This is an article from the Sept. 14, 2015 issue
The five-time MVP is entering his 18th (and possibly not final) NFL season well-rested and feeling good. At 39, he can still outgun and—in his own mind, at least—outrun his fellow quarterbacks.
DAN PATRICK: Who's the best talent to come through the Manning Passing Academy?
PEYTON MANNING: That's been hotly debated. There's never been a high school kid who's come through and I've said, "I know this kid is headed for the NFL." Eli [Manning] was polished, but you just didn't know. Andrew Luck was a camper. Johnny Manziel was a camper. Russell Wilson was a camper. It's hard to say there were guarantees at the time though.
DP: What about college players?
PM: Matthew Stafford [Georgia] threw the ball as well as anyone I've seen as a college player. Eli and Philip Rivers [North Carolina State] were both there at the same time. JaMarcus Russell [LSU] threw the ball farther than anybody I've ever seen. Anytime we were throwing in line, I was sure not to go after JaMarcus. It was going to be such a disappointing throw. He's throwing 80 yards, I'm throwing 47 yards.
DP: Have you put a time frame on how long you'll keep playing?
PM: I don't know if there's a time frame. I'm fired up for the 2015 season. My health is good. I had a good off-season of training. I changed a few things as far as my training and diet. I feel like I'm in good shape.
DP: So you'll play as long as you're productive?
PM: I think that's the idea for any player. As long as you feel good. As long as you know you can still help the team. Sometimes that decision is easy for people. You have a major injury, you can't get healthy, your body hurts so much, that you're just like This is a no-brainer. That's just not how I feel. Coach [Gary] Kubiak has been very good [at resting] the veteran players. Hopefully that will help all of us throughout the season.
DP: Give me the starting quarterback you could beat in a foot trace.
PM: It's a pretty long list.
PM: You got [Colin] Kaepernick, Wilson, [Michael] Vick. I knock them all out in the first round. What distance?
PM: O.K. I get faster the farther I go. Second round a little closer matchup, it'd be me versus Big Ben [Roethlisberger], Eli, Rivers. The class of 2004 QBs. The finale has got to be me versus [Tom] Brady. It'll be a close race.
DP: How much do you care about Deflategate?
PM: Tom is a friend of mine. He'll always be a friend of mine. I don't know all the details. I have not read any of the reports. But our friendship won't change.
Relive Tim Layden's Aug. 26, 1996 cover story on Manning's days as the nation's top QB at Tennessee in the SI Vault podcast at SI.com/podcasts
Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley believes the team's handling of quarterback Robert Griffin III has had a ripple effect in Washington. "It's creating animosity among fans," Cooley said. "A lot are for RG3. A lot are for [Kirk] Cousins. It's not a great chemistry. It's very divisive." ... I asked quarterback legend Doug Flutie if he could have played for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. "I don't know," Flutie said. "Jim and I were with the Bears in 1987. He's got a harsh personality. We get along fine, but he doesn't always give you the warm and fuzzies." ... ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt said he won't avoid discussing gambling on his new midnight edition of SportsCenter: "People have action on games. Brent [Musburger] and Al Michaels mention the spread, and people get all giddy. We're grown-ups. [Betting] happens."