Manning's first half was unmatched

Peyton Manning is the first-half MVP, and Marty Schottenheimer is the coach of the year.

Updated: November 10, 2004, 5:23 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN Insider
The great thing about trying to identify the NFL's most valuable player is you can make a case for a bunch of guys. I just happen to think the two MVPs faced off this past Monday night – Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper.

Even though their teams are "only" 5-3, it's hard to imagine Manning and Culpepper being any better than they were in the first half.

Manning is my pick as the first-half MVP. When you watch him play, you always understand how much is placed on his shoulders. Statistically, he is having the best first half in NFL history for a quarterback. He's thrown 26 TDs and only four interceptions. He leads the league with 2,429 yards.

But he did something else that should impress you. Even though he is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season records – and that's a high standard – Manning knew that the Colts' defense is struggling. He brainstormed with head coach Tony Dungy and offensive coordinator Tom Moore with the idea that he needed to slow down the offense some, balance it out, and give the defense more time on the sidelines.

Monday night in that 31-28 win over the Vikings, Manning handed the ball off 31 times, attempted "only" 29 passes and still threw for four touchdowns.

Culpepper could get the MVP nod ahead of Manning without a lot of complaints. Statistically, he is not that far behind Manning and you might expect he'd be out front if Randy Moss had been in the lineup.

Coach of the year? Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers has done it with a rookie quarterback and a remade coaching staff; he has ended the winning streak of the New England Patriots and the unbeaten season of the Philadelphia Eagles.

But how do you pass over Marty Schottenheimer? We didn't even expect the Chargers to be competitive, did we? They were the joke of the NFL in the offseason. Well, they're 6-3 and I'm not so sure they won't win the AFC West when it's all said and done. Drew Brees' performance may be even more of a surprise than what Ben Roethlisberger has done in Pittsburgh.

Schottenheimer is my first half coach of the year.

Here's a little more to argue over: