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Peyton Manning has reached the Super Bowl with 4 different coaches, but he's never had his Bill Belichick

Manning is the only quarterback to go to four Super Bowls with four different coaches, which is both impressive and unfortunate.

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

On Sunday, Peyton Manning will become the seventh quarterback in NFL history to start in four Super Bowls. Unlike the first six quarterbacks to join the club (Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, John Elway and Tom Brady) Manning will be accompanied by his fourth different coach for the big game. In fact, of the other six, Elway and Montana are the only quarterbacks to go with more than one coach.

In a sense, this is one of Manning's greatest accomplishments as a player. No one will ever accuse him of being a system quarterback. No one will ever be able to diminish what he's done because he spent his entire career with the same legendary coach. It takes a lot of malleability to adjust to different coaching styles and philosophies.

At the same time, it's a real shame that Manning never got his Chuck Noll, or his Bill Walsh or his Bill Belichick to play under. While each coach helped Manning along his journey, each of them has had flaws that played a role in keeping Manning from getting to where he wanted to go.

Tony Dungy

AFC Championship: Colts v Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Without a doubt, Dungy is the best head coach Manning ever played under. He helped him win his only Super Bowl ring -- at least to this point -- and will probably wind up in the Hall of Fame, if not this year, then at some point in the near future.

Dungy won a lot of games in his career, but not because of what he did on Sundays. He won games because of the work he did Monday through Saturday creating a system and a culture that allowed his teams to operate like a machine on game day. If teams found a way to crack his Cover 2 system (like the Patriots did on more than one occasion), he couldn't really adapt the defense to do something different mid-game, especially as time went on and the Colts drafted players specifically to fill roles in the scheme.

And that's just on the defensive side of the ball. Dungy probably did about as much to help Manning as a quarterback as Manning did to help Dungy teach linebackers how to play Cover 2. As great as Dungy was as a coach, his role was never to make Manning a better quarterback. Instead, it was simply to take care of the rest of the team, so Manning could do more self-teaching.

Jim Caldwell

New York Jets v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When Tony Dungy retired after the 2008 season, the Colts needed someone who could continue to execute his vision, and no one fit the bill better than Caldwell. He had the same demeanor and approach to coaching as Dungy, and as Manning's position coach, had instant respect and credibility in the locker room.

The problem, of course, was that Caldwell simply didn't have the experience Dungy had a coach. Prior to that, his only head coaching job was an eight-year stint at Wake Forest where the Demon Deacons went 26-63 and only went to one bowl game.

Manning's brilliance and the overall strength of the roster was strong enough that the Colts were able to hide Caldwell's inexperience, up until the point it really mattered in Super Bowl XLIV against the Saints. Sean Payton coached circles around Caldwell. Everyone remembers how Payton dialed up the onside kick to change the momentum of the game, but people forget about Caldwell's disastrous decision to try to run out the clock in the first half, only to give the Saints the ball back with enough time to kick a field goal to cut into the deficit before halftime.

Caldwell was never able to do enough to distinguish himself as a coach separate from the system Dungy had already installed, or the excellence Manning accomplished on his own. It came as no surprise that the Colts fell hard in 2011 when Manning missed the season due to his neck issues and most of the defensive studs Dungy had coached up were no longer there.

After a 2-14 season, Caldwell was fired and Manning moved on to Denver.

John Fox

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Like Dungy, Fox was useful because he was great at managing things defensively and leaving Manning to take care of things on the other end. For the most part, that worked, except for the two times Manning needed the Broncos to have a stellar defense.

In 2013, the Broncos were 43 seconds away from clinching a spot in the AFC Championship when Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones cracked the Broncos' prevent defense to tie the game. The Broncos fell in overtime, while the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.

A year later, the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl, where Seahawks ran all over them. Fox clearly just didn't have his team ready for the game.

Manning, who threw two picks in each of those games, shares some of the blame for the team's failings, just as he does for the failings of the Dungy and Caldwell eras. But when Manning has fallen short in his career, he has almost always lacked the coaching support to overcome a bad day.

Gary Kubiak

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Remarkably, Gary Kubiak is the only head coach Manning has ever had who played his position in the NFL. But even though he understands the position better than anyone else who has coached Manning, they've struggled mightily together this season.

A big part of that is how Manning is a shell of himself, but the way they haven't seen eye-to-eye on offensive scheme has not helped.

It seems counterproductive to try to work against someone like Manning, who understands the game better than almost anyone. But maybe that's what he has always needed. He's never had a second set of eyes who can see the game the way he sees it and challenge him to try a different approach.

Let's not forget Kubiak somehow found a way to win a playoff game with T.J. Yates under center when he was the head coach of the Texans. Throughout his career, he's found ways to make the most of some bad quarterbacking situations. Winning the Super Bowl with a 39-year-old quarterback who can't make an effective throw longer than 20 yards would be the ultimate testament to Kubiak's ability to make something out of not much.

To be clear, it's not that Kubiak is the great coach whom we've overlooked all these years. But as we approach what could likely be Peyton Manning's final game, it's fair to wonder how much differently his career could have gone with a coach who could have guided him away from some of his pitfalls rather than leave him to his own devices.

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