Wolf also sees Unitas in Manning's drop from center and in his release point on passes. But he won't go much further than that.
Marchetti, 80, who spent 13 seasons with the Colts, pointed to another obvious difference.
"John called his own game," he said. "That's a big difference. He went into a game with 150 offensive plays. He had to know all 150 plays and what was good against whatever defense we faced."
Marchetti said he thought both Unitas, who died in 2002, and Manning, 30, could transcend the difference in eras and styles. He declined to say which quarterback he thought was better.
"I think if we had Peyton, we'd have done just as well," Marchetti said. "And if John was still living and young, they'd do just as well with him."
Asked who was the better quarterback, Hawkins hedged.
"I would say John at this point because Peyton's still playing," he said. "John was winning the big games early in his career and Peyton has been losing them. That could turn around very easily.
"Peyton has a little stronger arm than John did, a little quicker release. But John responded to pressure. He played so much better when the pressure was on."
'No hoopla'It is not lost on John Unitas Jr. that Manning has paid homage to Unitas Sr. during his celebrated career in Indianapolis.
"Peyton reminds me a lot of my father, quite frankly," John Jr. said. "Just his demeanor on the field. There is no hoopla, no jumping up and down. That wasn't my father, either."
Not surprisingly, Manning won the 1997 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation's best college quarterback (and brother Eli won the award in 2003).
When Unitas Jr. recently found photographs of his father and Manning together from that 1997 event, he forwarded them to Peyton in Indianapolis.
"My father gave Peyton the award and Peyton gave my father a pair of his high-tops," Unitas said. "He idolized my father."
Accorsi, who served as general manager for the Colts, Cleveland Browns and Giants, doesn't believe Manning has to win a championship to validate his Hall of Fame credentials. "It'd be nice to win a championship, but [Dan] Marino didn't and nobody can tell me Marino is not one of the five or six best quarterbacks in history," he said.
Accorsi has no doubt about Unitas' place in history. It's at the top of the all-time quarterback list.
"We go back every time somebody retires and make them No. 1," Accorsi said. "Here's my bottom line on Unitas: Everybody who's ever played the game is compared to him; he's compared to nobody."