head coach is thinking. Manning routinely takes the play-calling away from offensive coordinator Tom Moore if he feels he's in a rhythm.

"I have no problem with that," Moore said. "Peyton puts in so much work, so much time. I take all the responsibility for bad plays and give him all the credit for the good ones. If there's a bad play, I didn't do a good enough job of preparing him."

Manning has won a record four NFL MVP awards and three passing titles. He ranks third on the all-time list in completions and touchdown passes and fourth in yards. In my book, that places him as the eighth-best quarterback in NFL history.

Ahead of him, in order, are Unitas, Graham, Joe Montana, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw. Behind Manning are Brett Favre and Tom Brady. Dan Marino, maybe the best pure passer the game has ever seen, ranks No. 11 among my all-time quarterbacks.

Football is a team sport, but two men are judged on championships — head coaches and quarterbacks. Marino never won a title and, for all of his glittering statistics, Favre captured just one.

Unitas won three championships, including one in 1958 dubbed "the greatest game ever played." It was the first title game ever broadcast nationally and also the first to go to overtime. Baltimore's victory over the New York Giants that day put the NFL on the sporting map.

Unitas also holds what I consider the NFL's single-most impressive record for a quarterback — that streak of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. It's a record that has stood for 49 years and may be the one record that will never be broken.

Graham posted a 7-3 record in his 10 title games, and Joe Montana never threw an interception in his four Super Bowl victories. Elway took the Denver Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two, and Staubach took the Cowboys to four Super Bowls, winning two.

Graham won an NFL-record 83.4 percent of his career starts. Brady is next at 76.3, followed by Staubach at 74.5. Montana (71.3) and Manning (68.2) round out the top five.

Starr took the Green Bay Packers to six NFL titles games in a span of eight years in the 1960s and won five in a span of seven years. Bradshaw directed the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.

Then comes Manning. He was the MVP of his only other Super Bowl when he completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown in a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. Manning was expected to be the best quarterback on the field that night and was, outdueling Rex Grossman.

His challenge will be far greater in his second Super Bowl against Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who led the NFL in touchdown passes and won his first passing crown.

But this is where you build on your reputation as a quarterback. Bradshaw outdueled Staubach, Montana outdueled Elway and Elway outdueled Favre in Super Bowls. It's games like this when the great ones step up.

With every game in February that Manning steps up, he will move up the list of the all-time greats at his position.

Rick Gosselin's 10 greatest quarterbacks of all time:

Quarterback. . . ...Years . . .....Teams......................

1. Johnny Unitas...1956-73....Colts, Chargers ....Threw a touchdown pass in record 47 consecutive games

2. Otto Graham.....1946-55.....Browns............Won a record 83.4 percent of career games

3. Joe Montana.....1979-94.......49ers, Chiefs......No interceptions in four Super Bowls

4. John Elway......1983-98......Broncos............51,475 passing yards; 3,407 yards rushing

5. Roger Staubach...1969-79.....Cowboys..........Won four NFL passing titles

6. Bart Starr...........1956-71......Packers..........104.8 career passer rating in postseason

7. Terry Bradshaw....1970-83.....Steelers...........Won two Super Bowls with a running team, two with a passing team

8. Peyton Manning.....1998-2009...Colts............Has won a record four NFL MVP awards

9. Brett Favre..........1991-2009.....Packers, Jets, Vikings.....A record 497 touchdown passes

10. Tom Brady..........2000-09......Patriots........Two game-winning, final-minute drives in Super Bowls