Was trying to think of how to put Peyton Manning's career into perspective in the wake of the Colts' 31-17 loss to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, and Bill Cowher came to mind.
No, it's not another quarterback, but the careers of the two men bear some remarkable similarities.
For one, both have been dominant performers in the regular season. Cowher led the Steelers to 10 postseason appearances in 15 seasons as head coach, winning eight divisional titles along the way.
But Cowher's postseason record was not nearly as dominant. The Steelers made it to six AFC Championship Games, but reached the Super Bowl only twice, winning once. His career playoff record is 12-9.
Some coaching comparisons: Bill Belichick is 15-4 in the playoffs with four Super Bowl appearances and three championships. Chuck Noll was 16-8 with four championships. Joe Gibbs was 17-7 with four Super Bowl appearances and three titles.
Manning has led the Colts to the playoffs 10 times, winning the NFL MVP a record four times in that span. But he, too, has a playoff record that has come under scrutiny. He has lost in the first round six times, and has a career record of 9-9 in the postseason.
Like Cowher, he has made it to the Super Bowl twice, winning once.
Other elite quarterbacks: Joe Montana was 16-7 in the playoffs, winning four championships. Tom Brady is 14-3 in the playoffs with four Super Bowl appearances and three championships. John Elway was 14-7 in the playoffs, with five Super Bowl appearances and two championships.
I'm not trying to diminish either Manning's or Cowher's accomplishments; on the contrary, they are two of the most transcendent performers in their respective fields. But when it comes to separating those at the very top of their professions, it often comes down to what happens in the crucible of the playoffs. And for both, the postseason hasn't always been what they'd hoped for.