Peyton Manning is no better or worse a QB with TD pass #509. He's proven himself enough in this league. The TD record didn't mean that. What it did signify is that nothing will stop Peyton. Time won't stop him. A debilitating neck injury so bad that Todd Helton cried when seeing his once backup QB throw late in the 2011 season didn't stop him. Losing a Super Bowl 43-8 didn't stop him. Having more money than God didn't stop him. Getting rushed by huge men year after year hasn't stopped him. Peyton Manning came into the NFL to be the best. He won four MVP awards and a Super Bowl before 2011, when his career could have easily ended. He was driven to come back, to reclaim what was once his. I don't think 508 drove him. Playing the game again drove him.
My favorite TD by Manning last week wasn't the record breaker, it was the TD right after, the 40-yard strike to Demarryius Thomas. That was a perfect pass, with good arm strength, great zip and perfect placement. Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford couldn't have thrown that ball better. That was the best sign for Manning. He's 38, and his arm is a whole lot better than it was at 36. Peyton had a triumphant return to the NFL with a Sunday Night win over the Steelers, but 508 couldn't have seen further away one week later.
In Week 2 of 2012, the Broncos went to Atlanta. That Falcons team would end up 13-3, and put a beat down on a lot of good QBs in the Dome that year, but no one knew that yet. Manning threw three INTs on back-to-back-to-back drives. It looked ugly. The passes were wobbly. Peyton compensated by getting smarter, by throwing more by doing less. He ended the 2012 season as the best QB in the NFL that year, the close runner-up as MVP, losing to a guy who had a historic season at RB. Yet Manning wanted more.
He went out and had the most voluminous season in NFL history. The one record he was known for was the one that his biggest rival broke. Tom Brady took Manning's most famous record from him... so Manning took it back throwing 55 TDs, breaking the yardage record to boot. Then the Seahawks embarrassed that offense in the Super Bowl... and Manning got even better.
What is Peyton Manning doing in 2014? He's basically having Tom Brady's 2007 season. His stats projected out to 16 games are eerily similar to Brady's in 2007. He's on pace to throw one fewer completion on one more attempt, for 100 more yards, one more TD and the same 8 INTs. The numbers are that close. Manning has a better passer rating this year. He has a better arm this year. He's being more efficient this year. He is better this year. You aren't supposed to set records at 37, and you for sure aren't supposed to play even better at 38. Manning is doing historic things, and 508 is only a part of it.
509 TDs isn't the culmination of a career. It is the continuation of one. Manning will basically stop at this point when he decides to. His Broncos career might just end up being the greatest three-year stretch of QB-ing ever (Manning from 2004-06 comes close - with better efficiency in a far less pass-heavy NFL). Sure, it is easier to throw in today's NFL, and passer rating records are getting smashed each year (the NFL as a whole has a 89.9 passer rating this season - it was 80.9 in 2004), but Manning is the best QB in 2014. He was the best QB in 2004. No one covered eras like Favre. Brett Favre was a Top-3 QB in an NFL that included an MVP Steve Young. He was a Top-3 QB in an NFL that included an MVP Peyton Manning and Super Bowl MVP Brett Favre. Brett Favre spanned eras, but really, so did Peyton Manning.
Manning had his first great season in 1999. That year was the birth of the Greatest Show on Turf. It was also Dan Marino's final season. It was two years before Tom Brady started a game. Aaron Rodgers was 14. Andrew Luck was 10. Peyton Manning was his first MVP in 2003, the last year before the QB revolution. That year the 2nd best QB was Steve McNair, the third best was probably Brett Favre. That was the first year of the Manning / Brady duopoly (let's remember, Rich Gannon was the MVP the year before that). We are now 11 years later. There are probably less than 30 players who were active in 2003 who are active today. Peyton Manning is one of them, and he's arguably better 11 years later.
510 TDs is a dynamic record. He's going to put that thing higher each week. Drew Brees has an incredibly outside shot of touching that record. Andrew Luck has a shot, I guess. That shot gets more realistic if the NFL goes to an 18-game schedule. Even then, he has to basically throw 30 TDs a game for 15 years. Peyton Manning is leaving behind a legacy so great it is beyond words. And he's not done yet. An injury crippled his career for a while. It made him leave Indianapolis, something that seemed unfathomable just a year earlier. Still, it made him better. It made him hungrier, and smarter, and tougher, and greater. It made him get to 508, and now 510, and will carry him to a place that we can only imagine.