Manning, Peyton (2015 Season)

Comments

Transcription

Manning, Peyton (2015 Season)
A Super Bowl Sunset
By Peter King
MMQB.com
February 8, 2016
On Thursday, three days before the winningest quarterback in NFL history would play The Last Game (or
at least the game we’re sure is the last one), he lined up his offense around the defensive 20-yard line
and barked out signals. This would be the last full series of plays in the Super Bowl 50 practice week for
Denver at Stanford Stadium, their home for the week … and maybe the last full series of practice plays in
Peyton Manning’s life.
The sun was nearly touching the top of the west stands of the stadium on this beautiful California winter
afternoon, creating an image of a sunset and lengthening shadows on the field as Manning directed
traffic.
“Be alert! Be alert!” he called out, motioning Emmanuel Sanders across the formation. And Manning
shouted out the play, which began with “Z Motion!” And then the snap, and then … nothing. No one
open.
“One more time!” Manning yelled, annoyed. “Do it again!”
And the offense did, Sanders trolling the back of the end zone and Manning hitting him for a
touchdown.
Manning completed 24 of 28 passes against the scout team defense on this temperate afternoon, and
his coach, Gary Kubiak, said afterward that this was as good as the 39-year-old Manning had looked all
season. Around the Broncos as the week aged, there was growing confidence that Manning could once
more have a Manning-of-2013 game.
And then he didn’t.
And then the Broncos won the Super Bowl. By 14.
And then Manning, in the bowels of Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night, was fine with being along for the
ride, almost a 2000 Dilfer, on a team with the best defense in the league that absolutely pummeled Cam
Newton.
“I’ve just had a real peace this year,” Manning told me 90 minutes after the 24-10 win over the
Panthers. “I didn’t know how it was going to work out. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I’m
at the point … I’m okay with that.”
***
It must be daunting, and it must be a relief, to go from winning like Clayton Kershaw to winning like
Mark Buehrle. To be utterly dominant, and then to be along for the ride on a team that hits four home
runs every night. The way the Blue Jays pummeled the ball late last season is the way the Broncos’
defense pummeled Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton in their great playoff run. Denver
has a great defense. Holding Big Ben to 16 points, Brady to 18 and MVP Newton to 10? Holding the
Steelers, Patriots and Panthers to four touchdowns in 12 quarters? Carolina, New England and
Pittsburgh were 1-3-4 in the league in scoring, yet managed all of seven third-down conversions in three
games.
Von Miller is the star of this team. He and DeMarcus Ware and two young defensive linemen (Malik
Jackson and Derek Wolfe), and a couple of swift linebackers and a strong and physical secondary.
Manning can complete 13 of 23 for 141 yards, with two turnovers and a 56.6 rating, and the Broncos can
still be the ’85 Bears.
“This is a game Peyton never would have dreamed of playing 10, 12 years ago,” his old coach, Tony
Dungy, said Sunday night. “But when you win the Super Bowl, you’re fine with it.”
My theory is Manning, while rehabbing his heel and lifting and getting stronger in the 48 days he was
out of the Denver lineup, looked around and realized he didn’t have to throw for 250 anymore for his
team to have a chance to win. That was most of the time in Indianapolis, and much of his first two years
in Denver. Just don’t make the big mistake, he must be thinking. Punts can be your friends. “I’m buying
your theory,” father Archie Manning said Saturday. “I really think he’s fine with it. Look at him. He’s
happy. He’s peaceful. I think you have to put this in some perspective. He had four neck surgeries [in
2010 and 2011]. He might never have played again. But playing again, and playing well when he came
back—what a blessing.”
But in December, when the rehab was slow and the Broncos were struggling on offense, losing to
Oakland and Pittsburgh in succession, Kubiak still was convinced the team was good enough to
overcome not knowing if or when Manning would play. “There can still be a fairy-tale ending to this
season,” he confided to a friend in December.
And there was, of course. Manning returned to play the second half of the final game, then as a
complementary player in both the Pittsburgh and New England wins, all the while having the free world
think he was retiring at the end of the year. Which he likely will do. But after talking to Dungy nine days
ago, Manning felt convinced he needed to let this moment live without infecting it with the so-called
Disease of Me.
“I called him,” said Dungy, “and I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do, but if you haven’t decided
yet, don’t decide now. Don’t decide at halftime of the last game, or five minutes after the last game.
Don’t do it in the moment.’ I think Dick Vermeil made that decision in the moment, and he regretted it. I
said, ‘Let the adrenalin wear off and then decide.’”
As Manning said Sunday night, “I thought that was some good advice, to take some time and get away.
Coach said, ‘Promise me you’ll do that. It felt like I was back in Indy and he was telling me, ‘Hey, be
smart with this ball on third down.’ So it was good advice and I’m going to take some time. But like I
said, I have a peace about it either way.”
***
On Saturday night, Kubiak asked captains Manning and Ware to speak to the team. Ware took a
religious tone. “When you walk into the valley of the shadow of death,” Ware said, “you’re not alone.”
And he showed images of the offense, the defense and the special teams on the big screen, to
emphasize the team aspect of the coming day. Manning did it differently. He talked about the people in
the organization, the unsung people they wouldn’t know, or know well. He quoted a favorite pastime of
Kubiak’s, the coach’s preference to use “Wise Words” through the year to pass along a lesson. “One of
my favorites,” Manning said, “is, ‘Life is fair. Keep working.’” Quarterback coach Greg Knapp said it was
the best team-unifying speech he’s heard from a player in his years in football.
“We were ready to play last night,” tight end Owen Daniels said Sunday.
During the day Sunday, when Kubiak saw Manning at the team hotel, he said: “How’d you sleep?”
Manning said, “Like a baby. Ten-and-a-half hours.” Much longer than usual.
Whoa. Maybe the man really was at peace. The game was, in many ways, 1966 football. Quarterbacks
playing inefficiently, at least in part because of the ceaseless pressure from both defenses. And it came
down to, at the end of the game, Denver trying to play keepaway in a six-point game (Denver, 16-10) the
same way the Broncos tried to play keepaway in an eight-point game (Denver, 20-12) in the AFC title
game against New England.
Third-and-nine, Denver 26, 5:42 left. Surely Manning would try to convert through the air. No sir. “I
thought I saw him change the play to a run,” said Dungy. And Manning did. C.J. Anderson, gain of two.
Punt. An incompletion would have taken maybe seven seconds off the clock here. The two-yard run took
43 seconds off. Britton Colquitt punted.
Manning was playing four-corners. He didn’t care. He had Von Miller to strip-sack Newton for the
second time moments later, and Anderson scored the clinching touchdown, and Peyton Manning won a
Super Bowl without throwing a touchdown pass. He went 3-0 in the postseason and didn’t throw for a
touchdown in two of the three wins.
But he has his second Super Bowl title now. And in a day or two, he’ll get away, somewhere no one will
find him and his family, and he’ll figure out what to do with his life. At least for now.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Manning said—and he has to know a nation eye-rolls at that. Everyone thinks
he’s riding off into the sunset the way Bettis and Strahan and, yes, Elway, have done in the past two
decades.
“Ashley and I, we’ll have that talk at some point, but we are going to enjoy this tonight and celebrate.
Our kids are four and they are in Pre-K and the teachers say, you really shouldn’t pull them out of
school. We are pulling them out! We are going somewhere and we are going to get the heck out of
town.
“I have one thing I’ll say, I’ve had good experience with making some decisions, choosing where to go to
college, staying for my senior year in college and deciding which NFL team to play for in free agency four
years ago. I’ve taken time on all those, I’ve prayed about it, I’ve talked to some people about it and I
think I will do that with this. But I have a peace about it whichever way it goes. I’m glad I have been able
to get through these two weeks with the focus staying on the team, because that is what it has been
about this year. I’ve been a part of it.
“Do you know deep down inside what you are going to do?” I said.
“I don’t,” he said.
But if this is it, and assuming it is, this has been the kind of year Manning has never come close to
experiencing as one of the best players ever. Yanked from the lineup. Hurt in midseason. A backup when
he returned. Coming back to win a Super Bowl.
“Somebody could say, this year, you really did everything as a QB,” Manning said, sounding wistful. The
bus was waiting on him, and he could feel the world waiting for him. For once, he didn’t seem to care.
“I hadn’t been a backup, hadn’t really been injured. I played a long time, but I’d only seen it from one
way. I know there are a couple scenarios that I haven’t been in, but I covered a lot of bases this year.
Like I said, there is a real perspective to that. And it was really sort of educational for me. You know
nobody loves the quarterback position more than me. Today, with the 50th Super Bowl and the league
bringing back all the MVPs, I saw Phil Simms and I saw Joe Montana and Steve Young out there on the
field before the game. I wanted so badly to find a way to be out there for that MVP picture out there
with Eli [his brother] and Tom Brady and Joe Namath. Impossible. There was no way I could do it. But
nobody loves quarterbacks more than me and I think I have an even greater perspective and
appreciation for the position after this year and I’ve stuck with it. You find out a lot. And it certainly
ended up in a real good way today, didn’t it?”
It did. For 53 Broncos and a coaching staff and an organization. An egalitarian Super Bowl, with the
quarterback in twilight a part. And the smile on his face, the wide, wide smile, told the story. He was fine
with being one of 53, winning a different way. It felt as good.
***
Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware key to Broncos' Super
Bowl-readiness
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
February 8, 2016
As the Denver Broncos moved through the final days before Super Bowl 50, coach Gary Kubiak said he
had a preview of what was to come.
The foundation of the 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Levi’s Stadium was built in how the
Broncos approached their work in the days before it. In their practices, in the team’s collective
demeanor during the swirl of Super Bowl week and finally in Saturday night’s team meeting, Kubiak said
he saw all he needed to see.
Kubiak had selected DeMarcus Ware and Peyton Manning to speak at the team meeting and many
players said both Ware and Manning were highly emotional and delivered their words with passion.
“I watched them really lock in, especially when we got to Wednesday and worked towards Sunday, they
really locked in,’’ Kubiak said Monday morning. “Our meeting the night before the game was one of the
greatest moments of my career to be in a room with that group of guys and to see -- you felt something
special coming. I’m proud of them from that standpoint. They took care of business. They did all year
long.’’
Kubiak had leaned on Manning and Ware, as captains and two of the team’s most veteran and
respected players, throughout the team’s preparations in the regular season as well as in the playoffs.
Manning had joked before the Broncos left Denver for the Bay Area last week that he believed curfew
for the players should be 9 p.m. each night.
“I think we handled our business all the way through the season and into the playoffs,’’ said Chris Harris
Jr. “We always knew we’ve been in a lot of tough games, we were tested. I think every guy knew how to
handle the week on the field and off the field.’’
The Broncos players said the team was dialed in during practice all week -- the team worked at Stanford
University -- and it showed, especially on defense, in Sunday’s win. The Broncos finished with seven
sacks and held the NFL MVP -- Panthers quarterback Cam Newton -- to 18-of-41 passing as Newton did
not score a touchdown either by rushing or passing.
It was just the second game of the season -- the Panthers’ Dec. 27 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was the
other -- in which Newton did not either run or throw for a touchdown.
“We did most of our work in Denver and before we came out, I called Peyton and DeMarcus in, and we
were talking about curfews and all of those types of things,’’ Kubiak said Monday. “I put it in their hands.
I really trusted them. They’ve been great all year. When I asked them to do something, they did it. They
were hard on each other. I always told our team, ‘The great teams are really hard on each other, make
each other really accountable.’’’
Peyton Manning's career finally whole after Super Bowl
50 win
By Judy Battista
NFL.com
February 8, 2016
If you looked closely while he sat at the podium Sunday night, you could just make out the small scar on
the back of his neck that cleaved Peyton Manning's career in two.
His arm was never really the same after the four surgeries to repair a disk. He never fully regained the
complete feeling in his fingers. But when he returned in 2012 from a season-long recovery in Denver, he
said he hoped to be the player his fans thought they remembered him being.
He was not that this season, not as his body and age betrayed him, not as he was benched in the regular
season, nearly losing his job for good. But on Sunday night, at age 39, Manning gave -- and got -- that
rarest of results in sports: a happy ending.
He threw for just 141 yards. He had no touchdown passes. In his prime, he had quarters that were
better than that. It was, in any other venue, forgettable. Except that Manning finally won his second
Super Bowl -- the first was nine years ago, an entire career span for many quarterbacks -- and he
became the only quarterback in history to win a championship with two different teams. The two parts
of his career -- before surgery and post -- are finally equal. And his career, for so long shadowed by the
failure to win multiple titles, is finally whole.
"Being on two different teams, winning a Super Bowl with each team, I'm proud of that," Manning said.
"I do not take that for granted."
Age comes for all professional athletes, and it came roaring in to take Manning this year. Thirty-five days
ago, he was a backup for the first time since he was a young man at Tennessee. But after years of
making football look easy, of toying with defenses and mastering audibles, the victory for Manning came
in a year that was terribly difficult. He showed a frailty he had never exhibited before, certainly not since
he burst on the scene as a high school prodigy. Even the words he used to describe himself this week
were a meld of cold-eyed reality and emotional nostalgia. He knew he was not what he once was, what
all those fans remembered him being. But he could still move the chains, he said, as if he were another
journeyman latching on to a great defense.
That is why it seems inevitable that Manning will, at some point in the coming days or weeks, call an end
to his brilliant career. He would not do it Sunday night -- it never seemed realistic that he would upstage
the Super Bowl -- but he said he would take some time. His Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy -- one of four
coaches with whom Manning had been to Super Bowls with, and the first to have won one with
Manning -- told Manning last week that he had once received advice from Dick Vermeil and Bill Cowher
to never make an emotional decision. Manning has been emotional in recent weeks -- he said he wanted
to tell Bill Belichick and Tom Brady face to face how much he had enjoyed competing against them. He
choked back tears while talking to his teammates Saturday night, and he choked up in a CBS pregame
interview when he considered his legacy -- and so this was not the time. His son Marshall was peeking
out from the podium on which Manning leaned and Peyton wanted to go celebrate.
"I think I'll make a good decision and I think I'll be at peace with it, however it goes," Manning said.
Some of his teammates said they hoped he would return, and linebacker Brandon Marshall voiced a
truth about the Broncos -- he was on the team because of Manning. A large part of the reason there is
so much talent is because Manning was on the roster, acting as a magnet for veteran talent like
DeMarcus Ware, who signed on when John Elway determined he had to build a better defense after the
Broncos were blown out of the Super Bowl two years ago. Manning had spotted Marshall on the
Broncos' practice squad in 2013 and he asked coaches who Marshall was, telling them they had to bring
him up to the active roster. That is the sort of impact Manning was still able to make even as he receded
from lead singer to part of the chorus this season, and it is an impact that will likely be gone very soon.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "It's a great sense of accomplishment for this team. We've been through a
lot this year. This team has been unselfish, tough, resilient and I think all that was on display tonight. I
got a chance to talk to the team last night, and I kind of thanked them for letting me be a part of the
journey."
The journey seems sure to end now, and as his son Marshall peeked out from beneath the podium on
which his father leaned, Manning seemed relieved and at ease. The Broncos are sure to move on
without him, and for the first time it seems Manning might be comfortable moving on, too. That is what
Elway did, and it is the ending he had hoped to craft for Manning, too.
When the Broncos were in the Super Bowl two years ago, after an extraordinary 55-touchdown season
by Manning, he said he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As the gold confetti fell and even his opponents stopped to embrace him Sunday night, that light was
surely dimming. The scar has faded, too. Left behind for Manning was the reflected glow of the silver
Lombardi Trophy -- one for each hand, for each team for which he played, for each part of his sterling
career.
Peyton Manning a competitor to the very end
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post
February 8, 2016
With the Lombardi Trophy in his hand, Peyton Manning got everything he wanted from Super Bowl 50.
And more. After the Broncos upset Carolina, the old Denver quarterback hugged his kids, cemented his
place in NFL history, then with a smile that would not quit, politely told everybody who doubted him to
kiss his ... ring.
"I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family," Manning said Sunday night, during
an on-field interview with CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson. "I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight ... I
promise you that."
Sorry, Bud. I don't drink bad beer. In the hours after the Broncos' 24-10 victory, however, I sat on a bluff
overlooking the Pacific Ocean, listened to the waves crash, raised a glass of red wine and toasted the
most important thing I learned about No. 18 during the four seasons he played quarterback in Denver:
Manning is one ruthless competitor.
Yes, Manning makes us laugh by singing off-key about chicken parm. But stop with all these odes to his
grace and charm. Please. Let me tell you: All the great ones, from Michael Jordan to Serena Williams,
apply an unhealthy obsession to feats we stand up and cheer as heroic. The magic of Manning is in
hiding it.
He would not earn a league-record 200 victories in the regular-season and playoffs without that deepseeded need for winning. He would not have endured the humiliation of getting benched, and
swallowed his pride during six weeks when a torn plantar fascia sidelined him to remake his game and
finally accept the Broncos weren't all about him any more.
OK, Manning writes thank-you notes to retired players and sympathy cards to cancer patients. That's
real, genuine and cool. But do not be fooled. On the football field, however, he will rip your heart out,
Cam.
As gold confetti fell on the Broncos in victory, Manning gave Papa John the pizza king a big bro hug. But
there has been frost on the relationship between John Elway and Manning since the boss slashed his
veteran quarterback's salary last winter.
There was something during a recent and otherwise innocent conversation with Archie Manning that
rang true about America's first family of quarterbacks. It was mentioned that his two sons went to
dinner in California on the Tuesday before the showdown against Carolina. Eli Manning volunteered that
he picked up the check for his big brother.
"Good of him," said Archie, praising Eli in a sweet southern drawl. "He signed a big contract last year; he
ought to do that. Peyton got (a pay) cut."
Peyton Manning's possible storybook end a moment to
take in
By Jarrett Bell
USA Today
February 8, 2016
Peyton Manning huddled up with Marvin Harrison again during the pregame warm-ups on Sunday, and
no doubt, he felt a bit nostalgic.
Harrison, who was once Manning’s favorite receiver in Indianapolis, was at Levi’s Stadium as part of the
newly-minted Hall of Fame class.
"I told him to give me one more post route and one fade route tonight," Manning said, beaming, after
the Denver Broncos claimed their Super Bowl 50 crown.
As he stood in the middle of the locker room nearly an hour after the game, Manning was still wearing
his football pants and the T-shirt that he wore under his jersey. He was drenched in sweat.
How fitting.
Manning, the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl, became the first quarterback to win Super Bowls
with multiple franchises in a contest that could mark the end of his prolific, 18-year career.
If it was indeed his final game, Manning surely soaked it all in.
"It was a special night," he said.
Manning quickly rattled off the names of the six Bay Area Super Bowl MVPs who were on the field for
the coin toss, indicating how much he savored every possible detail attached to the 24-10 triumph
against the Carolina Panthers.
He even mentioned something, finally, about reminiscing.
That’s it. If his father Archie’s declaration to the NFL Network after the game isn’t enough proof of how
much it’s a given that Peyton will retire — "I think Peyton’s done in Denver. He may He’s done
everywhere," Archie said — then Peyton admitting that he reminisced on Sunday is telling enough.
For weeks, that was one of those words — like "reflecting" — that Manning refused to roll with when
people would talk about his trying season and career.
But now he can let it all hang out.
On Saturday night, Manning delivered a speech to his teammates, stressing the value of the moment of
playing in the big game. From what can be gathered, it was rather emotional and detailed.
"He talked for so long," Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said.
Manning would have never wound up with his opportunity to ride off into sunset with a Super Bowl
victory — like Jerome Bettis, Ray Lewis, Michael Strahan or his boss, John Elway — without the support
of a magnificent defense that dismantled the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and pulverized the NFL’s
MVP, Cam Newton.
It’s no wonder that as the final seconds ticked off the clock on Sunday, Manning stood in the middle of
the Broncos’ bench area, grinning broadly as he stood alongside two of the defensive stars, DeMarcus
Ware and Von Miller, the Super Bowl MVP.
"I thought Von, DeMarcus, Talib and (Chris) Harris were going to share the MVP," Manning said. "I
wanted them to have to share a car together, ride in a car together every day to practice. I thought that
would have been great to see. That is what I wanted. I wanted to have those guys enjoy that favor."
Manning — who passed for just 141 yards and had a paltry 56.6 passer rating — could afford to be giddy
because he had the best defense on his side this time. The Broncos’ top-ranked defense not only held
Carolina to its lowest-scoring game of the season, it sacked Newton seven times and forced him into
three turnovers.
"I'm thankful that I haven't had to play against these guys," Manning said.
The decision on retirement will come soon enough. Winning the big one may have sealed the deal.
"Brandon Marshall told me that he wanted to win for me," Manning said, referring to his linebacker
teammate, "and I told him that I wanted to win for him. Win for (defensive coordinator) Wade Phillips,
win for (quarterbacks coach) Greg Knapp.
"That was a great example of what this team has been about," he added. "Unselfish. Tough. That’s what
our team’s been, that’s what I’ve been."
Archie Manning, a former quarterback, knows as well as anyone what the toll of the season has been
like for his son.
A few weeks ago, when Peyton was in the midst of a six-week layoff to deal with a torn plantar fascia,
Archie would have never guessed it would end like this.
"I didn’t think he was going to play again," Archie said. "His foot was bothering him. Brock (Osweiler)
was playing well. I just said, 'Well, that’s football.' He’s always looked at the good times that he had, and
all the good health that he had. Just for him to get to play again, to get back in, and help them get that
No. 1 seed, maybe in four years here, I hope he’s made some contributions to the Broncos. Maybe the
best one was going into the San Diego game and securing the No.1 seed, instead of the No. 5 seed."
Archie surely has a hunch that his son is poised to hang up his spikes, but just don’t expect the dad to
offer any unsolicited advice.
"I don’t give him advice," Archie said. "He’s 40 years old."
Peyton, though, passed on the opportunity to make a definitive statement about his future after the
game. When asked during the postgame interviews on the field, he maintained that his first priorities
were to kiss his wife and kids.
It was not the time and place.
"To do that, it makes it not about the team and about the individual," he said. "I kind of shared some
things that were on my mind and my heart."
He also had a few one-liners. He cracked that Miller — who won MVP honors on the strength of his 2½
sacks and pair of forced fumbles — would now have to buy the beers.
When Miller was told of Manning’s remark, he chuckled.
"The rules have changed," Miller said.
The rule of Super Bowl 50 was obvious. Manning could win, but he didn’t have to lead the way.
This time, he could take his last rodeo on the shoulders of a great defense.
A Super Bowl win in his final game? It's a Manning
mother's wish
By Ian O’Connor
ESPN.com
February 8, 2016
Olivia Manning was standing tall under the falling confetti, staring up at the platform and the
triumphant sight of one of her three sons, Peyton. She was trying to stay out of the way, as usual, trying
to blend into a night that nobody in her famous football family will ever forget.
But there was no hiding in the aftermath of Super Bowl 50, no way for her to remain faceless even as
the gold confetti landed softly around her hair and shoulders. Her husband Archie always answers the
questions about Peyton and Eli and their conquests and failures, because he was the dazzling college
and pro quarterback and she was the homecoming queen.
This night was different. Olivia Manning had spent one lifetime watching her husband get battered on
the football field, and another watching her middle and youngest sons absorb their fair share of abuse.
As a mother who had watched Peyton endure 18 seasons of hits, not to mention four neck surgeries
that left him unable to throw a 10-yard lob, she was the right person to ask whether Peyton, now the
39-year-old two-time champ, should end his epic career right then and there.
On the Levi's Stadium field, as the Denver Broncos were celebrating their 24-10 victory over the Carolina
Panthers, Olivia Manning decided to say what the men in her family would not.
"I would like for Peyton to retire, I would," she told ESPN.com and The Los Angeles Times. When asked
why, Olivia said, "Well, we're on top, and physically I just don't think it's worth going on. You won a
Super Bowl. That's the best way to go out."
And so what if Peyton Manning goes out with a second Super Bowl title while throwing for 141 yards, no
touchdowns and one interception? He has spent so many years carrying Indianapolis Colts and Broncos
teams with his incomparable arm and his brain. In what will almost certainly be Manning's final season,
it was high time for a team to carry him.
Von Miller was the Super Bowl MVP because No. 58 reminded everyone how No. 56, Lawrence Taylor,
used to play this game. Miller and the rest of Denver's defense knocked around the league MVP, Cam
Newton, the same way they'd knocked around a far more stationary target, Tom Brady, in the AFC
Championship Game.
That's OK. Just as John Elway needed Mike Shanahan to deliver him Terrell Davis at the end of Elway's
career, Peyton Manning needed Elway to deliver him this defense at the end of his.
As he stood against a wall near the locker room, his face a brew of relief and sheer exhaustion, Archie
Manning said the Panthers had no idea that the Denver defense was playing like the defense Ron Rivera
once suited up for in Chicago.
"I don't think they thought they could lose this game," Archie said. "I think they were shocked."
Just not as shocked as the Mannings were that Peyton would ever benefit from the magic being created
by Miller, DeMarcus Ware and the rest. The quarterback had a badly injured foot and a dead arm when
he was replaced by Brock Osweiler in that Kansas City game in November.
"I didn't think he was going to play again," Archie said.
But against all odds, Manning got relatively healthy and replaced Osweiler in the regular-season finale
against San Diego. Archie said his son's first victory out of the bullpen, giving the Broncos the top seed
instead of the fifth, was one of the biggest victories of Peyton's career.
Just not half as big as this one over Newton and the Panthers, the 200th victory of Peyton's career,
postseason included, of course.
Archie, Olivia, Eli and oldest son Cooper all watched from a suite on the seventh level of the stadium.
"It was quiet and it was a lot of fingernail biting and, 'Do not move, that's our lucky chair,' " Cooper said.
"And a lot of holding on for dear life. That's what we were doing."
On cue, Archie was a complete mess. "He was kind of still," Cooper said. "But when we got down inside
seven minutes he was having a hard time watching."
He had his reasons. Peyton had carried some heavy postseason luggage into Levi's Stadium, much of it
weighed down by his nine one-and-done exits and 13-13 overall record. Yes, he beat Tom Brady in their
last three meetings in AFC title games. No, people weren't about to accept that fact as reason to forget
Brady's defining 4-1 advantage in Super Bowl rings.
"There's still nothing wrong with being 2-2 in Super Bowls," Archie said, "instead of 1-3."
Peyton started the game with the worst regular-season statistics a starting Super Bowl quarterback ever
had, and ended it by becoming the first to win it for two franchises and by replacing his boss, Elway, as
the oldest to win the big one. It's one of the greatest Super Bowl stories of them all, right there with Joe
Willie Namath upsetting the Colts, Doug Williams knocking down some walls, Steve Young exorcising the
ghost of Joe Montana, Elway winning back-to-back titles to close out his career, Brady's Patriots
upsetting the high-flying Rams, and Eli's Giants upsetting Brady's 18-0 Patriots.
After averaging 32.1 touchdowns over 16 seasons, Peyton threw nine this season against 17
interceptions. He'd been asked to take a $10 million pay cut after his preferred coaches (John Fox and
Adam Gase) were shown the door (Manning negotiated it down to the $4 million he earned back by
winning the conference and Super Bowl titles), and he was asked to make it work with a Gary Kubiak
offense better suited for Osweiler. On top of all that, and the injuries, Manning had to face the Al
Jazeera report of human growth hormone allegedly shipped from an anti-aging clinic to his home, under
his wife's name, a report the quarterback has denounced as the league investigates.
So that's why the Mannings wanted this Sunday like they've never wanted any Sunday. Asked how badly
she needed this second ring for Peyton, his mother said, "Oh my goodness, I guess more than I've ever
wanted any of them. I don't know, just because he's been through a lot."
Olivia talked about the lucky seats in the family box, and how Eli sat behind her, nobody allowed to
move a muscle. "Pretty incredible," she said. "I don't think I've ever experienced anything quite like it."
The first snap of the game announced to the world this wasn't going to be a repeat of the DenverSeattle Super Bowl from two years ago, when the Seahawks pounded the Broncos so mercilessly that
Archie stood outside the locker room and said, "That's why I hate football." On that night, Denver center
Manny Ramirez opened the game by snapping the ball over Manning's head, giving Seattle the safety
and a 2-0 lead that inspired the onslaught.
But on the first play from scrimmage against Carolina, Manning fielded a clean snap from Matt Paradis,
stood firm as his teammates picked up the blitz, and found Owen Daniels for 18 yards. Manning threw
with confidence and precision on the drive, and it wasn't of great consequence that the Broncos ended
up with only a field goal; the quarterback had settled into a game that some thought had Panthers
blowout written all over it, and that was more important than anything.
It was an ugly game with ugly stats from Manning and Newton. Von Miller vs. Kony Ealy turned out to be
the marquee matchup.
And absolutely nobody on the Manning side cared about the box score, or the fact that Peyton's
highlight came in the form of a two-point conversion pass.
Archie spoke of the supreme calm his son had shown all week. He spoke of all the things Peyton needed
to overcome.
"He had to take off during the season, which he's never done before," Archie said. "He had to run the
scout team, which I don't think he's ever done. And he dressed out for a game as a backup, which I don't
think he's ever done. But through it all, the best I could tell he remained a good team player and tried to
make a contribution, and so the good Lord blessed him and let him get back out on the field."
Super Bowl 50 turned out to be the ultimate grind. The Manning patriarch laughed when he said he
grew tired of hearing the announcers say the words "no gain" about 100 times. He said he would talk to
Peyton about possible retirement this week, maybe next, and that he wouldn't try to tell his middle child
what to do.
But in a quiet moment later, as he stood alone against that wall, Archie told ESPN.com, "I've got 200something texts on my phone, a lot of friends, and everybody wants him to retire. Nine out of 10 people
feel that way. This has kind of come to a head. A lot of things are pointing toward what everyone wants
him to do."
Including Olivia Manning. If the family football narrative has always been about the men, this was one
Sunday when mother knew best.
Peyton Manning reflects on Super Bowl 50 win: "It is
very special"
By Nicki Jhabvala
Denver Post
February 7, 2016
Peyton Manning wanted to believe everything was the same. So he arrived at Levi's Stadium here
Sunday afternoon wearing a blue sports jacket and orange tie, his cleats and game-day gear trailing him
in a rolling suitcase, as usual. He took to the field in his navy running pants about three hours before the
Super Bowl kickoff to spray passes to practice-squad receiver Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor, as usual. And he
wore a glove on his right throwing hand, as usual, even though it was 70 degrees. But before returning
to the locker room to strap on his pads and uniform, Manning twirled around for a 360-degree view of
Levi's Stadium. He needed one more look.
Then he patted Taylor on the back and walked back to the locker room, his head down and his focus
unwavering before returning to the field an hour later in full uniform ready for stretches and throws.
The usual.
But there was nothing normal about this day.
Five hours later, Manning assumed his spot at midfield under a shower of gold confetti. He stood, with a
gray Super Bowl 50 Championship cap on his head and a smile he could no longer hide. A second Super
Bowl ring would soon be engraved and added to his trophy case after what could be his last game of a
storied career.
"It is very special," he said after the Broncos' 24-10 victory over Carolina. "This game was like this season
has been: It tested our toughness, our resilience and our unselfishness. It's only fitting it turned out that
way."
Manning completed 13-of-23 pass attempts for 141 yards and zero touchdowns. He was sacked five
times and picked off once. He also lost a fumble. He was not the same Manning who took a beating in
his previous Super Bowl, two years ago, but he left a victor.
"It was just awesome because he was on a team that could help him get a win," coach Gary Kubiak said.
"He didn't have to go out there and do it all on his own, and he knew that. I told him that I watched John
Elway win a championship with 120-something yards passing, and he got one today. I'm just so proud of
him."
For the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50, Manning vowed to stay "in the moment," while
reflecting on many past ones and maybe, occasionally, thinking of future ones.
He vowed to embrace the journey and the victory, trying as it had been at times, because he knew —
without publicly admitting it — it could be the last.
He called in his thank-you's, phoning his high school coach and his former coach at the University of
Tennessee. He spoke to all of his NFL head coaches.
"I just told him how proud I was of him," Tony Dungy said of their call. "Do what he always does, let the
moment happen — and he's going to be fine."
But Dungy also doled out some advice.
"He called me and said, 'I need to talk to you,' because he got some good advice from Dick Vermeil and, I
think, maybe Bill Cowher, as well, about not making an emotional decision, one way or the other,"
Manning said. "And so I thought that was good advice, because it's been an emotional week, an
emotional night, and the night's just beginning."
On Saturday night, Manning's checklist grew longer. He addressed his teammates, thanking them for
letting him "be a part of the journey."
In a moment that has been rare over the past 18 years, Manning let his emotions take over. The "R"
word was never uttered, perhaps because it didn't need to be. He and his teammates were aware of the
magnitude of the game, of this being possibly the last time he stepped on the field. They were aware for
much of the season.
That evening, Manning also spoke to Dungy once again, first congratulating him on getting elected to
the Pro Football Hall of Fame and then again heeding his advice to not rush a decision about retirement.
"I have a couple of priorities first," Manning said after Sunday's victory. "I want to go kiss my wife and
my kids, I want to go hug my family. I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that. I'm
going to take care of those things, and say a little prayer to thank the man upstairs for this great
opportunity. I'm just very grateful."
On Sunday before the game, he shared personal moments alongside defensive coordinator Wade
Phillips, his teammates and other coaches.
But when the show began, Manning resorted to what he knew best.
In the minutes before kickoff, the MVPs of the previous 49 Super Bowls were honored in a pregame
ceremony, each walking out of the northeast tunnel in the stadium in front of a videoboard of their
highlights. When Manning's number came up, for Super Bowl XLI, an image of Manning, gulping a lime
Gatorade while sitting at his locker, flashed on the big screen. No smile. No glance toward the camera
zooming in on his face. No break in routine.
Everything had to be the same.
But he, and everyone else, knew it wouldn't be. It couldn't be.
Peyton Manning’s legacy took off at Tennessee
By Mike Strange
Knoxville News Sentinel
February 6, 2016
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 1994, Knoxville was paralyzed by snow, sleet and ice. A blizzard was the
last thing Phillip Fulmer needed.
It couldn't have been a worse day for Tennessee's football coach to host his most coveted recruit on an
official visit.
"Phillip was beside himself,'' Carmen Tegano recalled last week.
The recruit was Peyton Manning. From balmy New Orleans. With strong parental ties to Ole Miss. Also
looking at Florida. There would be no blizzard in Gainesville.
Tegano, the academic advisor for the athletic department, was marooned at home in Sequoyah Hills.
"Phillip really wanted an academic visit,'' Tegano said. "So he sent Mike Rollo (the football trainer) to
pick me up. Mike wasn't happy about it.''
As everyone knows, the story had a happy ending — for Tennessee. A week later in a news conference
at the New Orleans Hilton, Manning committed to the Vols.
A little over 22 years later, Tennessee fans are rooting for another happy ending. For Manning's NFL
season and perhaps his football career.
Super Bowl 50 on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., might well be Manning's final game. The 39-year-old
Denver Broncos quarterback isn't saying.
He has prevailed through a season of injury and un-Manning-like statistics to arrive once more on the
biggest stage in American sports.
"It couldn't be a better story,'' Fulmer said. "If he wins it, it'd be a better story.''
The Carolina Panthers will have something to say about that.
Manning already has a Super Bowl ring, won nine years ago with the Indianapolis Colts. Two subsequent
tries came up short.
Win or lose Sunday, his legacy as one of the game's great quarterbacks is secure. The legacy started at
Tennessee from 1994-97. Manning's jersey number 16 was retired in 2005. Prolific passer, scion of a
royal football family, humanitarian, Saturday Night Live host, frequent product pitch man, he is the
undisputed most famous VFL.
"He really tries to be like any other player,'' said Antone Davis, coordinator of the Vol For Life program.
"We see him a couple of times a year. We make sure he gets a care package every year with Tennessee
gear in it.
"We love the fact that he is a VFL.''
Before Manning became a VFL there was his recruitment, intense even in an era before message boards.
He was thrust into action as a freshman and never looked back. As a sophomore, he helped the Vols get
the Alabama monkey off their backs. His decision to return for his senior year wrung tears of joy from an
adoring fan base.
As a senior, Manning led the Vols to an SEC title in 1997, their first of the divisional era. He rewrote
school passing records in the journey and finished 39-6 as a starter.
There were only two omissions: he never beat Florida and, not coincidentally, was overtaken for the
Heisman Trophy by Charles Woodson, a Michigan defensive back.
The blizzard wasn't the only obstacle Fulmer faced in getting Manning to Tennessee. There was some
touchy history too.
Archie Manning was an icon at Ole Miss, mother Olivia a homecoming queen. The alma mater was a
finalist for Peyton along with UT, Michigan and Florida. In 1969, Ole Miss drubbed a very good UT team
38-0, inflamed by quotes attributed to Vol linebacker Steve Kiner that were deemed as a slight to
Manning and the Rebels.
"I played with Steve (at UT),'' Fulmer recalled. "I knew Archie enough and he'd been on the official visit.
When I go to the home visit I'm seeing Olivia for the first time.
"I walk in the big beautiful forum they have. I obviously knew who she was and she obviously knew who
I was. She didn't say hello, welcome, can I get your coffee or anything. She said, 'How well do you know
Steve Kiner?'
"The first thing out of her mouth. So I knew where the playing field was at that point. But I think they
came around and now just love Tennessee. They really do.''
'Peyton took off'
Manning's penchant for preparation may be his most famous trait. Bobby Scott, a Vol quarterback from
1968-70, knew Peyton before anyone at Tennessee. Scott was a New Orleans Saint teammate and friend
of Archie's.
When the Saints practiced on Saturday mornings, Scott's son Benson would toss footballs with the
young Manning brothers, Cooper, Peyton and little Eli. Naturally, Scott followed Manning's career at
Isadore Newman School in New Orleans.
"You kind of knew he was going to be special,'' Scott said. "He was just so eaten up with football.''
That never changed. Scott recalls a summer morning in 1994, not long after Manning had enrolled at
Tennessee. He was the headliner in a stellar signing class that included another hot-shot quarterback,
Branndon Stewart from Texas.
"I went over to campus one Saturday morning to see Phillip,'' Scott said. "I walked by the offensive film
room and peeked in the door. There was Peyton watching film. I asked him what he was doing in there
at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.
"He said, 'Scotty, Branndon went home to play in some all-star game. I figured this would be a good time
to bone up on some stuff.' ''
That '94 team included another athlete who would become a famous pro — and a lifelong friend of
Manning's. When he wasn't hitting baseballs, Todd Helton was a junior quarterback.
"I remember he was very smart,'' Helton said this week. "He knew more about the offense than I did and
I was going into my third year.
"He was a little raw but nothing coach (David) Cutcliffe (the offensive coordinator) couldn't fix in a few
weeks. The light bulb went on and he figured things out in a hurry. Just like he figures things out in a
hurry now.''
It may be long forgotten, but one reason Manning liked Tennessee was because he wouldn't have to
start as a freshman. However, Jerry Colquitt's season-ending injury on opening day at UCLA put the
position in a scramble.
Helton took the lead but then he was hurt in a loss at Mississippi State, the fourth game. Manning and
Stewart shared snaps but Manning pulled away.
"Peyton took off,'' Fulmer said. "It wasn't like he got better every game. He got better every practice,
every meeting.
"He had most of the playbook by the end of his freshman year. At the beginning of his sophomore year
he was playing like a senior.''
He actually was a senior in 1997. In between the SEC championship game victory over Auburn and the
Orange Bowl, came the Heisman heartbreak. Manning, the preseason favorite, finished runner-up at the
Heisman presentation in New York, a night UT fans will never forget or forgive.
"I was at a neighbor's house,'' Tegano said, "a professor who also had Peyton in class. We just sat there
and stared at the television.''
Manning was the first to congratulate Woodson. He apologized to UT fans for not winning the award for
them. His grace in disappointment only endeared him further.
"It stems from how he was raised,'' Tegano said. "The boys and mom and dad sat round the table just
talking about things, solving the problems of the world. Always remember, who you are starts at home.
That's the same with the Berry kids and Colquitt kids.''
'He'd call you on it'
Manning's final pass completion — his 863rd — at UT was to Jamal Lewis for a 4-yard loss against
Nebraska. The Orange Bowl, in which Manning played with an injured knee, wasn't a storybook finish. It
was time for a new era, for the Vols and for Manning.
That Tennessee won a national title the year after Manning left was a surprise. His quick learning curve
in the NFL was not.
Ryan Robinson, now UT's senior associate athletic director for communications, was a young media aide
with the Indianapolis Colts. He handled many of Manning's public-relations duties.
"He had a system,'' Robinson said. "Come home after practice, eat dinner and he had a film room
downstairs. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 to 9:30, he's watching film then he goes to bed. You always
knew where to find him.''
A Tuesday morning community-service appearance was routine. Robinson was apprehensive after a 416 loss at Miami in 2001 on Monday Night Football.
"We all got home around 4 a.m.,'' Robinson said. "He's got a 7 a.m. appearance to distribute checks to
local high schools.
"I go to wake him up and I'm sitting in the car thinking, 'gosh, this isn't going to be good.' Of course he
did everything he was supposed to do.
"He takes so much pride in everything he does. Nothing makes Peyton angrier than somebody that's not
prepared. He'd call you on it.''
During his time with the Colts and later managing Manning's PeyBack Foundation, Robinson saw
Manning reach out to help a number of young players.
"Edgerin James and Peyton are so different,'' Robinson said, "but Edgerin would run through a wall for
Peyton.''
So would the legions who bleed orange.
They'll be pulling for him one more time Sunday.
Last rodeo?
Even if Manning returns to the NFL for another season he isn't likely to have time left to get back to a
Super Bowl.
But he got to this one. Despite the aging, surgically repaired body. Despite the nemesis New England
Patriots. Despite the many who wrote him off as washed up.
"I think it's one of the greatest accomplishments in sports,'' Cutcliffe, one of Manning's closest
confidants, told Tony Barnhart at Gridiron Now.
"You have to remember he was considered done by the Colts when he went to Denver. Then a few
weeks ago, he was buried by just about everybody. He was hurt and he didn't know if he was going to
get well. Now he's playing in his second Super Bowl in three years.''
In Scott's mind's eye, that little boy he remembers running around the Saints practice field leads the
Broncos to an upset win then retires.
"I think he'll hang it up,'' Scott said. "That's just a guess on my part. His health is important to him now.
It'd be silly to play and just get beat up.''
Helton considers himself blessed that his hunting buddy eventually landed in Denver, where Helton had
long been a hero with the Colorado Rockies.
"I consider him to be the best NFL quarterback of all time,'' Helton said. "I'm biased, but I'm not backing
off. I'm excited for him. I'll be a whole lot more excited if he wins it.
"He'd never say it, but I want him to win it and shut some people up.''
Peyton Manning shares lasting bond with high school
coach
By Ian O’Connor
ESPN.com
February 5, 2016
Back home in New Orleans, a man who had endured three heart attacks, three back surgeries, an
orange-sized growth on his liver, two knee replacement surgeries, and a near-death encounter with
Hurricane Katrina had just spotted a package on his porch. Tony Reginelli figured it was his standard
shipment of medical supplies, at least until he and his wife of more than a half-century, Joan, noticed
the name of the sender.
Peyton Manning.
The Reginellis dug into the box and pulled out a charcoal-colored Super Bowl jacket with an NFL football
patch on the back, a star on the front, the number 50 on the side, and the date of the big game, Feb. 7,
2016, stitched inside. On the phone Thursday, as Joan looked over the jacket in her husband's closet,
she came across a couple of shirts carrying the Manning name and number, 18.
But no, Tony Reginelli isn't your average 82-year-old superfan living out his own glory days through the
career endgame of an all-time great. Reginelli is the high school coach who junked his veer offense at
Isidore Newman School to accommodate the gangly pocket passer who didn't have his old man Archie's
wheels.
"Coach," a tentative, teenage Peyton asked Reginelli back in the day, "we're not going to run the option,
are we?"
Reginelli allowed himself a laugh over the memory, before apologizing if the pain medication made him
sound tired and weak. Manning sent the jacket the other day as a get-well gift after Reginelli's latest
back surgery, and as a way to keep the old coach connected Sunday when he settles in to watch the
Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers on TV.
Manning called Reginelli earlier this week as a follow-up; he'd been in contact with all five of his high
school, college and pro head coaches in the lead-up to what will likely be the final game of his
distinguished football life. At his news conference Thursday, Manning said of Reginelli, "He was truly one
of a kind and a special man."
Nearly every pro athlete holds fast to the sweetest memories of his or her high school coach, and
Manning is no exception. Reginelli kept saying how shocked he was by the beautiful jacket his
quarterback had sent him, at least until the old coach inside of him reached for a whistle.
"I just want Peyton to concentrate on this game," Reginelli said.
Don't worry Coach, Peyton Williams Manning is most definitely concentrating on this game.
But even as he approaches this stunning duel with Cam Newton, a Super Bowl appearance that seemed
unfathomable to his family and friends only a month ago, Manning has Reginelli on his mind. The
quarterback has spearheaded an effort to raise more than $100,000 to rebuild some structures around
the Newman football field and to rename its entrance "Reginelli Way," in honor of the coach who first
took the head-coaching reins in 1968 and retired 26 years later. The dedication is set for the end of the
month, according to Reginelli's son, Reggie, and Peyton is scheduled to attend.
Will he be an officially retired living legend at that point? The Reginellis, both two-sport athletes at
Tulane, aren't in agreement on that one.
"I think it's definitely Peyton's last game," Reggie said, "but my dad seems to think that Peyton is so
competitive that he might take off a couple of months and decide to give it one more year."
Of course Tony Reginelli sees his quarterback fighting on. Reginelli grew up in the Mississippi Delta as
one of nine kids in a farming family that believed work was more essential to the household than
education once eighth-grade schooling was complete. Tony was the first of the Reginelli kids to continue
into high school and beyond, and his athleticism delivered him to a football and baseball career at
Tulane, where he was an all-SEC catcher who drew some interest from the Red Sox.
"And my dad never even told me that," Reggie said. "I had to find out about the Red Sox while reading a
book on Tulane's baseball history. That's the kind of guy he is."
Tony Reginelli was a worker, a grinder, and a man of precious few complaints. He was in Memorial
Medical Center for treatment on his liver infection when Katrina hit New Orleans with an apocalyptic
fury in 2005. The levees broke, flood waters started rising in and around the hospital, and Reginelli
escaped and pulled himself onto a National Guard truck already overloaded with screaming patients and
residents.
"I was the last one to get out," Reginelli said.
He was transported to Baton Rouge while his daughter-in-law, a nephrologist, stayed behind to treat
patients at Memorial, where several patients did not make it out and the bodies of those who didn't
survive the storm were kept in the hospital's chapel.
"After Katrina my father was down," said Reggie, 55, an attorney who also runs a pizzeria business. "My
mom told me he was upset and saying, 'I just don't know if I've done anything in my life.' I said, 'You've
got to be kidding me. He's touched so many lives at Newman, and you'd have to put 100 people
together to match that. His legacy will live through that school and everyone he touched.'"
Peyton Manning was among the hundreds upon hundreds of students who were better for knowing
Reginelli over his four-plus decades at Newman. Reggie remembers watching Peyton as a sophomore,
his first year as the varsity starter, and thinking in the first few games of the season that the kid still had
plenty to learn.
"But by the middle of the year," Reggie recalled, "suddenly Peyton was hitting his receivers in stride. I'll
never forget a throw he made at St. Martin's. Peyton threw just a dart to his older brother, Cooper, who
was streaking across the middle of the field, and it was right where it needed to be. It was a major
college throw as a high school sophomore. Cooper took it for about a 50- or 60-yard touchdown, and I
remember thinking, 'Wow, my father has something special here.'"
Soon enough, Peyton became everybody's All-American, the target of Division I powerhouses in every
corner of the land. Reggie recalled Peyton being quoted during his senior year saying he wanted to win a
state championship for his high school coach; the coach's son found it an awfully mature thing for a teen
prodigy to say.
It didn't matter that Newman lost in the state semis. The journey shared by Manning and Reginelli
couldn't be measured by some high school scoreboard.
"It would be great if I could make it out to San Francisco," Tony Reginelli said through a sigh. "But I'm
going to have to sit this one out."
The old coach laughed one more time over one more thought. Archie Manning finished up his career
with Houston and Minnesota, and Reginelli was wondering what would've become of his own career at
Newman had Archie moved his family -- young Peyton included -- to one of those cities for keeps.
Truth was, even if the Saints were done with Archie, the Mannings were never, ever leaving New
Orleans. Peyton ended up at Newman, Reginelli revamped his offensive system to suit him, and the rest
is NFL history.
"My father is my hero," Reggie said, "so it's a great feeling to see what he's meant to Peyton, and to
know that Peyton is still lifting his spirits today."
This is the bond so many professional athletes share with so many high school coaches, and one the 39year-old quarterback of the Denver Broncos will carry onto the Super Bowl 50 field.
Super Bowl 2016: Peyton, Gary Kubiak and the Broncos'
crazy journey
By Jason La Canfora
CBSSports.com
February 4, 2016
It seems obscured now, in the afterglow of all those close wins and the mini-quarterback controversy
and a fairly shocking run back to the Super Bowl. But just over a year ago, the Denver Broncos were a
team without a coach, and a quarterback.
They, to some degree at least, lacked leaders in critical roles and were negotiating the uncomfortable
arrangements of what will surely become Peyton Manning's final days in Denver, and they were tugging
at the heartstrings of Gary Kubiak to come back home to the Rockies and bolster the Lombardi vision
that his old buddy, John Elway, was trying to craft. They were getting ready to wave goodbye to top
contributors like Julius Thomas and Terrance Knighton in free agency and standing on a precipice of
sorts, with another season of unfinished business eating away at Elway and the powers that be.
For these Broncos to be back in the Super Bowl, a year after a humbling loss to a modest Colts team in
the 2014 postseason -- yet another one-and-done for Manning, this one once again at home, and a loss
that relegated Elway's former comrade John Fox to be deemed no longer worthy of coaching this
Lombardi-or-bust outfit -- was anything but a given. Indeed, it has defied the odds in more ways than
one.
For Manning to have another shot to be the oldest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl, and for him to
get another crack at bolstering his legend following a devastating loss to Seattle the last time he
ventured this far into the playoffs, is improbable enough. For all of Elway's bargains to have paid off -when six weeks ago, at the height of Brock Osweiler's stint running this offense, all of this seemed
remote at best -- is another testament to his instincts and chutzpah when it comes to roster
construction and team building.
But it's worthwhile to at least consider just where the Broncos were last February, in the not-so-distant
past -- when the organization was sorting through yet another playoff letdown, and the future was far
from certain.
Lest we forget, it took no shortage of awkward negotiations and strained exchanges and outside
flirtations to get back to this point, four quarters away from a title, or another heartache. It was not
without compromise. It was far from pretty.
Word leaked out, through one of John Fox's closest confidants in the media, just prior to the Broncos
hosting the Colts last year in the Divisional Playoffs, that this was likely the end of the Fox/Elway
marriage. Anything short of a Super Bowl win and the organization was going to move on from him. It
was over. Relationships were strained, Elway thought he could do better and indeed, following a brutal,
24-13 loss to a Colts team that through the prism of time seems patently flawed, it became a fait
accompli that Fox would move on. The sides agreed to part ways, and Fox took the highly unusual path
of walking away from his remaining years and salary to simply leave. You tend to know when you are no
longer wanted, and he ended up making more money a few weeks later when he remerged as the Bears'
new head coach (tip of his hat due to agent Bob LaMonte, in the process).
Elway always had his sights on Kubiak, a friend for more than half his life at this point, a man who had
helped show him the ropes of playing quarterback in the NFL early in Elway's Hall of Fame career. This
was someone who thought the same way as Elway, someone with head-coaching experience and
someone who would bring an offense that Elway loved as a player and continue to focus more heavily
on a run game that was becoming increasingly important as Manning's skills eroded (just as Elway's did
when he managed to finally win the Lombardi at the end of his career). Kubiak would get it. They would
be simpatico.
There was just the matter of him taking the job.
Kubiak, who suffered serious health issues at the tail end of his stint coaching the Houston Texans, had
fallen into a very comfortable spot with the Ravens as their offensive coordinator. Under his tutelage,
quarterback Joe Flacco flourished, Baltimore rediscovered its run game, journeyman running back Justin
Forsett performed like a Pro Bowl player, receiver Steve Smith was reborn and the Ravens came close to
another AFC Championship appearance of their own. He and his staff liked it there, and early in the
offseason Kubiak released a statement that he would not be pursuing any head-coaching openings or
interviewing for any jobs.
Then his ol' buddy came a callin. Elway had a siren song unlike anyone else; this went way beyond
football, and this was always Kubiak's job for the taking. The Broncos interviewed rising offensive
coordinator Adam Gase, though he was never really in line to get the job and ended up with Fox in
Chicago. They talked to Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph -- which put them in compliance for the
Rooney Rule -- and had a fallback interview with Doug Marrone scheduled (he was always a bridesmaid
this past offseason again), but only if it somehow didn't work out with Kubiak.
No extensive negotiations were necessary once Kubiak agreed to have dinner with Elway. A deal was
quickly struck a week after Denver's playoff ouster. All Kubiak had to say was yes, and once he arrived in
Denver, everything else was a mere formality.
The dance with Manning, however, took much longer.
Elway became convinced the team needed a change of offensive direction before Thanksgiving 2014,
after a thrashing by the lowly Rams in which Denver went pass-happy and Manning was pounded (he
hasn't ever really been the same since). Elway tore into his coaches, sources said, demanding more
balance, knowing Manning would not hold up through January and into February at this rate, and
indeed the Broncos became much more ground oriented down the stretch. Manning was pedestrian at
best in the loss to the Colts in the postseason (26 of 46 for 211 yards -- a horrid average of less than 5
yards an attempt -- with one touchdown).
Manning's days of making $19 million a year were over. If Tom Brady could play for $9 million a year on
his new deal at the height of his powers, many in the Broncos' organization wondered, why couldn't
Manning, now in decline, do the same? It would allow them to perhaps keep Demaryious Thomas and
Julius Thomas and address the offensive line and stay as strong as possible for one more Super Bowl run
as constructed. Manning would have none of that, nor a subsequent $12 million a year offer. Eventually,
with Denver getting more serious about moving on with Osweiler and whomever else than many might
realize, he did agree to take $15 million for 2015, with the chance to earn back that $4 million by
winning a Super Bowl (he got half of it back already by winning the AFC Championship Game).
Relations between Manning and Broncos brass have been strained and complicated at times this season
as well, through reports about the extent of Manning's injuries, with him turning the ball over at a
league-leading rate, with Osweiler thriving for a spell in relief. That he would get a chance to come back
from his plantar fascia injury during the final game of the season -- with Osweiler struggling and now
injured himself -- was far from guaranteed, and that Manning would retain his job through the playoffs
with mundane yet effective game management (and, most critically, avoiding turnovers) was far from a
given, as well.
As it stands now, these men might be one game from one of the more fairy-tale endings the NFL has
ever seen, with Elway and his best bud, Kubiak, and Manning likely in his final game all possibly sharing a
stage holding football's sacred chalice in the historic 50th Super Bowl ever played. That ending might
prove to be too sweet for culmination, and the Panthers will have plenty to say about the outcome, but
for the Broncos to have reached this stage alone is a unique accomplishment that has shoved the fallout
from last January's shake-up deep into the back-story, and might render it little more than a footnote.
Foot injury helped Peyton Manning make peace with
himself, his new role
By Michael Rosenberg
SI.com
February 4, 2016
David Cutcliffe knew before we did. Cutcliffe was in Georgia, recruiting for Duke University, when he
spent 45 minutes on the phone with Peyton Manning right before the Broncos' 2015 season finale.
It had been a tough few months for Manning. The Broncos were winning, but Manning was, by almost
any measure, one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league. He threw at least one interception in
every game. His injured foot seemed to get worse every week. His physical and emotional wounds were
on display every Sunday.
Against Kansas City on Nov. 15, Manning threw 20 passes. Five were caught by Broncos, four were
caught by Chiefs and 11 fell incomplete. He didn’t know if he should try to play, go on injured reserve, or
try to work his way back to health and competence.
“It was pretty consuming,” Cutcliffe said. “When you’re not playing, suddenly you’ve got what feels like
an eternity, 12 to 16 hours (a day) of thinking about this, what is going to happen.”
In the Broncos’ quarterback meetings, Manning was as vocal as if he were playing. But he wasn’t.
Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler took over and played well; it was reasonable to think Osweiler
would keep the job, and Manning had taken his last NFL snap.
Manning does not confide in many people. He has been famous for most of his life now, and he knows
how to handle it: Be polite to strangers, professional with colleagues and completely honest with a few
people he trusts.
Cutcliffe is on Manning’s most-trusted list. He coached him at Tennessee, coached Eli Manning at Ole
Miss, and helped Peyton reinvent himself after a neck injury knocked him out of the 2011 season and
eventually out of Indianapolis. So Manning and Cutcliffe kept talking, kept texting, and then came that
phone call:. Cutcliffe in Georgia, Manning in Colorado. Cutcliffe didn’t have to say much. Manning had
figured it out.
“My conversation with him was awesome,” Cutcliffe said. “It was great for him at that moment. The gist
of it was, letting the game come to you. You have to manage yourself, your emotions, work at getting
well and put the football aside. And figure out a new way to play the game.”
Manning went back into the game in the second half of the finale against the Chargers and did just that.
And now, when America watches its favorite sporting event Sunday, our most familiar quarterback will
play a most unfamiliar role. Peyton 1.0, in Indianapolis, was a force of nature. Peyton 2.0, in Denver,
managed to use his lesser physical tools to do a pretty good impression of Peyton 1.0 (and in the 2013
season, Peyton 2.0 had the greatest statistical year of his career.)
Peyton 3.0 is a game manager. He has thrown 78 passes since he returned in the Broncos’ finale, and he
hasn’t thrown an interception.
Denver tight end Owen Daniels said that early in the season, “he was probably trying to do some of the
stuff he did in his old offense with our offense. The second half of the season, when he’s been back, and
the playoffs, he just kind of rolls with what we’re doing. He hasn’t tried to do too much. We don’t need
him to go out there and be Peyton Manning circa the mid-2000s.”
It took Manning a while to figure that out, and some more time to accept it. The foot injury that looked
like it would end his career has set up a stunning ending.
Cutcliffe says without the time off, Manning wouldn’t be here today, preparing for another Super Bowl.
He healed physically, as much as he could, but the mental rehab was just as important. Manning had a
chance to do something he had never done in his whole football life: Step back and watch. Somewhere
in there, he made peace with his 39-year-old self.
“He is in a good place, is what I would call it,” Cutcliffe said. “There is no frustration. He’s figured out
what he wants to do and how he wants to do it to be successful.”
Manning has played with an uncommon burden for most of his life. He was named the starter at Isidore
Newman High School in New Orleans before his sophomore year. He became Tennessee’s starter as a
freshman. He started his first game as a rookie with the Colts in 1998 and didn’t miss a game until his
neck injury in 2011. And even then, he was out for the whole year, so he wasn’t around the team as
much as he was this time.
We make such a big deal about Aaron Rodgers watching Brett Favre for three years, or Tom Brady sitting
for three years at Michigan and one in New England, and we forget: That’s a normal path. Cam Newton
watching Tim Tebow from the Florida sideline is normal. Andrew Luck redshirting at Stanford, Eli
Manning backing up Kurt Warner in New York, Drew Brees sitting behind Doug Flutie in San Diego, and
then Rivers backing up Brees: all normal.
Manning never did that. He was always too good, the quarterback equivalent of LeBron James or Tiger
Woods. He was so likely to succeed at a young age that he was never given a chance to do anything else.
If he has made more critical mistakes than his Hall of Fame colleagues, that’s partly because his teams
always counted on him to win the games. There was no relying on the defense or playing a field-position
game. His teams demanded fireworks.
As he watched Osweiler, Manning realized he didn’t have to chase the ghost of Peyton 1.0 anymore.
Says Cutcliffe: “Sometimes it’s a great advantage when you sense what your team is all about.”
Now he knows, and he’s cool with it. Manning is playing conservative but not scared. Daniels says, “I’m
sure he’s had some times in these last few weeks when he wanted to make a throw, or maybe could
have made a throw, and decided on a safer route or a safer check-down.”
Peyton Manning, who has famously pushed teammates for his whole career, is letting them pull him. He
seems content to enjoy the ride. Cutcliffe saw it coming on that 45-minute call, when the coach didn’t
have to say much. He loves what he has seen since.
“We talk most weeks,” Cutcliffe said. “I haven’t bothered him this week, to be honest with you. I like
where his mind is, and I try to leave him alone.”
Obedience one of Manning's leadership qualities
By Mike Klis
9 News
February 4, 2016
When Peyton Manning was in his prime, mostly during his time with the Indianapolis Colts, there would
be claims he was really the coach of the team, or the guy in charge.
Such talk was part cajolery of Manning’s value and his air of superiority but it also dishonored his
willingness to obey.
Obedience may be the most underrated characteristic of leadership.
“I don’t know about obedience but you need your leaders to buy in,’’ said former NFL receiver Brandon
Stokley, who was twice a former teammate of Manning’s. “If you don’t have that then the others guys
aren’t going to do it. When you get a new coach in college, if those seniors don’t buy in, you lose the
underclassmen.
“Same thing in the NFL. That’s why you see so many coaches come in and they start getting rid of
players. Because if you’re not buying in they know they’re going to lose the rest of the guys. You
need Peyton, you need Demarcus (Ware), you need Aqib (Talib) to buy into your philosophies.’’
This season more than any other in his 18-year NFL career, Manning proved he understood his role of
subservient student who listened to his teachers. He took a $4 million pay cut. He didn’t have to like it.
But he took it. John Elway is boss. (Manning earned $2 million back through a bonus for winning the AFC
Championship Game and he can recoup the other half by helping to defeat the Carolina Panthers in
Super Bowl 50 on Sunday).
Then there was new head coach Gary Kubiak. Everyone knew from the moment Kubiak was hired his
offensive system was not a good fit for Manning. All that huddle-up, under-center, handoff, and roll-out
stuff was fine for Matt Schaub.
But Manning became a legend by operating at the line of scrimmage, playing at a fast tempo, passing
from the pocket and handing off only when his receivers needed to catch their breath.
Why it was like putting reigns on an old Colt.
But instead of complaining, Manning worked hard to learn the new system. He spent hours on footwork.
He leaned his body. He studied the new playbook.
“I don’t think necessarily that players complain,’’ Manning said. “I will just say this: When you have a
new head coach, I think it is important for all players to take some time to understand what his
expectations are and what his philosophies are. That takes time. We all got together for the first time in
April. There are minicamps, OTAs and training camps. I have tried to understand what coach has
expected from me as a player and as a leader.
“The fact that we get to experience working with (Kubiak) and playing for him in the couple postseasons
games and Super Bowl – we feel very fortunate.’’
To be clear, this wasn’t a Kubiak-or-else relationship. Kubiak didn’t become a coach good enough to
participate in the Super Bowl by not adapting to his players’ skill sets.
Broncos tight end Owen Daniels, who played eight seasons for Kubiak in Houston, one in Baltimore and
now one in Denver, was asked how much of his head coach’s offense has changed as an adjustment to
Manning.
“I would say maybe 20 percent,” Daniels said. “We never worked at the line of scrimmage like we do
now. He let Peyton play to his strengths. Peyton is great at working at the line of scrimmage.
“(Before) we would huddle, call a play, maybe have a check, but we usually would just run the
play. It was a little bit of adjustment for maybe (Kubiak), maybe a guy like me who has never
done that. But it adds a lot to what we usually do.
“Maybe we don’t move the quarterback quite as much as we did other years, but we do other things
that take that spot. I think both guys have been really unselfish about everything. They both have given
a little bit on either side.’’
Manning may not have had his best season playing quarterback. In fact, it was his worst, at least
statistically. But he was vital to the Broncos reaching Super Bowl 50 because he helped lead the Broncos
through the first-year transition of the Kubiak era by doing what the head coach told him.
Here’s a stat: The Broncos have won 10 of 12 games Manning has played this season.
“I’ve been fortunate in this league, I got to coach John (Elway) for a period of time, I got to coach Steve
Young for a time in San Francisco, and now I get a chance to spend a year with Peyton,” Kubiak said.
“Those great players, they challenge you as coaches. They’re so bright and they understand the game,
they understand how to attack things. They challenge you when you walk in that meeting room.
“To be honest with you, from a coaching standpoint, that’s what you want to be around because that’s
how you grow as a coach. If you go in there every day and they’ve got guys that say, ‘Okay, what do you
want me to do?’ you don’t really grow. I’ve enjoyed it.’’
And this isn’t about Manning conforming because his advanced age and declining physical skills gave
him no other choice. Contrary to perception, Manning has always known his place.
“Is he heavily involved in the offense and do coaches ask him how he feels about certain things?’’
Stokley said. “’m sure. I’m sure he has his input. But he’s always bought in to every head coach and
given every head coach the respect that that guy deserves.”
Maybe that's one reason why Manning is about to become only the quarterback to play in his
fourth Super Bowl with his fourth head coach.
Peyton Manning a product of the coaches who guided
him
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
February 4, 2016
Barely seven weeks from his 40th birthday, Peyton Manning stood in front of another crowd of
reporters Thursday, answering another set of questions in anticipation of a game that will, for better or
worse, help define his legacy and his football life.
No starting quarterback has ever had so much experience heading into a Super Bowl -- experience
through victory and defeat, exposure to myriad situations, the continued evolution of the sport into one
more aerial-centric than ever before and, finally and most importantly, the coaches that guided him
along the way.
In the professional ranks, that started with Jim Mora in Indianapolis, who Manning knew from the
coach's time on the Saints sidelines, when he even let Manning run a period of practice as a highschooler against the Saints' then-elite defense.
"He was a tough disciplinarian and I think really helped our team," recalled Manning "Even though
Coach (Tony) Dungy came in and took over, Jim Mora taught that team and taught all of us about
discipline and about how to be a professional and approach your business and your craft with a serious
tone. I really enjoyed playing for him."
Mora understood what he had in Manning, and knew the value of patience with his then-young
quarterback.
"He stuck with me that year [1998] all season," Manning remembered. "We went 3-13, I led the league
in interceptions and still hold the rookie record for interceptions, which I really pray maybe this kid [Cal
QB Jared] Goff who gets drafted this year breaks it this year."
All joking aside, Mora got to reap the benefits of Manning's rapid development before the 2001 Colts
limped home 6-10, wrecked by injuries. That remains the last losing season in which Manning took a
snap. Mora was dismissed and replaced by Tony Dungy, who guided the Colts to seven consecutive
playoff appearances and a Super Bowl XLI win.
"Tony Dungy -- you have to check old notes for that for how I feel about him and what I have learned
from him," Manning said. "He was a special guy to play for and had a unique way of leading and
coaching. ‘No excuses, no explanations' was one of his catch phrases and I think that is a good one to
always remember."
And in looking back at the old notes, one example of what Manning learned from Dungy stands out:
composure under duress. When the Colts trailed the Patriots 21-3 in the 2006 AFC Championship Game,
it seemed as if the RCA Dome would collapse in panic from fans stunned at a potential third postseason
loss in four seasons to the Patriots.
Dungy, meanwhile, was an island of tranquility.
"That calm look on his face," Manning said after that 38-34 Colts comeback win. "He's calm on the
opening kickoff, and he's calm when you're down, 21-3. How many guys can say that? He's just a cool
customer."
Dungy left the Colts after 2008, ceding the reins to longtime assistant Jim Caldwell, who was Manning's
position coach. Caldwell kept the Colts stampeding, leading them to consecutive division titles and a
Super Bowl XLIV appearance before four neck surgeries ended Manning's 2011 season before it began.
The bond between pupil and teacher was profound. Caldwell remains a "great friend" and helped
Manning hone his intense eye for the smallest nuances of the game.
"Attention to detail," Manning said. "We had a great routine we did every single day from in the film
room and on the field. Attention to detail and taking care of those little things that would take care of
the big things. That had a big influence on me."
Caldwell was dismissed after Manning's final season in Indianapolis. He moved on and played four
seasons for John Fox, who Manning said reached out to him this week, along with Mora, Dungy and
Caldwell.
"John Fox had a great passion for football," Manning said. "You really wanted to play well for him and
make that great throw for him or that great tackle. All the players loved playing for him.
"John Fox was a big reason why I came to Denver," Manning added. "We had a great three years
together. We had a special team on that Super Bowl team that got beat by a better team."
And Fox was followed by Gary Kubiak, with whom Manning meets most days. He didn't want to
compare Fox and Kubiak, nor should he.
"I have enjoyed learning from Coach Kubiak this year," Manning said. "Continuity is always a great thing,
but when you do have a chance to play for some different coaches I think you want to take advantage
and learn from them. I am grateful for all of those people and I have learned something from all of
them."
And when Super Bowl 50 kicks off, Manning will have the chance to apply every lesson he's learned from
every coach.
No quarterback has ever gone into a Super Bowl with more accumulated wisdom, more career wins and
more accomplishments. Sunday, he hopes all of it gives him the insight to guide his team across the
finish line with a Lombardi Trophy in hand.
Manning's legacy includes acceptance of backup QB role
By Mike Klis
9 News
February 3, 2016
There were several speculative reports this season that irked Peyton Manning.
None bothered him more than the conjecture he was refusing to accept the role as the Denver Broncos’
backup quarterback to Brock Osweiler.
“I was insulted when it was suggested I refused to do that,’’ Manning said in an interview with 9NEWS
this week. “I never had the opportunity but never once … I don’t know, that there’s a lot of guys who
would go out there and say, ‘Hey, I do want to be a backup.’ I think most guys want to go out there and
be a starter. That’s the mentality of any competitive quarterback. But to be available was significant for
me.”
Let the record show – let Manning’s legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history include
the addendum -- that injury or no injury, he did accept a backup role. Johnny Unitas. Joe Namath.
Peyton Manning.
Only it worked out much better for Manning than Unitas and Namath. Manning’s backup role didn’t last
long but it did occur during the final week of the 2015 regular season. After sitting out six weeks with a
foot injury, Manning did not return to his old starting job. He was on the sidelines Jan. 3 as the No. 2
quarterback to Osweiler in the Broncos’ final regular season game against the San Diego Chargers.
While Manning was out, Osweiler had won the starting job through his splendid performance the
previous week against the Cincinnati Bengals, and through his play through six games overall.
“That particular situation is something I had never been through and had never been put in that
situation,” Manning said. “I was a backup quarterback my freshman year in high school and I was a
backup for four games in college (as a freshman) behind Todd Helton and since then for whatever
reason they let me start the game and that’s what I did for 3 ½ years in college and 14 years in the NFL
(until a neck injury knocked him out of the entire 2011 season)."
“It was different this year being in street clothes and not playing because it was the middle of the season
to be injured. But then to be in uniform – that was a big moment for me just to be available, to possibly
participate and contribute.
“Did not think I was going to,’’ he said. “Did not see what occurred in that Chargers game -- especially
after the second play of the game when Demaryius goes for 80 – did not see that game taken on that
type of turn of events. But the fact that I was able to get healthy and be available and contribute and
then when called upon to go in there and make some really good handoffs.’’
It was actually a 72-yard touchdown pass from Osweiler to Demaryius Thomas on the second play of the
game that gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead.
On their second possession, runs by Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson moved the ball from the Broncos’
20 to their 48 when Osweiler hit Emmanuel Sanders with a 46-yard completion.
But as Sanders was spinning inside the 5 yard line, he had the ball poked out by Chargers’ cornerback
Steve Williams, who also recovered the fumble. Score there and its 14-3, the Broncos roll and Osweiler is
the starting quarterback in the postseason.
Instead, the Sanders’ fumble started a cascade of five turnovers committed by the Broncos’ offense.
When Anderson fumbled to end the first series of the second half, Manning was sent in with the
Broncos down 13-7.
The Broncos perked up. They blocked better, the ran the ball better and the Broncos outscored the
Chargers 20-7 from there to win the game and clinch the all-important No. 1 AFC playoff seed.
Important because the No. 1 seed meant playing the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship
Game at home.
For demonstrating a team-before-self attitude, Manning was rewarded. He is now the Broncos’ starting
quarterback in Super Bowl 50.
“You’re talking about one of the greatest of all-time who, I don’t want to say was taking a backseat, but
there were some things he’s never done in his whole career,’’ said Broncos tight end Owen Daniels. “To
be able to do that at this point, you can’t say enough about that.’’
Seven thoughts on Peyton Manning as Super Bowl 50
nears
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
February 3, 2016
The road the Broncos took to Super Bowl 50 is not one they expected to take with Peyton Manning as
their quarterback.
This was a season unlike any that Manning has experienced. His foot bothered him for a while before he
left the Nov. 15 loss to the Chiefs because of a torn plantar fascia. He threw eight more interceptions
than touchdowns in the regular season. He served as the second-string quarterback for a week leading
into the regular-season finale before Head Coach Gary Kubiak put him back in the lineup with the team
in need of "a spark" with a 13-7 deficit caused by five turnovers.
And now, he has an experience unlike one any other quarterback has had. No quarterback has ever
started in the Super Bowl at age 39.
And that's just the beginning of Manning's unique collection of accomplishments.
No quarterback has ever started two Super Bowls at age 37 or older. No quarterback ever had the
season-long numbers that Manning had in 2013 -- let alone doing it at age 37, as he did in setting league
single-season records for yardage and touchdown passes.
No quarterback has ever gone to a Super Bowl with four different head coaches.
No quarterback has ever guided multiple teams to multiple Super Bowls, either. That ensures that when
Manning retires, he will be thought of not just as a Colt, but as a Bronco. It also means that the Manning
Era in Denver is a clear success, no matter what happens Sunday.
"When we signed Peyton, (there was) a sense of urgency," said outside linebacker Von Miller. "We got
one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League and he’s on our team right
now. So, when we got him, we already knew what type of team we were and we knew what type of
football we could play.
"Having him now, we just want to seal the deal."
The rumors regarding Manning's future are rampant; no matter what he says at press conferences, he is
relatively powerless to stop them.
This is the reality of being in the spotlight of the most-watched annual single-day sporting event in the
Western Hemisphere (unless the Champions League final is in London, west of the Prime Meridian).
But the Broncos know the reality of contracts, age, accumulated wear and tear and a plantar fascia
injury that will not heal without rest, surgery -- or possibly both.
The sense of urgency that has existed since Manning arrived with "No Plan B," as John Elway famously
put it, increases exponentially Sunday. Far more than a Super Bowl is on the line; the legacy and place in
history of Manning are, too. Win Sunday, and Manning's case as the greatest quarterback of all time will
be compelling given his singular collection of team and individual accomplishments.
"If this was Peyton’s last game, I know he’d want to play it like his last," said outside linebacker
DeMarcus Ware. "It’s been a motto of all the guys each week, play every play like it’s your last.
"If it is, we have to send him off right and you know that you’re going to get a game that probably
nobody has seen. I'm looking forward to it.”
Seven Broncos offered seven more thoughts on Manning as Super Sunday approaches:
Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak
On the importance of Manning's experience: "Anytime you've played that long and in that many games,
that means you've played against the coordinators many times and those type of things. So from a
mental standpoint, obviously he knows the game better than anybody. With what's going on around
football and who he's playing and how people want to play him, I think that's the biggest thing you gain
is the experience factor. I think he's very well in-tune with our football team and what our team does
best and what we think we have to do to be successful as a team. I think the most important thing is just
the experience factor."
WR Demaryius Thomas
On getting a connection with Peyton Manning: "Our connection has been amazing since Day 1. It took
some time the first time we got going. It took time with everybody else. Once we got on the same page,
we've been clicking since then. If I miss a game with him, it still just comes back."
OLB DeMarcus Ware
On Manning's leadership: "When I first got in [in 2014], he’s that leader that's been consistent
throughout his whole career, and the guy that motivates us in the way that he plays, the way that he
prepares and just that leadership that he brings to the team. People call him 'The Sheriff' and he always
has his guns out, no matter what. It's just really enjoyable to be a part of that. It sort of teaches the
young guys and me, myself, just the fire that you have to bring to the game every week."
LT Ryan Harris
On blocking for Manning: "When I first went out on the field with him and you see the ‘Manning' on the
back of the jersey you're like, ‘What am I doing here?' Over the season you see he's just like the rest of
us. We all want to win and he's a professional and a great teammate. I'm really having the time of my
life being on this team and him being one of my teammates is definitely a part of it."
OLB Von Miller
On what he's learned from Peyton Manning: "When you hang around Peyton Manning for four years,
there's a lot of stuff that's picked up -- a lot of stuff leadership-wise, and the way he handles guys. I've
watched him, and he's consistent every single day. He's the same Peyton Manning. He handles the guys
very, very well. That's one of the things I would like to do when I get up there (to) that level."
RG Louis Vasquez
On what this game would mean for Manning's legacy if the Broncos win: "I can't speak for him if it's
going to be his last year or not. If it is, then it would be awesome to send him off the right way, riding
out into the sunset. But, if not, it would be just a dream come true just to win the Super Bowl, because
that's why we all play this game. Guys like Evan Mathis [and] DeMarcus Ware that [have] been in this
game for a long time that have never made it this far, it'd be good for them as well."
TE Vernon Davis
On getting to know Manning since joining the Broncos in November: "Peyton Manning has been terrific.
He is not only a great player, but he is also a great person. That is what I am more interested in. Who is
he as a person? Getting to know him as a person has been amazing."
Injuries give Broncos' Peyton Manning lesson in
patience
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
February 2, 2016
Peyton Manning has always looked for clues and searched for answers in the videotape. This season,
one Manning has called "unique" and "strange," he has had to look elsewhere.
Inside himself.
Because when Manning tried to play the first five games through his left foot injury, he led the league in
interceptions. When he sat out almost two months, his future uncertain, Manning had to deal with a
concept he isn't always been able to wrap his vast football mind around.
"I had to be patient," Manning said. "... I think through it all, that would be one thing I've taken away, to
be patient. I had to go through the process of my rehab, had to get back in uniform, one step at a time."
Whether Super Bowl 50 is or isn't the last game in Manning's Hall of Fame career, this season has been
unlike any other. For the first time, he missed starts in a season in which he had played the opener. For
the first time since he was a freshman at the University of Tennessee in 1994, he was in uniform as a
backup quarterback in a game.
And for the first time most anyone in the NFL could remember, Manning ran a scout-team offense in
practice to help his team's defense prepare.
"That was a little different," linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "To look across the line and see him
doing that, that tells you everything. It tells you how hard he was working, what he's willing to do for his
team. I mean, you can't really worry about other stuff if you look across and Peyton Manning, who's
going to the Hall of Fame, and he's running the scout team, getting us ready to play."
There were several moments during Monday's Super Bowl media night when Manning, who was
peppered with an hour's worth of questions, said: "I have a peace about it."
Whether it was about the future, his post-spinal fusion journey back on to the field or how his career
has played out during the last two decades, Manning said: "I've been at peace about it the whole time."
"If you've been injured in this game, there are times you wonder if you're going to get back, how it will
be," Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "I think he's enjoying this team, and everybody wants to
do what they can for Peyton because of who he is."
Manning says he doesn't know if it's fatherhood "or just getting older," but he finds himself "getting
more emotional" about more situations. There has also been a change in the football side of things since
he returned to the field in the regular-season finale.
On an injured foot -- Manning suffered a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel in the Broncos' Nov.
8 loss to the Indianapolis Colts -- Manning led the league in interceptions, with 17, by the time he was
pulled from a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after his fourth interception of that game.
He had shoulder and rib injuries as well, adding to his inability to make many of the throws he had
routinely made in his time with the Broncos. Since his return to the lineup, with just over eight minutes
left in the third quarter of the regular-season finale, Manning has not thrown an interception.
"It has a lot to do with health-wise, feeling better," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "He wasn't playing
healthy."
Perhaps the biggest indication of Manning's comfort level now is his willingness to discuss a topic -- his
right arm -- that he has purposefully kept at arm's length for much of the last four seasons.
The fact his foot was in a cast and he spent almost two months trying to get it healthy enough to play,
might have actually helped his arm for the Broncos' playoff run.
"My arm is what it is," Manning said. "I honestly think that having a little time off to heal my foot maybe
helped some other parts. I think it's something not getting hit every Sunday night, throwing 100 passes
at a practice every week. So I took some time off and then I started rehabbing, so I tried to use that time
to help other parts of my body physically. My arm feels OK. My arm has not been the same since I got
injured four years ago. It just simply hasn't been. I had a strange injury. I had a neck injury that caused
some nerve problems in my right arm. ... I've worked hard to sort of manage with the physical
limitations and have gotten to a place where I think I could be effective and that's where it is."
Whatever happens Sunday and in the weeks to come, Manning is ready to see it unfold.
"I haven't made up my mind, but I don't see myself knowing that until after the season," Manning said.
"... I've really just tried to focus on that one week and not think too far ahead and that has really helped
me out a lot. I think, had I been thinking about things past that it would've affected me, and so it's really
served me well till this point and I'm going to stick with that for one more week."
Peyton Manning says he's 'just trying to stay in the
moment'
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
February 1, 2016
Just a handful of questions into the NFL's first prime-time media event, Denver Broncos quarterback
Peyton Manning was asked if Super Bowl 50 would be his final game.
"I've tried to stay in the moment, tried not to look back," Manning said in the opening minutes of his
session at the Super Bowl 50 media night. "Just tried to stay in the moment."
Certainly, the narrative will be a common one as Manning moves through the week. At 39, he missed
seven games this past season with a left foot injury. He conceded, though, that the time off to heal his
foot probably helped his troublesome arm.
"My arm is what it is," Manning said. "Honestly, my having a little time off to heal my foot helped some
of the other parts. ... My arm feels OK. My arm has not been the same since I was injured four years ago.
... If I could throw left-handed it would be a lot easier. ... It's just different than it was. ... It's got a few
yards on it, miles on it, however you want to say it."
Panthers star cornerback Josh Norman wasn't buying talk of Manning's arm not having any zip left.
"Some say there's weakness in his arm, but I don't know what tape they're watching," Norman said
during the Panthers' availability. "I've seen him overthrow his guys before."
Manning just finished his 18th regular season, and Super Bowl 50 will be his fourth title game. Given
that he has come back from spinal fusion surgery in 2011 to play four seasons for the Broncos, along
with the injuries that have dotted his last three seasons, there have been signs for weeks that Sunday's
game might be Manning's last.
His brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, has publicly said he hopes Peyton can "go out on
top," and following the Broncos' win in the AFC Championship Game, Peyton Manning was caught by an
NFL Films' microphone telling New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick it might be his "last rodeo."
"At some point after the season, I'll have that comprehensive analysis ... I'm at peace with it ... What I
said to [Belichick] was this could be it,'' Manning said.
Manning added that his postgame comments were a matter of him wanting to "take the time to tell
them [Belichick and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady] man-to-man" I appreciate him.
Broncos general manager and executive vice president John Elway retired after winning a Super Bowl for
the organization, but said he doesn't know what Manning has planned for the future.
"No, he has not [said if it will be his last game]; we have not talked about that at all, and I'm not going to
bring it up," Elway said. "That's something he's going to have plenty of time this offseason to think
about. That's when you have to do it. You're not going to make your mind up while you're still playing.
"I want him to cherish the moment that he has now, and he can think about that this offseason."
Manning has spent the last several weeks repeating his message that he is simply "staying in the
moment" and not giving much thought beyond Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
It was a theme Manning repeated Monday night.
He said that another important part of the week was seeing the reactions of his far younger teammates
and players such as Owen Daniels, the Broncos' tight end who is in his 10th season and will play in his
first Super Bowl.
Said Manning: "Seeing other people enjoying the moment reminds me to enjoy the moment."
Peyton Manning's clear imprint on the NFL
By Bill Barnwell
ESPN.com
February 1, 2016
If Super Bowl 50 is really Peyton Manning's last professional game, he's going to leave behind a game
that has been irreversibly changed by his career. That's not a commentary on his legacy in terms of his
statistics or success, although those are wildly valuable. And it's not a talking point about the actual
physical style with which he played quarterback, although Peyton can count Russell Wilson, Andrew
Luck and Marcus Mariota among the future NFL quarterbacks who attended the Manning Passing
Academy. And it's not even about Manning's ubiquitous presence as a pitchman, how he somehow
transitioned to becoming the Dad Joke Michael Jordan.
More than anything, if Manning does leave after Sunday, he'll have made his mark by the simple fact
that the game itself looks and operates far more like Peyton Manning playing quarterback than it did
before he arrived. The act of how the sport is played in the National Football League is fundamentally
different today from the way it was in 1998. Our baselines for success and expectations of how teams
will play are informed differently. And in many ways, those changes mirror the style of Peyton Manning
and the teams on which he played.
Bend to (the) square
That starts with the NFL's continuing offensive transition into a pass-first, pass-second, run-if-you-must
endeavor. When Manning entered the league, the defending champions were the Denver Broncos, who
had handed the ball to Terrell Davis 369 times. The reigning league MVP was a running back, Barry
Sanders, who was also for a brief period of time the league's highest-paid player. In a world before the
current one that has Peyton featured in an ad during every commercial break, endorsements helped
Emmitt Smith earn more money than any other football player.
Manning would be part of a league in which that changed. The easiest way to measure that, very simply,
is by how frequently teams chose to throw the football. During 1998, Manning's rookie season with the
Indianapolis Colts, the average team threw the ball on 55.1 percent of its offensive snaps. With Manning
struggling on a bad Indianapolis team, the Colts threw the ball in part to try to survive, passing on 60.9
percent of their offensive snaps. That was the third-highest rate in the league. In 2015, the average team
was up to a pass frequency of 59.0 percent. That would have been the sixth-highest rate in football in
1998.
Perhaps a better measure of how the Colts wanted to throw the ball was what they did on first-and-10.
The average team threw the ball 46.7 percent of the time on first down in 1998, despite the fact that
teams were averaging 4.1 yards on the ground and 7.2 yards in the air. Manning's Colts were far more
pass-friendly -- they threw the ball 49.5 percent of the time on first-and-10, the ninth-highest rate in the
league. In 2015, the NFL as a whole threw the ball a virtually identical 49.7 percent of the time on first
down.
It's not just how frequently teams throw the football in 2015; it's where those throws come from too,
which speaks to Manning's influence. More and more, the shotgun has become an irreplaceable
component of NFL offenses. That wasn't the case in 1998. Under offensive coordinator Tom Moore,
Manning became one of the first (if not the first) quarterbacks in league history to work out of the
shotgun as his base offense.
That would have been heretical in 1998. According to play-by-play data compiled by Football Outsiders,
the average team put its quarterback into the shotgun on 9.4 percent of plays that year. Eight teams
didn't even use the shotgun once all season. The Colts weren't as shotgun-intensive as they would later
become, but even during that rookie season, Manning lined up there 22.7 percent of the time, which
was the fifth-highest rate in the league. The Steelers, who had Kordell Stewart at quarterback, used the
shotgun a league-high 26.6 percent of the time.
And that, in turn, would be equally heretical in 2015. The league's least-friendly shotgun team was the
Arizona Cardinals, and they dropped Carson Palmer into the shotgun 38.1 percent of the time this
season. The NFL as a whole took 61.7 percent of snaps in either the shotgun or pistol formation (the
latter of which didn't even exist in 1998) during the 2015 campaign, with Chip Kelly's Eagles taking just
7.5 percent of their snaps from under center all season. DeMarco Murray can tell you about that. There
are all kinds of reasons why teams moved their quarterbacks out from under center, but the most
obvious arguments against the change, that a team wouldn't be able to run its offense out of the
shotgun, were laughed away by the runaway success of Manning, Moore and the Colts.
The move to more passing plays and a more efficient offensive scheme also has changed the baseline for
an excellent season by a quarterback -- at least in terms of raw totals. The big round number for running
backs used to be 1,000 yards. That's no longer the case. Likewise, with quarterbacks, the marker for
success has risen. Now, the simple round measure of what represents a productive season for a
quarterback is 4,000 yards. Twelve passers hit the 4,000-yard mark this season.
In 1998, just two quarterbacks made it to 4,000 yards, Brett Favre and Steve Young. Manning didn't hit
the 4,000-yard mark that year, coming up 261 yards short, but he would top the figure in each of his
next six seasons. If anybody established 4,000 yards as the simple baseline, it was Peyton. He has posted
a whopping 14 4,000-yard seasons over the course of his career. Drew Brees has put up 10, and nobody
else in league history is in double digits.
That production also has come with a reduction in sacks. Albeit on different teams, Manning was in
some ways the natural NFL replacement to Dan Marino, who posted a freakishly low 3.13 percent sack
rate during his career. That includes a career-opening run in which Marino posted the league's lowest
sack rate in seven consecutive seasons. Marino seemed like a freak ... until Manning came along.
Despite playing behind some janky offensive lines, Manning carried on Marino's legacy as a quarterback
who simply didn't take hits. With one of the worst offensive lines in football trying to protect him this
season, Manning's sack rate spiked, but it took him to a place of relative poetry. He, too, has a 3.13
percent sack rate, during an era when quarterbacks are taking fewer sacks than ever before. That has
unquestionably helped keep Manning upright and playing late into his career, but more on that later.
Winter has come and gone
The players Manning lined up alongside and against as he entered the league are all but gone. Manning
made his debut in Week 1 as the starting quarterback of the lowly Colts, who would go 3-13 in a
frustrating debut season, albeit with a 4.8-win Pythagorean expectation. A year later, they would flip
their record and go 13-3, giving Manning his first and only AFC East championship. (This is where
Patriots fans unironically mention how Tom Brady has 13 of those to his name.)
Those Colts scattered to the winds years ago. The last active player on Indianapolis' roster in 1998 to suit
up in a regular-season game was defensive end Bertrand Berry, and that came all the way back in
December 2009. Manning has been the last player left from that Indianapolis roster in the league for six
full seasons now. Most of the players on that team failed to last in the league for six years. The last
offensive player on the roster besides Manning to stick around was Marvin Harrison, who retired after
the 2008 season.
The same is true of Manning's draft class. As the first overall selection in the 1998 NFL draft, Manning
was expected by most to be a star. (Others found Ryan Leaf more appealing.) Nobody, regardless of how
much faith they placed in Peyton, could have imagined that he would last this long without breaking
down. Only two other players drafted alongside Manning that year were still in the NFL in 2015: Matt
Hasselbeck, who was inactive during that rookie year, and Charles Woodson, who retired after the end
of the season. Nobody from the subsequent year's class is still in the league. Per the Elias Sports Bureau,
of the 1,706 active players in the league during that 1998 season, just three -- Manning, Woodson and
Adam Vinatieri -- also suited up for a game in 2015.
The players who currently suit up alongside Manning in Denver also were watching from afar. Obviously,
nobody on the Denver roster was playing in the league when Peyton entered the professional ranks in
1998. That's selling the age gap short. When Manning turned pro, there wasn't even a single Broncos
player who had made it to college yet. Antonio Smith, the team's second-oldest player, was still a junior
in high school.
Denver's youngest player, cornerback Lorenzo Doss, probably doesn't remember Manning's suit and
awkward pose with a curiously groomed Jim Irsay. Doss was probably excited about his upcoming
birthday -- he turned 4 years old the week after Manning was drafted. Some of the quarterbacks who
will arrive on college football campuses this year as part of the recruiting class of 2016 will be younger
than Manning's professional football career.
Only success can fail me now
What Manning has done personally since entering the league, of course, is the stuff of legend. First,
although he missed all of 2011 after undergoing neck surgery and sat out six games this year, Manning's
sheer ability to stay healthy has been remarkable. He began his career by starting 208 consecutive
contests, which is 13 seasons in a row without missing a start (or a game) because of injury. Nobody else
in league history has done that to start his career. Brother Eli sat behind Kurt Warner for part of his
rookie season, but has since completed 11 consecutive seasons without missing a start.
With the football in his hands over that time frame, Manning has been close to unstoppable. Even with
that missed season and a half, Peyton's numbers since joining the league lap the field. None of the 572
players who have thrown a pass over that time frame is close to Manning's totals. He has thrown for
71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns over that time frame. Brees is second in both categories over that
stretch, and while Brees entered the league in 2001, his numbers aren't remotely comparable, as he's
more than 10,000 yards (60,903) and 100 passing touchdowns (428, tied with Tom Brady) behind the
former Tennessee star.
To put Peyton's longevity into context, he has managed to spend enough time under center to accrue
some meaningful value as a runner. It may have taken him 431 carries, including a fair number of
sneaks, but Manning has run for 667 yards over the course of his career. A full 28 picks after Manning,
the Dolphins chose John Avery with their first-round selection in the 1998 draft. Avery ran for 524 yards
during his abbreviated NFL career. Avery was one of three first-round picks at running back selected
during Manning's career who failed to match Peyton's career rushing totals.
Manning's value hasn't come solely because of his ability to stay on the field and accumulate numbers;
his peaks have been higher than anybody else's in football, too. We don't have QBR for the earlier days
in Manning's career, but as a useful performance-in-a-single-number statistic, pro-footballreference.com has adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A), which does a better job than passer rating
of weighting the value of touchdowns and interceptions and includes sack yardage.
By ANY/A, Manning's peak seasons were out of this world. His 2004 campaign rates as the best singleseason performance in league history. Manning passed for 4,557 yards on 497 attempts, threw 49
touchdowns against just 10 interceptions, and took a staggeringly low 13 sacks. He averaged 9.78 ANY/A
per dropback, which is awfully difficult to stop. Aaron Rodgers' 2011 season is the only other campaign
above 9 ANY/A.
Peyton was also at the helm of the 2013 Broncos offense, which rated out as the best offense in football
history, even after adjusting for the higher point totals of the modern game. He averaged 8.87 ANY/A
that year, which is the fifth-best season in league history. If this is really Manning's last season, he'll
finish his career having produced five of the 25 best passing seasons in the history of the NFL by ANY/A
(minimum: 400 pass attempts). Nobody else has done that even four times, and the only other guy in
league history to execute it three times is Manning's rival, Tom Brady.
Manning's rivalry with Brady became the flashpoint for endlessly insipid arguments about whether one
of the quarterbacks was more of a winner than the other. Looking back, while Brady ended up winning
more titles than Manning and holds an 11-6 record over his nemesis, he didn't dramatically outplay
Manning in their games together. After adjusting for the quality of each team's defense, Chase Stuart
notes that the numbers suggest that the two are essentially in a dead heat. And while Brady developed
a reputation as the quarterback who could beat Manning when the games really mattered, Denver's win
over New England in this season's AFC Championship Game means that Manning (if he retires) will
actually finish his career with a winning record over Brady in the playoffs at 3-2.
Quietly more impressive -- and a sign of just how stupid the idea that Manning somehow wasn't a
winner truly was -- is what Peyton did in the close games for his teams. History suggests that the vast
majority of teams exhibit no consistent ability to win a significantly high percentage of their close games
from year to year. The same is true for quarterbacks. The most prominent arguments against that logic,
Andrew Luck's remarkable short-sample run aside, are Brady and Manning.
In games started by Manning, the Colts and Broncos have gone a combined 76-39 (.661) in games
decided by seven or fewer points. If it's true that the typical quarterback will win about 50 percent of his
close games in a given year, that amounts to 18.5 extra wins from Manning over the course of his
career, or a little over one win per season. And that doesn't include Manning's two close wins in the
playoffs this season. The only quarterback since the merger to start 50 one-score games or more and
post a higher winning percentage is Brady, who has gone 62-26 (.705) in those same contests. Third is
Jay Schroeder (.654), because football is weird sometimes.
Help the aged
Of course, all that has passed and everything Peyton Manning has accomplished is of absolutely no
consequence in predicting what will happen this Sunday in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers and their
minus-18.4 percent DVOA represent the toughest defense he has faced in the playoffs since Super Bowl
XLVIII, when the Seahawks (who posted a minus-25.9 percent DVOA) made Manning miserable in a
disastrous performance. You'd be tempted to wonder whether Manning can handle those sorts of
dominant defenses until you remember that he faced a similarly great Jets defense in 2009 (minus-25.5
percent DVOA) and was spectacular, throwing for 377 yards and three touchdowns against a pass
defense that hadn't allowed a 300-yard game all season.
The thing about late-career Peyton, though, is that he's full of surprises. Nobody expected him to sit out
the 2011 season until it actually happened. Nobody expected Manning to follow a slow start to his
Broncos career with another mini peak, including one of the best seasons of quarterback play in league
history at the ripe old age of 37. Nobody expected him to fall off the cliff so quickly, having struggled
toward the end of 2014 before collapsing during an ugly first half this season. Nobody expected
Manning to come back in Week 17 and lead the Broncos to a victory. And more than anything, nobody
expected Manning to help guide Denver to the Super Bowl with wins over Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
And now, given how dominant the Carolina defense has looked this postseason and how wonderful Cam
Newton has been at quarterback, nobody expects Manning to pull off one last hurrah and ride off into
the sunset with his second Super Bowl ring. But all the way back in 1998, nobody in their right mind
would have also expected Peyton Manning to be playing quarterback in 2015. So why should we
suddenly take that outcome for granted now?
Broncos Peyton Manning: From patient patient to
starting Super Bowl QB
By Rick Bonnell
Charlotte Observer
January 27, 2016
The epicenter of the Denver Broncos this season was often the training room, where two crucial
veterans sometimes sat side-by-side.
Quarterback Peyton Manning was trying to get plantar fasciitis to heal in his left foot. Outside linebacker
DeMarcus Ware was rehabbing a knee injury.
Those two represent a combined 29 seasons of NFL experience and accompanying gravitas. There was a
time this season when it was reasonable to speculate Manning, 39, might never take another NFL snap.
Yet now he’ll be the oldest starting quarterback in a Super Bowl when he faces the Carolina Panthers
Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Ware says if you witnessed Manning’s determination as a patient, you wouldn’t be so surprised how this
played out.
“When we were in the treatment room, it was just the leadership that the team needed,” Ware recalled
Monday after the Broncos beat the New England Patriots Sunday. “We had to get well. We had to have
our full team. Everybody bought in, helped and pitched (in) like [outside linebacker] Shaq [Barrett] when
I was hurt and [quarterback] Brock [Osweiler] when Peyton was hurt.
“Now, getting all of the guys back and winning that game, you look on the sideline and say, ‘You know
what? We did it. We got in there.’ “
Asked about the foot and rib injuries and the time they cost him this season, Manning said sometimes
one injury sitting you down allows the rest of your body to heal. He looked pretty spry Sunday on a 12yard scramble for a first down.
Manning has always been about action and control. Going to the shelf for several weeks, then winning
back his starting job in a second-half comeback against the San Diego Chargers, provided a different
perspective.
“When you’re not able to contribute because you can’t participate, you try to be patient,” Manning said
Sunday after throwing two touchdown passes in the Broncos’ 20-18 victory.
“My role has been different, and my contributions are different. I’m fortunate and grateful that I have
the opportunity to contribute still in some way. It’s a great honor to go back to the Super Bowl.”
This isn’t the first time his body broke down. He previously came back from neck surgery to regain the
strength to effectively throw the ball at the NFL level. It’s not possible for him to still have the huge arm
he had at Tennessee and as an Indianapolis Colts rookie. But this will be his fourth Super Bowl and that’s
invaluable experience for the starting quarterback.
“Take it one week at a time, stay patient,” Manning kept repeating Sunday as almost a mantra. “That
has served me well.”
Because of Manning’s age, accomplishments and health, his relationship with first-year Broncos coach
Gary Kubiak was complicated. Complicated but not unproductive.
They worked to be transparent with each other: Manning’s role was to get healthy and stay connected
to the team. Kubiak’s job was to give the Broncos the best chance to win each week, and maybe that
meant playing Osweiler over the future Hall-of-Famer.
“They were very good,” Kubiak said of his conversations with Manning. “I would say that they were
tough from the standpoint of him physically trying to get himself back to that point” where he was a
viable option to start.
When was Kubiak convinced?
“About seven or eight days before San Diego, when I watched him work out and watched where he was
physically and the way he talked to me,” Kubiak recalled. “(Then) I knew that he was ready to get back in
there and lead the football team.”
Three consecutive victories later Manning is a win away from a second Super Bowl ring. It’s hard to
imagine what he’d have left to accomplish as a player, but Manning has been steadfast in not dealing
with those what-ifs.
“It’s not really time to reflect,” Manning said. “We have two weeks to play.”
Play maybe the grand finale for No. 18.
Manning's latest Super Bowl trip will be one to savor
By Ian O’Connor
ESPN.com
January 25, 2016
Archie Manning woke up Sunday and felt the need to have a little talk with his wife, Olivia, the
cheerleader and homecoming queen the Ole Miss star married in 1971, right after the New Orleans
Saints made him the second overall pick in the NFL draft.
Despite his considerable skills, Manning never once reached the playoffs with the Saints, and the injuries
and later-life surgeries have made his limp a constant reminder of the fierce punishment he absorbed.
But in the hours before the Denver Broncos faced the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship
Game, the father of two Super Bowl MVPs, one of them a middle child, Peyton, who ranks among the
all-time greats, wanted to remind Olivia of just how blessed they've been.
"Whatever happens," Archie told his wife about Peyton, "it's been a good rodeo. It's been a good 18
years."
Archie grew emotional as he relayed the story in the bowels of Sports Authority Field, right after
Peyton's Broncos outlasted Tom Brady's Patriots 20-18 to send the winning 39-year-old quarterback to a
Super Bowl appearance that was unfathomable -- even to Peyton's family -- as recently as a few weeks
ago.
The old man's eyes welled up and his voice cracked as he spoke of his appreciation for the city that took
in Peyton after he was fired by the Indianapolis Colts in favor of Andrew Luck. "Ever since I used to play
here," Archie said, "I'd always go home and say, 'Denver fans get it.'"
He swore he had no inside information on whether his son plans to retire -- "I promise you he hasn't
talked about it, has not even brought it up," Archie said -- though he conceded the possibilities made
this victory over Brady and Bill Belichick something to savor. As did that morning conversation with his
dear Olivia.
Football players are taught to never reflect, to stay in the moment at all costs, and Archie's boys Peyton
and Eli have made six trips to the Super Bowl by keeping that focus intact.
But Sunday morning, ol' Archie was finally ready to smell the roses for a change, ready to reminisce with
Olivia about everything their middle child had experienced and overcome.
"We just had a special moment," Archie said, his voice catching again. It wasn't the last special moment
of their day.
What were the odds in the middle of November that Manning would be in this surreal position? He was
5-for-20 with four interceptions and no touchdowns against Kansas City, and he was pulled from the
game with a shot foot and a shot arm. He had nine touchdowns against 17 picks for the season at that
point, and then the younger, bigger, stronger, more athletic Brock Osweiler ripped off three consecutive
victories, including one against the unbeaten Patriots.
Just about everyone thought Osweiler had the job for keeps. The Broncos had actually started the
transition to Osweiler in the offseason when they fired Manning's coach (John Fox) and coordinator
(Adam Gase), asked him to accept a $10 million pay cut (Manning worked that down to a $4 million
haircut instead), installed Gary Kubiak's Osweiler-friendly offense, and instructed the fading legend to sit
out more practices.
Suddenly everything changed in the final regular-season game against the Chargers. Somewhat
recovered from his foot injury, Manning dressed and assumed the role of Osweiler's backup. Cooper
Manning, the oldest of the Manning boys, was among those who had assumed Osweiler would finish out
the season. So Cooper was busy coaching his young son, Heid, in a flag football league when word came
that Kubiak had actually inserted Peyton into the game.
"And I left in the middle of it," Cooper said of Heid's game, "and my son's like, 'Way to leave your team.'
I said, 'It's worth it. I've got to check on baby brother to see how he's doing.' I left [Heid] high and dry."
As he stood outside the Broncos' locker room Sunday, Cooper Manning shook his head over the wonder
of it all.
"I'm really, really proud of him," he said of Peyton. "He just tried to get better. It's amazing how things
work out, just amazing. I'm kind of in awe of how the whole situation has unfolded, to be dinged and
have a chance of maybe not playing at all the rest of the year, and then to go in there against the
Chargers and turn it around and win two playoff games -- it's just hard to write that script."
The last time Peyton appeared in a Super Bowl, he was hit almost as much as Brady was hit by a Denver
defense that, at least for this day, was worthy of comparison to the '85 Bears. A devastated Archie stood
that day outside the losers' locker room in Eli's building in New Jersey and told ESPN.com he couldn't
bear to watch what Seattle was doing to his kid.
"That's why I hate football," he said.
Nobody in the Manning family hated football on Sunday, especially the quarterback of the home team.
Michael Robinson, a fullback on that Seattle team, had said on the NFL Network that he thought
Manning was "done," and that Osweiler should've been playing against New England. "I think we saw
the last greatness of Peyton when we beat him in the Super Bowl, to be honest with you," Robinson
said.
As it turned out, Manning had at least one more half of greatness inside of him, and against the most
appropriate opponent. Brady-Manning was the NFL's answer to Bill Russell-Wilt Chamberlain. Brady and
Russell were the New England icons who had the championships, and Manning and Chamberlain were
the non-New England icons who had the superior stats and, of course, not enough rings to show for it.
Brady had entered this game with a 22-8 postseason record and four championships, with two one-anddone exits from the playoffs. Manning entered with a 12-13 postseason record, one title and nine oneand-dones. If Peyton wasn't going to win the rivalry Sunday (Brady had that in his hip pocket for eternity
with his 11-5 head-to-head record), he could surely help his legacy by beating Brady for the third time in
five postseason duels, and for a third consecutive time in an AFC Championship Game.
It seemed a long shot at best, even if Brady had a 2-6 career record in Denver. At 38, Brady had aged so
much better and had predicted to a friend in that famous 2014 email that he'd play another seven or
eight seasons while Manning would be confined to two. Brady didn't have to endure the four neck
surgeries that left Manning initially unable to throw anything but a 10-yard lob.
But with the sun out and the temperature close enough to 50 degrees, Manning showed up as the more
energized player. Belichick won the coin toss and shocked everyone by electing to receive (just as he
shocked everyone by electing to kick at the start of overtime in the loss to the Jets last month), and
Brady couldn't generate anything on the opening drive. Manning, meanwhile, completed 4 of 6 passes
for 60 yards on an 82-yard drive punctuated by his 21-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels, only the
second scoring throw Manning had made at home all season. Immediately after Manning reverted to
2015 form near the end of the first quarter and threw a wayward ball behind the line later ruled as a
fumble (courtesy of Belichick's genius challenge), the Patriots answered with their own score and
appeared to settle into the game.
Stephen Gostkowski then did something he hadn't done in nine years -- missed an extra point attempt
after nailing 523 in a row. The Patriots never got back that point, and after Brady's heroic throws to Rob
Gronkowski on New England's final, frantic drive, they had to attempt a two-point conversion play that
never had a chance.
"A nightmare scenario," Gostkowski called it.
Truth is, Brady lived the nightmare more than any Patriot, taking a beating like no quarterback has taken
all season. He was never pummeled this way in the two Super Bowl losses to the Giants, and the
relentless pressure forced him into the kind of mistakes he rarely makes in games so big. He threw two
interceptions, or two more than his forever rival threw, and the first one to Von Miller set up Manning's
second touchdown pass to Daniels, this one on a vintage Peyton high-arcer into the corner of the end
zone.
In fact, Manning threw the ball most of the day like he has as his 40th birthday approaches -- as if trying
to land it in a distant trash can. Though he couldn't deliver a touchdown in the second half, Manning
didn't have to. He outscored and outplayed Brady, and then stood on the winners' stage with a trophy in
one hand and the game ball in the other. "I would never, ever, ever underestimate [Manning] under any
circumstances," Belichick had said the other day.
Now everyone fully understood why.
"There is no question this is a sweet day," Manning said in his postgame news conference, with his
young son, Marshall, standing behind him and under the championship cap Peyton had planted on his
head. "This was a sweet victory."
Von Miller was the best player on the field, without question, and the Denver defense defined the
outcome. This day belonged to Manning, anyway. Did you see that 12-yard run on third-and-10 in the
third quarter, when Manning ran (and dove forward) for 12 yards and looked like either his father,
Archie, or his boss, John Elway, who scrambled and helicoptered his way to the two championships that
altered his historical standing in the sport?
"I think the big thing is we've got to win it," Elway said of the Super Bowl matchup with the Carolina
Panthers, "and that's going to be a tremendous add to Peyton's legacy but also the Broncos' legacy,
too."
Manning will arrive in Santa Clara, California, as the oldest starting quarterback to play in a Super Bowl,
replacing his man Elway. Given his age, the fallout from the Al Jazeera report, and the fact most
observers thought his career ended in that dreadful Kansas City game, this date with Cam Newton is a
fairly remarkable thing.
"I'm just so happy he's getting to play again," Archie said. "Being hurt is the worst side of football, but
just to play again, gosh, and to help them into the No. 1 seed and then to win two playoff games. ... I
didn't know if he'd play again. He fought this thing a long time, and the good Lord looked down on him.
... This is a special day."
Archie was reminded that his sons had made a half dozen trips to the big game, and he mentioned again
how fortunate he felt before adding, "Let's win one more."
But win, lose or draw against Carolina, Archie and Olivia Manning already know the score. Their son
Peyton doesn't need another trophy. It has already been a good rodeo, and one hell of an 18-year ride.
Peyton Manning's scramble punctuated Super Bowl run
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
January 25, 2016
In the end, the play led to no points and didn't help the Denver Broncos.
In fact, five plays later, the Broncos punted.
But quarterback Peyton Manning's teammates were still quick to say Manning's 12-yard scramble in the
third quarter of the Sunday's AFC Championship Game was a signature play.
"Oh yeah, when Peyton shows he's willing to do what he did, you want to follow that guy anywhere,"
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "You see him diving to get that first down, he's all in. That's
Peyton."
With a 17-12 lead and just under 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Broncos faced a thirdand-10 at their own 20-yard line. And in a game that was evolving into a field-position affair, the lack of
a conversion would have left the Patriots a short field to work with while the Broncos were protecting a
five-point lead.
Manning had spinal fusion surgery in 2011 -- his fourth neck surgery overall -- and this season he missed
seven starts after he suffered a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel in the Broncos' Nov. 8 loss in
Indianapolis.
But when he didn't see an immediate option for the throw, Manning took off around the right end and
lunged, headfirst, past the first-down marker. The sellout crowd was in a frenzy, the Broncos' bench
area erupted and Denver had a first-and-10 at its own 32.
"That goes through all that work he was doing over the course of the last 10 weeks," Broncos coach Gary
Kubiak said. "He's going to do what he has to do to win. I know that. I mean, he's one of the greatest
competitors ever in this league. For him to take off and make that play -- guys, I can't tell you how he
has led this group the last three weeks. It's been tremendous."
Call it Helicopter Lite, a throwback to John Elway's scramble in Super Bowl XXXII, when Elway was hit by
two Green Bay Packers defenders as he dove, spinning him like a helicopter blade before he was
slammed to the ground.
The Broncos did indeed punt five plays after Manning's scramble, but instead of punting from their own
20-yard line, they punted from the Patriots' 46.
Britton Colquitt was able to put enough air under it to force a fair catch by New England returner Danny
Amendola at the Patriots' 8-yard line. At that moment, both Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom
Brady had each team's longest rushing attempt.
It was also the first time Manning had run for a first down on third-and-10 or longer since Week 5 of the
2002 season, Manning's fifth year in the league. Manning also finished 17-of-32 passing for 176 yards to
go with two touchdowns in the win.
"Me personally, I think he still has it, although the critics say he doesn't have it," wide receiver
Emmanuel Sanders said. "You want to talk about a guy that started the season off 7-0 and now he is
going to the Super Bowl. At age 39 or 40 or 70 or however old he is, no matter what, he gets the job
done. I am just happy he is my teammate."
"He played great, I'm just happy for him," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "He went through a lot
the last couple of months of the season. With people trying to say he did this and that being injured, I
knew he was going to come out and play well once he got healthy. I'm just excited for him. ...I feel like
we've got to do it for old man 1-8 down there."
Peyton Manning Is Primped and Primed for, Perhaps, a
Final Showdown
By Juliet Macur
New York Times
January 24, 2016
After the Denver Broncos won the A.F.C. championship game on Sunday to make it to the Super Bowl,
Peyton Manning primped.
At his corner locker, he pulled on his gray jacket, plucking every last piece of the lint from it. He arranged
his toiletries in his leather toiletries bag, just so, and packed it in his leather roller bag, just so.
And then, for more than a full 60 seconds, he peered into a mirror that he had propped in his locker,
combing his fingers through his closely cropped hair, making sure each short strand was placed just
right. So meticulous, that Peyton Manning. And so meticulous for so long, too — on and off the field.
After 18 seasons, can you imagine how many minutes he has spent fixing his hair at his locker?
Countless.
And now this season could be his last, at last. He is primed to end on an upswing.
Manning helped his Broncos beat the New England Patriots, 20-18, throwing two touchdown passes. At
39, he will be the oldest quarterback to start in a Super Bowl, breaking the record held by his Broncos
boss, John Elway, who was 38 when he won the Super Bowl in January 1999.
But don’t call Manning old in front of his teammates.
“Is 40 old?” asked Broncos running back C. J. Anderson, who is 24. “He’s just No. 18, what he’s known to
be, and he knows what he’s doing.”
To get the message through, Anderson added, “He’s keeping up with whatever I listen to on my iPod, so
he’s all right.”
Manning may be all right, but he’s still old, given his line of work. You’ll get Manning’s N.F.L. age by
multiplying his real age by 2.5. That’s what the league’s hard-hitting players can do to a body.
In recent years, Manning’s body has taken a particularly rough beating, too. Multiple neck operations.
An arm so weak that he needed to retrain it to throw. A foot injury two months ago that caused him to
miss six games. It got to the point this season that when he took the field, you could almost hear his
joints creaking.
So when he went up against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday, there didn’t seem to be much
hope that it would be a close contest. Brady is 38, but he defies age with his long list of dos and don’ts
for a quarterback trying to play when others have long retired or crumbled. He eats 80 percent alkaline
foods and 20 percent acidic, and don’t you call him after 9 on a work night because that’s when he’s
snoozing, having put his head onto his pillow after executing a series of cognitive exercises. Sounds
exhausting to be so perfect.
Brady is mechanical, while Manning is mortal. Both are among the best quarterbacks ever. Yet on
Sunday, in their 17th meeting, the quarterback who looked old wasn’t the one we expected.
It was Brady, not Manning. He was belittled by the Broncos’ defense. He was forced to throw terrible
passes, including two for interceptions, and was sacked four times.
In the end, Brady did bring the Patriots within a few yards of tying the game in the waning seconds, but
his pass for a 2-point conversion was intercepted.
After the clock ran out, Brady walked into the locker room with his head sagging, while Manning soaked
up the joy of winning, as the orange, white and blue confetti rained down on him.
“This is a sweet day,” Manning said. “This is a sweet victory. It hasn’t been easy.”
He called it a unique season, which was an understatement. Manning partly tore the plantar fascia in his
left foot in November, then had to watch his backup, Brock Osweiler, lead the team for the next six
games before reclaiming his starting spot. Then, in December, came a jarring news report.
Al Jazeera reported that many human growth hormone shipments were sent to Manning’s wife from an
anti-aging clinic the year he had neck surgery. That drug is banned by the N.F.L.
Manning denied that accusation, calling it “garbage,” but did acknowledge visiting the anti-aging clinic
— which is based in an Indianapolis strip mall — to use its hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
The report, true or not, tainted Manning, a quarterback known for his work ethic and attention to detail.
We may never know if he used H.G.H. But in a league that generates billions and has players who make
millions, it’s not far-fetched to imagine players and teams breaking the rules to get ahead.
Amid those reports, Manning plowed ahead. Look where that focus has taken him: straight to the Super
Bowl, where he could win his second ring. If he does win, he will be the first quarterback to win Super
Bowls for two franchises. He has taken the long road in his career, and has proved himself in two pro
uniforms, unlike Brady, who has stayed with the Patriots, comfortable in his position, for what seems
like forever.
Manning wasn’t the star on Sunday. The Broncos’ top-rated defense won the game. But the meticulous
Manning still set the tone.
He pushed the Broncos down the field to score early. Tight end Owen Daniels, who is 33, caught both of
Manning’s touchdown passes and said he and his quarterback “were not old for the earth” but were for
football.
“I can see myself wanting to end my career on a high note, like winning the Super Bowl, but I’m not
going to go there right now,” Daniels said.
Just as Manning won’t go there. He won’t talk about his future and whether this season will be his last. A
Super Bowl title might help him decide that.
But time catches up with everyone — and neither anti-aging clinics nor your ratio of alkaline to acidic
foods can save you. That was a reason to savor Sunday’s Manning-versus-Brady matchup even more.
Their rivalry, now two golden boys turned golden oldies, has been one of the best of this generation.
And under a gray sky here, amid an ocean of fans clad in Broncos orange, it might have just come to an
end.
Even Peyton Manning's family had doubts about a
storybook Super Bowl ending
By Dan Wetzel
YahooSports.com
January 24, 2016
Archie Manning's eyes began watering up behind his glasses, his voice catching as he tried to relay the
emotion of earlier Sunday, of before Denver 20, New England 18, before middle son Peyton assured at
least one more game, before that son advanced to his fourth Super Bowl and the Manning family's sixth.
For Archie, all these years, all these games as a football star turned football father, this one felt like it
might be too much to ask, that this might be it for an aging, fading, injured Peyton Manning in the face
of those relentless Patriots.
So there on Sunday morning, Archie and his wife Olivia quietly reminded each other to soak it all in
because there might not be another game. They wound up crying.
"[We] had a moment," Archie said postgame. "Just kind of talked about how no matter what happens
it's been a great rodeo. It's been 18 good years. I don't know what is going to happen. I promise you we
haven't talked about it. You just savor. It's a special day."
The chief reason the Broncos are returning to the Super Bowl is their hellacious defense, which
withstood repeated fourth-quarter drives and held on by breaking up Tom Brady's potential game-tying
two-point conversion attempt.
Von Miller. DeMarcus Ware. Aqib Talib. Those are the difference makers these days, not the five-time
MVP quarterback. Denver wins grind-out games, not shootouts. The Mannings are the first to note that.
They also won though because Manning managed 176 yards and two touchdown passes. They won it
because of drives that flipped field position and pinned Brady deep. They won because Manning was
willing to sell out on a 12-yard run to extend one drive. "There is no question this is a sweet day,"
Manning said. "This was a sweet victory."
They won it because the game was here, and not in Foxborough, a home-field advantage that was
clinched when Manning came off of the injured list and the halftime bench, and led the Broncos to a
Week 17 victory against the San Diego Chargers.
"For him to step in that huddle, take over the group," coach Gary Kubiak said of that regular-season
finale. "This football team just believes he's going to get it done."
The last 10 quarters of Broncos football, the 10 of the Return of Manning, have propelled them from full
of question marks to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif.
"We've seen that resilience his whole career," Broncos general manager John Elway said. "He keeps
coming back."
Make no mistake, Denver won it because even if Manning isn't what he once was, he still commands a
locker room like few others. Up and down the Broncos roster they spoke Sunday of winning for their
quarterback, being motivated by their quarterback.
"It's Peyton Manning," running back C.J. Anderson said. "You're all talking about Peyton Manning like
he's not a five-time MVP. That is 18 over there. He's been known to do what he's known to do."
A month ago no one was certain he would do anything he was known to do again. No one knew if
plantar fasciitis would end his season and career, no one knew if he'd prove to be a better option than
Brock Osweiler, who wasn't much but still started over him in the season finale.
It was Super Bowl or bust because at this stage of Manning's career, there is nothing else, but here was
a 39-year-old battling again just to get another crack at it, to be the oldest Super Bowl starter ever.
Peyton said he stayed in the moment and worked through rehab since contemplating the end game
would be of no help. His family began to see it differently. No one was counting him completely out, but
it was close.
"I didn't think he'd even play in the Chargers game," older brother Cooper said. Cooper wasn't even
watching the Broncos game that afternoon. He was instead coaching his son Heid's flag football team.
Then he got word Peyton was in and he abdicated his coaching duties to scramble to a TV.
"Way to leave, Coach," Heid would crack to his father, but Cooper could only shrug and laugh as he
retold the story – "it was a great line."
This entire thing feels surreal, or as surreal as a Manning making a Super Bowl really can. This is Peyton's
fourth, to go along with youngest brother Eli's two. Peyton is seeking to equal Eli. Many of those felt
inevitable. This one is borrowed time and a borrowed dream and no one wants to miss out on a
moment they weren't sure would come again.
There was Peyton in the locker room with his own youngest son, Marshall, who was running around
with a new box of Legos and then passing the time by drawing on the white board. Peyton would soon
grab his hand and walk with him to the podium of a packed news conference, trying to share it with his
boy.
For so many years Manning would need to do everything for his team to win, play to near perfection.
The playoffs were always a struggle. The Patriots were always a foil. Here in Denver though, where he
landed four seasons ago after a neck injury that left many to wonder if he had anything left, he is just a
piece to the puzzle.
In some ways this victory over New England could be his most satisfying one yet.
No, it's not as meaningful as winning a Super Bowl, but there is something about being the underdog, of
beating the Patriots when he isn't at his best, of winning what is likely the last of he and Tom Brady's 17
meetings. The final tally would be Brady, 11-6, but Manning would have won the last three in the AFC
championship game, denying New England of three more Super Bowl appearances.
It was Bill Belichick who sought him out postgame, their 24th matchup, to offer congratulations and
respect.
"I can't get away from those guys," Manning joked.
All of it came together in the last month, a long career extended beyond where anyone could have
reasonably expected. His family arrived hoping for the best, hoping for another day, but resigned to the
reality that this might be it, that this cruel sport isn't much for storybook endings.
There is still another chapter, of course. As the Mannings spoke postgame, the Carolina Panthers were
already doing vicious things to Arizona, assuring the greatest challenge is next.
That there is a next, that there is another for Peyton Manning is enough right now.
"I'm just so happy he gets to play again," Archie said, the eyes red and wet, still trying to hold it
together.
Peyton Manning topples time to reach Super Bowl 50
By Paul Klee
Colorado Springs Gazette
January 24, 2016
This is what you will read the most: Peyton Manning will be the oldest quarterback to start in a Super
Bowl. Be forewarned, the age thing is still a thing.
If only football America would identify with how Manning celebrated on a glorious, sun-soaked Sunday,
it could see what these Broncos, and this 39-year-old quarterback, are really about. His party was
muted, in the background. As the Denver Broncos accepted the Lamar Hunt trophy as champions of the
AFC, Manning crouched on the edge of an aluminum platform layered in glitter, confetti and giddy
elation. He watched, soaked it in, almost as a bystander.
In that telling moment, Manning looked like he sought the spotlight about as much as Tom Brady sought
another encounter with Von Miller. Here, let his Dad tell it, because Dad always tells it better: "It's been
a long year. He's hung in there with a lot of young guys, a young team, and he gets to join them in the
Super Bowl. I think that's what it's about to him," Archie Manning said in a quiet hallway underneath
Sports Authority Field.
The Broncos are going to Super Bowl 50 to play the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7. Truth
is, theirs should be Super Bowl 53, for it took every last one of them to beat the Patriots 20-18 in front
of 77,112 believers at Mile High.
See, we make this all about Manning. But maybe that's all wrong. Maybe his signature moments, the
ones he should be remembered for, unfolded off camera: How he worked to come back from multiple
neck surgeries and help the Broncos to two Super Bowls, and how he worked to return from a foot
injury that cut his 18th season in half. There were no cameras in the operating room, or in the training
facility where he threw pass after pass after pass with practice squad wide receiver Jordan Taylor and a
handful of team managers.
"Throughout his entire injury process, every day he was coming in there to work hard," said Taylor, who
caught more passes from Manning than any other player, despite never playing in a game. "He was even
trying to get me better. There were some days he was correcting my route-running."
Now the Broncos are California Dreamin'. They are in the Super Bowl for the eighth time, seven of which
included John Elway in a leading capacity. They were the best team in the AFC, a No. 1 seed that beat
the No. 2 seed (twice), No. 3 seed, No. 4 seed (Houston, in the preseason), No. 5 seed and No. 6 seed.
Their relentless defense seemed to crash down in waves against a pair of future Hall of Fame
quarterbacks, Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. They've won 11 games by a touchdown or less, the most in
NFL history, in a manner only an adrenaline junkie could love.
How's your heart doing, by the way?
"God is so good," Von Miller said, once he stopped dancing. "He gives you a second chance in life."
Gary Kubiak wasn't lying. It took all of them. It took Taylor, an undrafted rookie whom Manning
nicknamed "Sunshine." It took Shiloh Keo, who contacted the Broncos via Twitter to let them know he
was available to play safety, then recovered the clinching onside kick. I looked over, and a man in
Section 316 was hunting for someone, anyone to hug. It took offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who was
unemployed and riding ATVs when the Broncos called him in June to help replace Ryan Clady.
"The Super Bowl? How am I even here?" Harris said. "I mean, are you serious?"
It took DeMarcus Ware. Asked to deliver the pregame speech Saturday night, Ware preached a doozy
his teammates were still talking about the next day. First, Ware placed the 1998 Lombardi Trophy in the
front of the room. Next, he said this: "The Patriots are coming into our house and trying to take what we
built."
It even took Bill Belichick. Give ol' Hoodie a game ball. His odd decision to defer in overtime at the Jets
prevented Denver from tripping to snowy, sinister Foxboro.
Goodness gracious did it take Vonnie Football. Miller gave the Patriots altitude sickness. He harassed
Brady for 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries and an interception. ("I can do it all!" he quipped.) At one
point, Miller wiped out Brady then wiped his eyes as if feigning a crybaby. His Wikipedia page in the
third quarter was changed to "Tom Brady's Daddy."
"We have a motto on this team that iron sharpens iron and another man sharpens another man," Ware
said.
It took all of the men. Manning is simply front and center because he's always been.
"To me, this victory is a great example of what this entire season has been like," said Manning, off to his
fourth Super Bowl, first as supporting actor. "It hasn't been easy."
Manning was 17 of 32 for 176 yards. He threw two touchdown passes, double his total at Mile High
before Sunday. After he improved to 3-1 against Belichick-Brady in AFC title games, Manning said, "It's
not really time to reflect."
The scene suggested differently: His adorable son Marshall holding Dad's hand at the podium, the way
he stopped to chat up Steve Atwater and Rod Smith, the moment on stage where the quarterback
seemed to shy away from the party.
"It's special," he said.
The Broncos already played the Panthers once in the Manning era, and what I remember most about
that game also unfolded off camera. Seven Marines stood outside the locker room in hopes of catching
a glimpse of No. 18. They caught more than a glimpse; they caught a 20-minute conversation, long
enough that a staff member told Manning the bus was ready. Bus can wait, he said.
As it turns out, time can wait, too.
A healthy Peyton Manning regains his voice with
Broncos
By Julian Benbow
Boston Globe
January 21, 2016
Before he could get caught up in the inevitable hype of an AFC Championship matchup against the
Patriots and his 17th faceoff with the one quarterback that has paralleled his greatness for nearly two
decades, Peyton Manning thought back to November, the last time he was supposed to square off
against Tom Brady.
He was on the sideline because of a torn plantar fascia, and having no choice but to watch was brutal.
Manning lasted the first half as a spectator. The Broncos were down, 14-7. Snow was just starting to fall.
Then, Manning looked at linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who was just as antsy sitting out because of a back
injury.
“Me and Peyton looked at ourselves and said we’re about to go in this locker room and do what we
need to do,” Ware said.
They went to the equipment room and put on their headsets to hear the team’s calls while they
watched the game on television.
The sound was muted, but Ware was still yelling at the telecast. If it wasn’t about a play call by defensive
coordinator Wade Phillips, it was a tackle by linebacker Von Miller or defensive end Malik Jackson.
“DeMarcus is a big-time second-guesser,” Manning said. “You know, ‘What are we calling, Wade?’ You
know, ‘Wrap up, Von! Wrap up, Malik!’
They were their own version of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.
“It’s so weird to see when a quarterback gets a call and how he feels about a play because we’re
watching it on national television,” Ware said. “Then I get a defensive play on the headset, he looks at
me and I’m like, ‘Ah, man we should’ve called this play.’ And he’s like, ‘We should’ve called this play.”
The only difference was they could do something about it.
Manning spotted something and told Ware to run back to the sideline to relay a message.
“He said, ‘DeMarcus, go out there and tell them they need to run this play!’ ” Ware recalled. “And I’m
running all the way back out there on the sideline and telling them about some play and it actually
worked.”
Thinking back on how the Broncos came out of a 21-7 hole in the fourth quarter to beat the Patriots, 3024, in overtime got a smile out of Manning as he started preparing for Sunday’s AFC Championship
game.
But he was glad to be back to a point where he was running the plays instead of watching them.
“Ware and I were smiling [and saying] before the team meeting that it would be nice to be out on the
actual playing field this time around as opposed to being in the equipment room where you’re watching
the game — in mute,” Manning said. “The hot dogs aren’t bad in there, I’ll say that. But I much prefer to
be on the playing field.”
Manning’s 18th season in the league has nagged and tortured him. The plantar fascia injury as well as a
right shoulder injury cost him six games. The play of Brock Osweiler, his replacement, sparked a brush
fire of a quarterback controversy while he was gone. He then had to angrily shoot down accusations
from a December documentary produced by Al Jazeera America that linked him to HGH. And looming
over it all was the constant din that his Hall of Fame career could be coming to an end.
“It’s been very different from any other season that I’ve played in 18 years,” Manning said. “So staying
patient, taking it slow, one week at a time, that has certainly helped.”
He had no issues with sounding cliche, because getting back on the field was truly a week-to-week
process. If the future wasn’t necessarily guaranteed, there was no point in looking into it.
“Try not to get too far ahead, try not to assume anything, any type of finality or any type of, ‘Hey, this is
what’s going to happen in three weeks or four weeks,’ ” Manning said. “I truly kind of followed the old
cliche of one week at a time and tried to stay patient. I think that served me well, because a lot has
happened this season.”
Crossing paths with the Patriots is the one thing that has stayed the same. He has made an NFL-record
15 trips to the playoffs, and this will be the fifth time the Patriots have stood in his way.
“When the schedule comes out and you know you’re going to play them in the regular season, every
time after that final second ticks off, you have a good feeling that you probably will see them again if
you do your job and get to the playoffs,” Manning said. “That’s been the case certainly a number of
times for me.”
The hype that comes with facing Brady has become so routine for Manning that even he jokes about
how predictable his response to it has been.
“I’ve always kind of given the boring answer that it’s the Colts vs. the Patriots and now it’s the Broncos
vs. the Patriots,” he said.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak watched the rivalry from afar before going to Denver this season, and said
being a part of it will be special.
“First off, it’s a credit to them because you don’t have the rivalry that they’ve had if you don’t last as
long as both of them have lasted,” Kubiak said. “They’ve both been so successful. They’re two Hall of
Fame players, two Hall of Fame people. They’re leaders on their football teams wherever they’ve been.
It’s pretty special.”
The statistical greatness that Manning has achieved and Brady’s postseason success fuel a never-ending
argument over who is the best quarterback of the generation, but Manning said that the respect
between the two is mutual.
“All I can say about Tom Brady is that he plays the position the way it’s supposed to be played,”
Manning said. “He’s extremely talented. He’s a very hard worker, very competitive guy, and he just plays
the position the right way. When you do that, there’s a reason you’re playing for a long time. As a
quarterback, it’s always been a great honor and privilege to compete against him that many times over
the course of the past 16, 17 years.”
Peyton Manning's arm might be limited, but mind as
sharp as ever
By Jeremy Fowler
ESPN.com
January 21, 2016
The Pittsburgh Steelers' game plan was working seamlessly. They were stopping the run, forcing Peyton
Manning to win with his obviously limited arm. A long-time NFL defensive coordinator who watched the
game said Pittsburgh impressively disguised its intentions before each snap for much of the game.
When that plan started to crack on the Denver Broncos' 13-play, back-breaking scoring drive in the
fourth quarter of their 23-16 playoff win Sunday, Manning knew exactly what to do. Rookie linebacker
Bud Dupree backpedaled into coverage too early on a second down. Manning screamed 'Black 80' and
checked into a running play. C.J. Anderson burst through Denver's right side, Dupree's side, for a 28-yard
gain. A holding penalty negated the play but that wasn't the point. The Broncos had momentum.
Two minutes later, Manning's signature "OMAHA, set-hut" with machine-gun octaves caught James
Harrison offside. After throwing all game, the Broncos ran nine times for 33 yards on that drive. Steelers
players and coaches admitted afterward that Manning caught them in blitz packages.
"Above-the-neck football," Harrison said of Manning.
Translation in a crawfish-shorts-inspired jingle: Pey-ton-still-wins-with-his-mind.
From cadences to hard counts to run calls, Manning causes problems for a defense before he ever takes
the snap, a useful tool for a quarterback without his fastball entering a 17th meeting with Tom Brady.
Diminishing arm strength doesn't curb the value Manning still holds in this area. The Steelers game was
proof.
An informal survey of several NFL defensive players and coaches suggests Manning is still the NFL's best
at frustrating defenses with his eyes, hands and mouth before a snap, with the Green Bay Packers'
Aaron Rodgers a close second. Brady, of course, is considered brilliant at the line, too.
"People don't realize how important it is for a guy at the line of scrimmage getting his team into the
right play," said former Dallas Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, now an ESPN analyst. "It's a chess
match, and Peyton always has a counter."
Woodson's humbled-by-Peyton moment came in 2002 when Mike Zimmer, then the Cowboys'
coordinator, prepared all week for blitz packages that would surprise Manning. They had disguises and
counters ready for the Indianapolis Colts. Woodson and his teammates wanted to wait until late in the
play clock before creeping to the line for a blitz.
That plan lasted about, oh, two series. When Woodson inched closer, Manning countered with a quick
screen to Marvin Harrison for a sizable gain. A fire-breathing Zimmer scrapped the entire blitz package in
the first quarter. Woodson recalls Manning basically telling the safety with his eyes, "I know exactly
where you're going."
That was 13 years ago, and Manning is "not even close" to what he used to be physically, Woodson said.
But the mind is still as sharp.
"He still has to complete the pass," Woodson said. "Teams are sitting on routes because they know he
can't throw the deep ball. But he can still use his mind to beat teams. He's by far the smartest
quarterback we've seen in a while."
Manning's presence at the line is all about misdirection. His "Omaha" is now famous, but other favorites
are "taco," "apple" or "arrow." These phrases mix and match with a staccato "set-hut" cue to draw
defenders offside.
The numbers are unscientific because of injury, but over the past five years, Manning's teams have
drawn 68 offside, encroachment or neutral-zone penalties, the highest number among the remaining
playoff quarterbacks, according to ESPN's Stats & Information. Brady's New England Patriots drew 62
penalties, Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers 53 and Carson Palmer's Arizona Cardinals/Oakland Raiders
49. Manning missed the 2011 season in Indianapolis, and Palmer missed 10 games in 2014.
Anyone who watched the Panthers' 44-16 blowout of the Washington Redskins in Week 11 knows
Newton's hard count is legit. Washington's linemen were living offside that game. This season, the
Panthers have the most penalties drawn among the four remaining teams with 18. The Broncos are
second with 13. The Patriots have 12, and the Cardinals eight.
For Manning, drawing penalties is all about disrupting the rhythm of a lineman. Veteran Minnesota
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison says Manning will use the same cadence (like Omaha) for several
plays, only to suddenly switch to something else, followed by an unsettling hard count.
"Almost like he's lulling you to sleep," Robison said.
Time is on Manning's side. He's keeping linemen in their stance, which means "your legs are burning"
and you might not be set when the ball is snapped, New York Giants tackle Barry Cofield said.
"So off balance," he added.
Manning does this, players and coaches say, to dissect the defense. He lets the clock run so defenses will
reveal their plans. Meanwhile, he's calling out "hot" colors and numbers to alert his offense, in code,
what certain defenders are doing on the play -- like "Black 55" or "Blue 38" or "Gold 26."
Or maybe he's not actually telling his offense anything.
"We felt like 90 percent of his calls were a distraction for him to learn new information or get something
else," said Chris Hoke, a Steelers nose tackle from 2001 to '11. "A lot of it is just talking. He's getting you
to show your blitzes. When you could hold your disguise until the end, he can't make the check and
must call a play."
Even if defenses figure out Manning, his pacing affects the players, switching from hard counts under
center to a hurry-up, shotgun offense.
That 28-yard play by Anderson last week was still fresh on Woodson's mind days after the game.
Manning saw Dupree backpedal, checked into a run and gashed the Steelers.
But Manning will need more than blitz pickups to find an edge on New England. He'll need help. On
some plays, the smarts won't matter. Not anymore.
"His receivers have to win," Woodson said. "It's that simple."
Peyton Manning, underdog? Believe it
By Paul Klee
Colorado Springs Gazette
January 20, 2016
His hands, stuffed into the pockets of a hoodie. Indoors, Peyton Manning lifted his visor to get a clearer
view. It's a view he's seen, oh, I don't know, 100 times before: Dozens of media members packed into a
room, ready to fire off questions for the quarterback about The Big Game.
His 16-game rivalry with Tom Brady. His health. (Always, his health.) How, when he was injured, he
watched the first Broncos-Patriots game alongside DeMarcus Ware, from an equipment room in the
undercarriage of Sports Authority Field.
"The hot dogs aren't bad in there," Manning quipped.
It all seems entirely familiar, almost preordained: America takes one glance at Sunday's AFC
Championship game — Broncos vs. Patriots — and shrugs.
Yeah, that makes sense. It's Peyton Manning. Of course he's in the AFC Championship Game.
But the banner across the marquee is wholly misleading. This is Peyton Manning as the world has never
seen him. This is Peyton Manning, underdog, and that will never make sense. The five-star high school
recruit, the No. 1 NFL draft pick, the all-time career passing leader. Peyton Manning is the ultimate
favorite, not the underdog.
Until now — in what probably is Manning's final game at Mile High, if not anywhere.
"A lot has happened this season that's been very different for me than any other season that I've played
in 18 years," Manning allowed.
The Patriots are expected to beat the Broncos. The AFC's No. 1 seed — a team that already beat the
Patriots, with a backup quarterback to boot — is an underdog at home. Bill Belichick, Brady and the
Patriots enter Mile High as a 31/2-point favorite in Las Vegas, a bigger favorite among the talking heads.
To grasp how odd that is, consider this stunning fact: Over his past 15 seasons, Manning has been a
home underdog only three times when he starts and finishes the game. Three times. In 15 seasons. Is
that a testament or what?
Peyton Manning, underdog? Doesn't make sense, because it so rarely happens.
But that's where he is, and that's where the Broncos are, on the edge of the most anticipated football
game that's been played in Colorado, and there's been a few.
"Now the pressure is not on us," linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "It's on the other team."
During Manning's first three seasons in Colorado, the Broncos followed the lead of their quarterback:
Tee it high, let it fly. As Manning went, so went the Broncos.
The latter is not the case anymore. The Broncos won a regular-season game without scoring an offensive
touchdown and won a playoff game by scoring one.
But the former remains true. Denver's in the AFC title game for the second time in three seasons but this
week follows Manning's lead as the underdog.
"There are a lot of underdogs on this team, from Chris Harris as an undrafted free agent and is playing
really well, to a guy like Shaq (Barrett, the Colorado State alum) who has played consistently and now
has an opportunity to do something great," Ware said.
Oh, it's a tired cliché. This Broncos roster, with enough talent on defense to line a Pro Bowl roster and
Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson on offense? That's an underdog like Joey
Chestnut against those hot dogs is an underdog. But this is another turn in the Manning evolution, and
they're buying in.
Asked for his confidence level in Manning, Thomas acknowledged they are aware Sunday could be their
final tango: "Our confidence is high. It could be our last one, so our confidence is high."
The war of words that erupted Monday from the Broncos defense all the way to Rob Gronkowski's
Twitter account won't win or lose the game, but it can impact the game. It's not as if the jawing stops at
kickoff, and hot tempers can trigger penalty flags that determine if the Patriots punt or Beautiful Brady
earns a first down. Like Mom says, words can be hurtful, particularly in championship games.
"All I can say about Tom Brady is he plays the position the way it's supposed to be played," Manning
said.
But NFL observers sold their Manning stock months ago. Each of the four divisional playoff games was
decided by six or seven points. But since theirs was a grinder - led by the defense, not by Manning's
offense - the Broncos are seen as the weakest member of the Final Four. Sex sells, but so does offense.
No one in the No Favorites League gifted Manning the favorite's role. It's easier to get there than to stay
there, especially at the level he's played for almost two full decades.
"He's still the same leader," Thomas said. "He doesn't talk about what he went through or what
happened to him."
"This is has been one of the most unique seasons I've ever been a part of," Manning said.
Approaching the finish line, this season also carries with it a new label.
Peyton Manning, underdog? Hard to believe. But the Broncos seem to like it that way.
Like Broncos, Peyton Manning proves resilient after fall
By Michael Silver
NFL.com
January 17, 2016
He was locked in a tense battle against a proud, resolute opponent, a brisk, Rocky Mountain wind and,
most menacing of all, the cold touch of Father Time. Then suddenly, early in the fourth quarter of
Sunday's Divisional Round playoff game at Sports Authority Field, Peyton Manning found himself flat on
his stomach, thinking, I've fallen and I can't get up.
It was an embarrassing, somewhat sobering moment for one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to have
played, a 39-year-old with diminishing skills carrying the stark realization that this is quite likely his last
shot at a capturing a second championship. And for all that No. 18 has experienced in his 18-year career,
starring in a reenactment of former L.A. Rams quarterback Jim Everett's phantom sack from the 1989
NFC Championship Game was not what he had in mind on this chilly mid-January afternoon.
Sure enough, when I tossed out the comparison to Everett's ignominious flop while standing in the
Denver Broncos' locker room Sunday evening, as Manning was heading to the showers, the sport's most
notorious perfectionist stopped and shook his head sheephishly.
"That was a new one," Manning said, then turned and resumed his stride. He was about to disappear
into the shower area when he pivoted and added, "Hey -- I got up, though."
Oh yes, he did -- and so, in the end, did the top-seeded Broncos, who rallied to secure a 23-16 victory
over the valiant Pittsburgh Steelers in front of 76,956 fans. Thanks to a near-seven-minute stretch of
clutch and precise offense, one which belied the unit's choppy, imprecise performance throughout the
rest of the game, Manning and the Broncos advanced to fight another day.
And what a day it will be. Fittingly, that battle will be waged against Tom Brady and the second-seeded
New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field in next Sunday's AFC Championship Game, treating the
sports world to what will likely be the final matchup between the two greatest quarterbacks of their era.
Brady-Manning XVII (that's 17, for you non-Roman-numeral aficionados) seemed like a pipe dream back
in late November, when the Broncos' struggling starter sat in an upstairs box at Sports Authority with a
walking cast on his left foot and watched his replacement, Brock Osweiler, shine in a 30-24 overtime
victory over the Pats.
Against all odds, Manning got his job back after getting healthy -- and on Sunday, in a vulnerable
sequence that would serve as a metaphor for his and his teammates' resilience, he got up off the turf
and made a play.
The Broncos trailed 13-12 with 13:15 left in the game when Manning, on first-and-10 from his own 20,
took a snap from under center and faked a handoff to halfback Ronnie Hillman. With Steelers safety Will
Allen blitzing off the left edge, Manning stepped forward to avoid the pressure, slipped on the grass and
fell forward, landing on the 14-yard-line. The whole world seemed to stop for a couple of seconds -- so,
in fairness, did the Steelers, who believed Manning had either been sacked or had given himself up -before Manning, realizing he hadn't been touched down, decided to try to make caviar out of cow
droppings.
Rising gingerly to his feet, Manning flailed forward and delivered a wobbly floater toward receiver
Emmanuel Sanders on the left sideline. Manning's receivers had treated many of his passes like poisonoak-covered mud cakes throughout the first three quarters, but Sanders caught this one at the 35 and
swept up the sideline until being forced out of bounds by cornerback William Gay for a 34-yard gain.
It would be Manning's longest completion of a game in which he mustered pedestrian numbers (21 of
37, 222 yards, no touchdowns) but put up a much-needed goose egg in the most important category of
all: turnovers. For the first time this season, Manning started a game in which he did not throw a single
interception, giving the Broncos a chance to gut out a game they looked in grave danger of losing.
"He's been out so long, and been through so much, and he's just doing whatever it takes to win and get
another chance at the Super Bowl," said Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, who caught four passes
and a key two-point conversion. "It's not gonna be perfect, and that (expletive) wind was a nightmare,
but hey, we had no turnovers and he managed the field well."
Added cornerback Chris Harris, who fought through a painful shoulder injury that left him unable to
contain Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant (nine catches, 154 yards; two rushes, 40 yards): "He needs to
do just what he did today: No turnovers, run the ball, take what they give you and lean on the defense.
That's what Peyton has to do."
Manning must follow this blueprint because -- let's be honest -- his once-mighty skill set has eroded
precipitously. For all the inspirational moments he provided in his first three years with the Broncos,
after having fought through four neck surgeries and the lost 2011 season that ended his long run as the
epicenter of the Indianapolis Colts' universe, Manning is no longer close to the passer he once was. He
can't put as much on the ball as he used to, and defenses have shrunk the field in response, forcing him
to throw earlier and, at times, with less accuracy.
Throw in the plantar fascia injury that flared up in November and he looked perilously close to finished.
After throwing four interceptions in a 29-13 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in mid-November, Manning
was pulled from what would be the worst statistical game of his life and told to rehab his injury while
watching Osweiler run the Denver offense. And when Osweiler proved to be efficient, less-turnoverprone and better suited to coach Gary Kubiak's scheme -- and as the Broncos went 4-2 over the next six
games, including a 34-27 defeat to the Steelers in Pittsburgh -- it seemed that Manning's time with the
Broncos, and perhaps as an NFL player, had run its course. He was embattled off the field as well: A
report by Al Jazeera seemed to link him to HGH use, suggesting he obtained the substance (which is
banned by the NFL) in the wake of his recovery from multiple neck surgeries in 2011; Manning strongly
denied the allegations, telling ESPN he was "angry, furious...disgusted."
It was a tumultuous December for Manning, and there was no reason to suspect that January would be
a whole lot better. And then, somewhat stunningly, in the midst of a turnover-laden performance by
Osweiler that couldn't all be pinned on the quarterback, Kubiak turned back to Manning early in the
second half of the season finale against the San Diego Chargers. According to several teammates,
Manning's mere presence in the huddle gave the Broncos the kick in the butt they needed, provoking a
27-20, come-from-behind victory that clinched the conference's top seed. Three days later, Kubiak
announced that Manning had regained his starting job, and for most of Sunday's game, it looked like a
decision that would be second-guessed well into the offseason.
Part of that was due to Manning's counterpart: Though Ben Roethlisberger had suffered a separated
throwing shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' stunning, 18-16 first-round victory over the
Cincinnati Bengals, the ultra-tough quarterback bit his lip on Sunday and played like the future first-
ballot Hall of Famer that he is, completing 24 of 37 passes for 339 yards without throwing an
interception despite the absence of his star receiver (Antonio Brown, who suffered a concussion late in
the victory over the Bengals) and star running back (Le'Veon Bell, lost for the season in a November
defeat to the same team). Pittsburgh took the lead on Fitzgerald Toussaint's one-yard touchdown run
with 1:22 left in the first quarter and held it for most of the game.
The Steelers, however, did commit one turnover -- and it turned out to provide the catalyst that
Manning and the Broncos needed.
Forced to punt for the sixth time on the fourth-quarter drive that began with Manning's 34-yard
completion to Sanders, the Broncos then allowed the Steelers to drive to their 34-yard-line with a onepoint lead and 10 minutes remaining. On second-and-4, Roethlisberger handed the ball to Toussaint,
who swept to his left before being hit by cornerback Bradley Roby at the 31. The ball popped free, and
Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware -- one of the best pass rushers of his era -- pounced on the fumble
at the 35, sending the crowd into a Mile High state of delirium.
The Broncos, to that point, had not held the ball for longer than 3:14 on any drive. What followed was a
13-play, 65-yard march that lasted six minutes, 52 seconds and produced their first touchdown of the
day. Manning, who expertly audibled to running plays on numerous occasions throughout the game,
was in full command. He attempted only three passes on the drive, completing two, but one was a
biggie: On third-and-12 from his own 33, Manning threaded a pinpoint throw over the middle to thirdstring receiver Bennie Fowler, who caught it in stride and completed a 31-yard gain.
Finally, on third-and-goal from the 1, running back C.J. Anderson (15 carries, 72 yards) willed his way
into the end zone, using a second-effort burst to push past defenders Brandon Boykin and Lawrence
Timmons and giving the Broncos a lead they would not relinquish.
"Oh, I was getting in," Anderson said. "The dude (Boykin) grabbed my facemask, and I was like, I don't
care."
Manning's pass to Thomas on the ensuing conversion made it 20-13 with three minutes remaining, and
after Ware sacked Roethlisberger on fourth-and-5, the Broncos kept it on the ground and padded their
lead on a 45-yard field goal by Brandon McManus, his fifth of the day. The Steelers closed the margin to
seven on Chris Boswell's 47-yarder with 19 seconds remaining, but after his onside kick dribbled through
a pair of Broncos, Anderson was there to smother it.
"Oh my god," Anderson said as he left the field. "It seemed like it was on the ground forever."
The same could have been said of Manning after his humbling flop early in the fourth quarter -- but he
rose up and made a play, then won a game, and now his teammates believe that the magic is back,
empirical evidence be damned.
"Did he look old tonight?" Anderson asked. "Ask yourself that. We dropped balls. He was whipping it
through the wind. I thought he looked good."
(Personally, I thought he looked old. Then again, I was watching from a climate-controlled press box.)
Conversely, Brady, 38, still looks very much like a man at the top of his game. Yet the Broncos left their
stadium Sunday convinced that Manning can lead them to an AFC Championship Game victory over the
Pats for the second time in three seasons, or at least be good enough to do his part.
"He might not throw 50 touchdown passes or throw for 5,000 yards ever again, but one thing Peyton
Manning never loses is that fourth quarter (expletive) he got," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "We got him
that one turnover, and he came out and did his fourth quarter (expletive), and we won the game.
There's only about three or four quarterbacks in the league that got that (expletive), and you'd best
believe he's one of them."
Manning and the Broncos had enough on Sunday to extend their season -- and ensure that there will be
at least one more fourth quarter in the brilliant quarterback's storied career. And when it was over, and
I approached him at his locker, he had no illusions about the degree of difficulty that his current
assignment carries.
"It was tough," Manning conceded.
So was he -- but he'll have to be even tougher on Sunday, when his fellow living legend comes to town.
In the end, Peyton Manning stood and delivered
By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com
January 17, 2016
Before throwing his longest pass of the biggest game of his season, Peyton Manning fell down.
Yep, just plain fell down. Untouched, in the pocket. Ker-plop. Insert Willie-Mays-on-the-Mets
comparison here.
"Yeah, I want to take another look at that play," Manning said after the game. "I'd like to get here early
in the morning and maybe get it deleted off the game film."
Maybe, but one man's pratfall is another man's metaphor. And a play on which Manning, under
pressure, slipped, fell, got back up and then threw to Emmanuel Sanders for a 34-yard gain really does
kind of sum up the season he has had.
"It's been a unique season," the Broncos' 39-year-old wizard said. "A lot of new things have happened
this season."
What's not new is what's next: an AFC Championship Game on Sunday against nemesis Tom Brady and
the New England Patriots. Manning has lived that story so much, he must feel he's in a time warp. But
for as brilliant and decorated a career as he has had, and for as many playoff games as he has played,
Manning has never reached this point of a season in quite this way.
Manning's football epitaph will lean heavily on the level of responsibility he had for his teams' successes.
For years in Indianapolis, Manning operated behind undermanned lines, with a rotating group of skill
position players and, for the most part, an average defense. His legacy rests on the image of him
choreographing the entire offense at the line, using the length of the play clock to adjust his guys,
confuse the other guys, wave his hands, wiggle his fingers and shout "Omaha!" to produce spell after
chain-moving spell.
But this season is not that. This Broncos team is not that. This is Manning in winter, his fluttering passes
no longer pinpoint, his body breaking down. He missed six games this season with a foot injury and
backed up Brock Osweiler for another game. Never has he averaged fewer yards per game than this
season's 224.9. Not since he was a rookie has he averaged so few yards per pass (6.8) or thrown more
interceptions than touchdowns. His 17 interceptions were the third-highest total of his career, and he
played in only 10 games.
However ... here Manning is, with a home game against the Patriots to get him to his fourth Super Bowl
and preserve his chance of winning a second. This time, though, Manning needs a heck of a lot more
help than he ever has before. And everybody knows it.
"He managed the game right," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said. "No turnovers. That's all we need."
Peyton Manning, game manager?
Don't laugh. Manning and the Broncos' offense sprang to life after the defense recovered Fitz
Toussaint's fumble with 9:52 left and the Steelers up 13-12. But the 13-play touchdown drive that
followed was still 10 runs and just three Manning throws. He needs to be able to rely on his running
backs, which means he must play from under center. That he's willing to do that says he's not just a
game manager right now but also a willing one.
"He can do both," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's fine. He can play under center. He can play in
the gun. We'd like to do both."
And Manning is on board, as he is with the idea that things couldn't really get going on Sunday until the
defense made the game-changing play.
"Our defense has been outstanding all season. They have led us to this point," Manning said. "You have
to win as a team. Defense did a great job holding them, and offensively, we did just enough to win."
That's a bizarre-sounding formula for a Peyton Manning team one win from the Super Bowl. But this is
2016, and Manning is clearly a quarterback who has confronted and come to accept his limitations. He
needs more help than ever. He needs his defense to collect turnovers in key spots. He needs the run
game to click. Next week, he's going to need his receivers and running backs not to drop as many balls -six -- as they did on Sunday.
And it just might work. Keep it close, and you never know in this league -- or with this great a player.
There's little doubt the Peyton Manning we used to know has fallen. But that doesn't mean he can't get
up.
Peyton Manning, the Broncos’ Flickering Star, Glows
Just in Time
By Ben Shpigel
New York Times
January 17, 2016
It was getting late Sunday, the winds were swirling, and Peyton Manning grabbed his helmet from the
bench, lunged twice from side to side and crept closer to the sideline. The Denver Broncos trailed by a
point, and they had two, maybe three possessions remaining.
The later it gets in Manning’s career, the fewer moments such as this exist — the chance to summon the
one pass, the one read, the one play that extends the joy ride. He does not like thinking about the end,
but he has. He admitted as much last week.
After an uneven first three quarters, after incompletions and drops and hollow possessions, Manning
imparted a gift that sustained the Broncos for another game. Evading a Pittsburgh blitz, he delivered his
best throw of the day, a tight spiral that prolonged Denver’s lone touchdown drive, a fourth-quarter
sledgehammer that propelled the Broncos to a 23-16 victory over the Steelers and a berth in the A.F.C.
championship game.
Had C. J. Anderson not gone on to score on a 1-yard run with three minutes left, this would have been
the most cutting playoff defeat of Manning’s tenure in Denver, surpassing the Super Bowl debacle two
years ago against the Seattle Seahawks.
Fans would have raged, mourning how Manning and the league’s best defense had failed to topple
Pittsburgh, a team playing without its best receiver (Antonio Brown, who had a concussion) and running
back (DeAngelo Williams, who had a foot injury), and with its quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger,
hampered by a severe injury to his throwing shoulder.
Denver survived to host the New England Patriots next Sunday for a berth in the Super Bowl in what will
be the 17th installment of Manning’s rivalry with Tom Brady. Though Manning has won only five of their
previous matchups, he has a 2-1 advantage in championship games. Manning deferred comment on
New England and Brady until Wednesday, saying he wanted to enjoy this victory, but some of his
teammates did not mind.
“I have a serious hate for the Patriots,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “I’m going to be really amped
up for that one.”
Told of Wolfe’s comments, safety T. J. Ward said: “I can echo that. I don’t like them too much. They
don’t like us, so that’ll be a perfect A.F.C. championship game.”
On Sunday, imperfection prevailed at Sports Authority Field. There were blown coverages and drivekilling penalties and special-teams gaffes — like the one that could have doomed the Steelers. Two
minutes after Pittsburgh had recovered its own muffed punt in its end zone, fortune swung toward the
Broncos, who trailed by 13-12.
On the sideline and in the huddle, their defensive players had been pleading for a turnover, and here it
came, Bradley Roby dislodging the ball from Fitzgerald Toussaint, allowing Denver to take over at its 35yard line with 9 minutes 52 seconds left.
On the ensuing 13-play drive, Manning handed off again and again to Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, 10
times in all, but faced a third-and-12 at the Denver 33. The thing about being a complementary
quarterback stuck in a Hall of Famer’s body is that sometimes the passes that wobble turn straight and
true again, like an arrow fired by an archer.
The reserve receiver Bennie Fowler, who in the second quarter had dropped consecutive passes, ran a
post route, and Manning whipped a throw that sneaked past cornerback Brandon Boykin for a 31-yard
completion.
If the Steelers had come out in man-to-man coverage, Fowler said, he doubted that Manning would
have looked toward him. But once Pittsburgh deployed a zone, leaving space in the middle of the field,
he knew he was Manning’s primary option.
“I think the one thing that I’ve always believed in was that if you have missed throws and you have some
dropped passes, you just keep firing,” Manning said. “Bennie, there was no doubt that I was going to
keep throwing to him if the read took me there.”
Manning threw one more pass on the drive, a 7-yarder to Emmanuel Sanders for a first down. The next
five plays were runs, which made sense given the transformation of Denver’s offense. Anderson’s 1-yard
touchdown run and a 2-point conversion put Denver ahead by 20-13.
There is ever more reliance on Anderson and Hillman and less dependence on Manning, who missed six
games with a partly torn plantar fascia in his left foot before replacing an ineffective Brock Osweiler in
the third quarter of the season finale three weeks ago, a comeback that reasserted him as the starter.
Manning finished 21 of 37 for 222 yards on Sunday, and for the first time all season in a game he
started, he did not throw an interception.
For perhaps the first time this season, Manning, who will turn 40 in March, was the healthier
quarterback. However hurt Roethlisberger was, Denver never expected him to sit. He needed the full
week to recuperate from a hit by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict that pulverized his right shoulder,
separating it.
Roethlisberger — who this season alone has sprained a foot and a knee ligament and sustained a
concussion — said last week that he did not know if he had played through a worse injury. He did not
throw until Friday’s practice.
On the Steelers’ first offensive play Sunday, he tossed the ball 50 yards. The pass was incomplete, but
the result mattered less than the objective.
Roethlisberger deterred the Broncos from creeping up too far, giving him opportunities to complete
shorter passes. The throws that he would normally have made to Brown went instead to Sammie Coates
and Markus Wheaton and, especially, Martavis Bryant, whose 40-yard reverse set up the only
touchdown of the first half. Roethlisberger finished 24 of 37 for 339 yards.
The Broncos had vowed that these playoffs would be different, that never again would they treat a
postseason game with complacency, as they did last year, when they prepared for Indianapolis by
focusing on a game with New England that never came.
All week, Manning’s teammates praised his concentration, his attention to detail, how his passes
whipped through biting winds at practice. On Sunday, sometimes they did, sometimes they did not, and
that is how it goes, has gone, for Manning.
It matters little that he is not as good as before. More relevant is whether Denver can win with him. It
happened Sunday. Once more, and the Broncos are in the Super Bowl.
Injury, comeback force reboot on Manning story line
By Eddie Pells
Associated Press
January 15, 2016
No one ever really rooted for Peyton Manning to fail, but boy, did some folks like to point out his flaws.
Take the Super Bowl, for example. It wasn't that he couldn't win the big one, but that he didn't win
enough of them.
Yet in the span of a few short weeks, dating to his relief appearance for the Broncos on Jan. 3, the
narrative about the 39-year-old's trials and travails has shifted. The quarterback, sometimes derided as
an over-prepared perfectionist and too-clever-by-half pitchman, is now portrayed as the grizzled veteran
trying to coax his team to a title more on grit than talent.
Sports fans love that sort of story.
"A lot of people have looked at him the last few weeks and said, 'Wow, this guy is not who I thought he
was,'" said retired receiver Brandon Stokley, a longtime favorite of Manning's. "It's great for people to
see who he really is. He'll do anything to help the team."
Manning's entry into the regular-season finale against the Chargers conjured images we've seen before
in sports: Willis Reed limping onto the court for Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Jack Nicklaus winning the
Masters at age 46. Serena Williams making a run at the Grand Slam at 33.
The narrative changed for each star once he or she had been humbled — and grown a bit older. Reed
got hurt when his team needed him most; Nicklaus was considered washed up; Williams got upset on
the doorstep of a Grand Slam. Just as those stories softened, Manning's is softening now.
"I still hear whispers of the usual, but far more of the, 'Maybe we shouldn't take this guy for granted,'"
said Sean Salisbury, the former NFL quarterback who now hosts a pair of sports talk shows. "We've got
to enjoy this."
With the Broncos preparing for the Steelers on Sunday, there's been far less discussion about Manning's
record in the playoffs (11-13), his record when it's cold in the playoffs (0-5 under 40 degrees), his record
against Tom Brady (5-11), and his arm strength (never elite, but good enough to laser a couple of 15yard out patterns against the Chargers).
There's been much more talk about his gift for diagnosing defenses, for getting his team into the right
play and for his willingness to do anything, including be a backup, to help the Broncos win.
For sure, the Chargers game was not Manning in his prime. He threw only nine passes. Completed only
five for 69 yards. But if his arm (and foot, and shoulder, and neck) isn't what it used to be, it was clear
against San Diego that his mind is still in good shape.
"You see (backup quarterback Brock Osweiler), and you can see he's a good player," Salisbury said. "But
after watching him, you also gain a great appreciation of Manning's ability to keep all 11 guys on offense
in sync the entire time."
Nothing new about that. But now that he's been humbled — now that fans have seen Mr. Perfect
brought down to earth during a 17-interception season that included a four-pick debacle in a game he
got pulled from in November — all that nitpicky attention to detail, those "one-game-at-a-time"
bromides he regularly delivers, the preparation he lives for, is being lauded, not scoffed at.
Some might say this is a culmination of a 12-month stretch that, at times, has felt a bit like piling on to
an athlete who signed with Denver simply looking for the same things Broncos fans wanted — a few
more Super Bowl titles.
After yet another playoff disappointment last January, Manning was asked to take a pay cut.
Gary Kubiak got the head-coaching job and his task — whether overtly communicated or not — was to
build a new offense for the post-Manning era.
The season started and the Broncos won in spite of Manning, who finished 2015 second in the league in
interceptions despite missing six games.
While sitting out, Manning bristled at reports suggesting he'd rather play elsewhere, or not play at all,
than be a second-stringer. He then quietly went out and did the work of an injured backup. He threw on
the side to equipment managers. He took the scout-team reps. He suited up to back up Osweiler on Jan.
3.
Around that time, a report linked him to a clinic that deals in banned human growth hormone. He
angrily denied doing anything wrong and said he put in the hard work and never took shortcuts to make
it back.
That brought out some raw emotion that, at many times over a career that will land him in the Hall of
Fame, has felt either lacking or contrived.
All that played into this new story line.
It's Manning playing the role of Nicklaus, or Reed, or, yes, Broncos fans, John Elway, whose very best
moments came as he gimped (and helicoptered) his way to the finish line. Oh, sure, Manning's stats are
still gaudy (NFL-record 71,940 passing yards) and, in other respects, awful ("Only" one Super Bowl ring
despite all the success).
But in a way, Manning's career record has been reset to 0-0.
The days of "Omaha! Omaha!" are nearly over, and ol' No. 18's ride into the sunset is underway.
"He didn't take the easy way out and he fought his way through" the injury, Stokley said. "He said, 'I'm
ready to go, and whatever you need me to do, I'm willing to do.' It ended up being pretty cool."
Enjoy it while it lasts.
For this year's playoffs, Manning 'is a little more amped
up'
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
January 14, 2016
C.J. Anderson sat at his locker-room stall Wednesday afternoon, enthusiastically answering the
inevitable barrage of media questions that come when your team will is one of the last eight standing in
the postseason, when he saw Peyton Manning out of the corner of his eye.
Immediately, he knew he needed to get his quarterback's attention.
"Hey, 'P,'" Anderson said, getting his attention to explain why he made a specific read.
Immediately Anderson and Manning began conversing in a football dialect intelligible to themselves and
their teammates, discussing plays, protections and how to adapt to an opposing defense. They did so in
a vernacular indecipherable to the layman, but perfectly clear to them.
Through interactions like that, an 18-year veteran's education of a young player continues apace.
"You just heard that conversation right there -- I was in the wrong; I thought I was right, but I was in the
wrong," Anderson said. "Those types of things happen when you're anticipating [the opposing defense's
intent]. But as long as you stay detailed and keep listening and just keep working, we'll be fine."
Anderson and his teammates have paid particular attention this week to Manning. He's on point, as is
always the case, but there's something different about this week -- and given the weight and urgency of
the moment, it's understandably so.
"18 is a little more amped up, to be honest," Anderson said.
"Just his energy and questions and situations -- there's a lot of things that we weren't doing in previous
years. He's just more amped up, making sure we're more dialed in and detailed on this and that."
Anderson said the last time he saw Manning quite to this level was "maybe" in his rookie season during
the playoffs, when the Broncos defeated the Chargers and Patriots to reach Super Bowl XLVIII.
Back then, Anderson was still learning his role -- and learning how to work with Manning. The first
lesson: Don't fake your knowledge; if you have questions, ask them.
"Better to ask than not know! If you don't know, you'll be sitting on the bench! I learned that two years
ago, in my rookie year. I didn't ask, and I messed up," he recalled.
"You just want to make sure you're on the same page with him. I try to anticipate what he's going to say.
Sometimes that works well; sometimes it doesn't."
The questions haven't stopped, as the interlude in the locker room reminded everyone within earshot.
But Anderson doesn't want to return to the days in which he didn't know. Exposure to Manning taught
him more about how to study and prepare, and now is the chance for that diligence to bear fruit.
"Sometimes I've still got to ask him questions," Anderson said, "and he still gives me that, 'Oh, come on,
man, I know you know this' [response], but I've got to ask him to make sure."
In turn, Manning quizzes Anderson and other teammates.
"In meetings, practice, everywhere. He just keeps you on your toes, [asking], 'Hey, did you see this?' or
'This might happen, make sure you see this.' Me, Ronnie [Hillman] and Matt [Paradis], we've got our
own individual meetings with him.
It's the postseason, and what Manning and Anderson want more than anything else are three and a half
more weeks of locker-room lessons and meetings. There are more details to learn, concepts to perfect
and tactical tweaks to assimilate.
"We're learning from one of the greatest," Anderson said. "It's a good feeling."
Peyton Manning 'Maddening' in his ability to diagnose
defenses
By Troy Renck
Denver Post
January 13, 2016
Lose to Virgil Green in Madden? Blame Peyton Manning.
The Broncos tight end said playing against Manning has helped him diagnose defenses in the video
game. Virtual reality intersects with playoff urgency Sunday when the Broncos host the Pittsburgh
Steelers in the divisional round.
At 39, Manning receives criticism for his advancing age, ailing foot and lack of arm strength. What
remains beyond reproach is Manning's mental excellence. When it comes to decoding an opponent at
the line of scrimmage, Manning exists in a class of his own.
"Honestly a lot of my schemes in Madden come from what I have learned from what Peyton has done to
defenses," Green said Wednesday. "You learn to understand the way Peyton thinks. He knows how to
attack weaknesses and patterns. When you play with Peyton it enhances your football IQ to a whole
other level."
Question and expect to be questioned: This is the operating premise at Dove Valley this week with
Manning starting at quarterback. As the five-time NFL MVP walked through the locker room
Wednesdsay, running back C.J. Anderson apologized to Manning for a mistake on a play in practice.
Manning provided an immediate explanation, using his hands to simulate the formation. Such is the
attention to detail that Manning meets individually with the running backs and center Matt Paradis.
"18 is a little more amped up, to be honest. His energy, everything," Anderson said. "He's making sure
we are more dialed in during meetings, practice, knowing about something that might happen in the
game. It keeps you on your toes."
This type of recall can benefit the Broncos against a Steelers team that likes to blitz. What separates
Manning in these situations is his calm, players said. He won't panic over audibling to the right pass
protection. The simple answer might be a run, which happened multiple times in his successful relief
appearance in the season finale against San Diego.
"He knows we don't always have to pass the ball. We can take a few yards on the ground, to set up
something to hit 'em later," said Green, who is a Madden whiz according to teammates. "Peyton does a
great job of winning the chess match."
In the past, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak's offense possessed a narrowly defined audible system. The
quarterback would leave the huddle with the play and, if killed, a second option at the line of
scrimmage. Multiple players said the entire playbook is at Manning's disposal on audibles. This creates a
weapon that quarterback Brock Osweiler used but not to Manning's extreme.
"The first thing we said when Peyton came back, 'It's all live.' Everything," Anderson said. "Whether we
are huddling up or on the ball in uptempo, if he sees something he can change it."
Playing a team such as Pittsburgh within a month figures to bring similarities. However, Manning
maintains a reputation as the master of recall around the league. Opponents will wait years between
repeating a look, only to watch him go back to the same play that worked the first time.
"There's nothing he hasn't seen," Kubiak said. "He's just very comfortable in the group and getting them
in the right spot. And they have a lot of confidence that he'll get them in the right spot."
Wide receiver Jordan Taylor understands. The practice squad receiver spent weeks working with
Manning as he rehabbed his foot. Those sessions were therapy for his injury and calisthenics for his
mind.
"He would create invisible defenses and make audibles," Taylor said. "It's so impressive how much he
knows and sees. It makes you better and work harder just being around him."
Read between the lines
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning makes a living reading defenses. Teammates have discussed how
it helps in audibles:
— The entire playbook remains at his disposal.
— He doesn't panic on blitzes, checking to runs as easily as passes.
— It forces attention to detail and players to see the game, in some ways, through his eyes.
— His ability to recall information limits trick coverages and looks from opponents.
Blindsided by adversity, Peyton Manning chose to "be a
pro"
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post
January 7, 2016
Given back his job as starting quarterback, Peyton Manning stood inside the Broncos' locker room and
revealed a little of what's inside his heart. There is gratitude for his last, best chance to win the Super
Bowl one more time. But the hurt also lingers, as the result of pain that struck Manning so many ways
during the 2015 NFL season that he never saw it all coming.
"There were a lot of firsts, a lot of firsts for me this year. It's weird in your 18th season to have so many
firsts. But when you sign up to play, you sign up for everything," Manning told me Thursday, after
Denver coach Gary Kubiak announced the 39-year-old quarterback would start ahead of Brock Osweiler
in the playoffs.
Manning looked me in the eye and made a confession: Nothing in his long and brilliant professional
career prepared him for the adversity that blindsided him in the past year. It shook a quarterback whose
reputation is built on controlling the game's chaos.
"You learn about yourself and how you handle it. That's been my theme all year: Just keep being a pro.
I've been through a lot of stuff ... but that's what I drew on during this time: Be a pro. Handle it. And
keep the faith," Manning said.
"There's no guarantee what's going to happen, and you have to be willing and prepared for anything. I'm
sure every head coach that signs up thinks he's going to win division titles and Super Bowls, and then all
of a sudden something bad happens, and you get fired after two years. When you sign up to play, you
sign up with everything that comes with it. That means getting injured and the changes and dealing with
everything."
Manning had to deal with a ton. And it hurt like a ton of bricks.
His salary was cut. His favored offensive scheme was junked. His touchdown-to-interception ratio stunk.
His foot hurt. His coach benched him. Football analysts declared Manning washed up, and fans booed
him in his home stadium. His reputation was attacked by media reports that suggested Manning would
be a malcontent in a backup role and linked his family to human growth hormone, with him angrily
denying the implications he used HGH.
The adversity was stacked high. Yes, Manning admitted, it tested his professionalism to the max, in ways
never before experienced. He missed six contests because of a partially torn plantar fascia in his left
foot. His 67.9 quarterback rating, as well as his 224.9 yards passing per game, were the worst marks of
his career. In the end, football finds a way to humble everybody, even a five-time MVP.
"I've always told you all I'll never write a book," Manning said. "I could probably write a pretty good
short story, though, on this past offseason and this season. But, right now, it's fun to focus on the now."
During the 27-20 comeback victory against San Diego that re-established Manning as the starting
quarterback and allowed Denver to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs, he got crushed in
the chest by Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square. The veteran QB winced and got back up. But,
come to think of it, taking wicked hits and refusing to quit has been the recurring story of his 18th pro
year.
"A drama," Manning said.
I suggested it could be written as a grand soap opera, like the HBO television series that told the tale of
Enoch "Nucky" Thompson and was watched religiously by Manning from 2010-14: "Boardwalk Empire."
"Now that," Manning said with a grin, "would be an insult to 'Boardwalk Empire.' "
Through the years, Manning has learned to defuse the pressure of playing quarterback with the same
sense of humor that has drawn rave reviews on "Saturday Night Live." But, as a man who often seems
compelled to set the agenda, he seldom shows vulnerability. His every comment is on-point, and as
rehearsed as a timing route he perfects with 1,000 throws at practice.
One dead giveaway to the rare times when Manning reveals a little of what makes him tick, however, is
a slight stammer in his speech, which only seems to happen when he's working out an idea for the first
time. Maybe, just maybe, the veteran quarterback let some unfiltered truth slip, when he walked away
from the crush of cameras encircling his locker, and he stopped me to add a few details of how the hard
hits of this long, strange season have left a few dents in his heart.
Although another season remains on his contract, it's hard to imagine Manning in training camp with
Denver this summer. He can count on no more than three more games with the Broncos, which is what
the team needs to win the Super Bowl.
I asked Manning: Does this feel like your last rodeo?
"I'd be lying," Manning said, "if I said I'm not thinking about that."
Win the championship ring, and all the hurt of the 2015 NFL season fades away.
For Peyton Manning, being ready for the call started in
practice
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
January 4, 2016
It wasn't a matter of playing the blame game. But in the third quarter, with the Broncos' hopes of
winning a fifth consecutive AFC West title teetering on the brink of extinction late Sunday afternoon,
Head Coach Gary Kubiak felt he had to make a move, and make it now.
Five of their last eight drives had ended in giveaways. The murmur of discomfort over the 74,601 in
attendance grew into a roar.
Starting quarterback Brock Osweiler wasn't at fault for most of the turnovers; only one could directly be
attributed to him. But with a Hall of Famer standing on the sideline in uniform and deemed healthy
enough to take part, Kubiak felt he had to call on Peyton Manning to see if he could stop the slide.
"The feel is that the team is looking around for that guy or that tremendous leadership type of stuff,"
Kubiak said. "That’s what I felt."
What resulted wasn't Manning magic; but it was good, solid offense, built on a powerful ground game
with just enough passing to keep the Chargers off-balance. And it was mistake-free. That was enough to
halt the Broncos' descent in its tracks; the offense raced to 20 points in its next five series to seize what
would be a 27-20 win.
"Coach Kubiak came over to me right after that first series in the third quarter and just told me, ‘Hey,
we're going to go with Peyton now,'" Osweiler said. "'Brock, you played well for us, but we're going to
try to get a little spark.'
"And you know what? Peyton did."
That spark quickly exploded into a bonfire.
"The energy changed," Hillman said. "My mind was on the game; my mind wasn't on Peyton coming in.
But I did hear the fans and everybody going crazy when he walked in. I just think that he changed the
game fan-wise, but I think he came in and did a great job, an awesome job."
The spark was impossible to deny. Even though the numbers put up by Manning himself weren't
extraordinary -- five completions in nine attempts for 69 yards -- the offense began to hum. With Tyler
Polumbus replacing Michael Schofield at right tackle at the same time Manning entered, the Broncos
began to throttle the Chargers on the ground.
"It seemed like we had instant momentum as soon as he came in," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "It
kind of seemed like he struck fear in the other defense; they were like, 'Oh, man, Peyton Manning's
coming out here,' so they kind of changed the way they played defense."
Six of the eight plays on Manning's first drive under center were handoffs, capped by C.J. Anderson's 1yard scoring run, and by the time Manning was done, he'd handed off the football on 17 of his 27 snaps
prior to two game-ending kneeldowns.
Manning made his usual audibles at the line of scrimmage. More often than not, they worked. The
offense averaged 7.52 yards per play with Manning directing it, drove to scores on four of five drives
(not counting the kneeldowns) and, most importantly, protected the football.
"The audibles that he was making were all audibles that he should have made," said TE Virgil Green, "so
he's very in-tune to the game and we just knew that things were going to be good, regardless of what
was going to happen with Brock or Peyton."
"I felt very comfortable with [Manning]," Kubiak added. "For him to step up and say, ‘Okay, I'm back; I'm
ready to go; I'm with the football team; I will be available,' that's sending a tremendous message, not to
just me, but to our whole team."
But Manning could not have sent that message without his work in practice.
This was an unusual week for the future Hall of Famer. A few months ago, no one could have conceived
that he would go into Week 17 as the backup unless the Broncos had already locked their playoff
placement. The notion that Manning would be a reserve in a game that had home-field advantage riding
on it seemed hard to fathom.
But just as the week was unusual, so was the season. He dealt with pain in his foot that would eventually
be diagnosed as a plantar fascia tear after he exacerbated it in Indianapolis on Nov. 8. He spent the next
six weeks in various stages of rehabilitation and recovery before he could finally have a full practice
workload this week.
Even then, he wasn't the same. Only extended rest or potential surgery will remedy the problem. But
the rest he did get got him to the point where he could take part -- even though much of his work this
week was spent running the scout team.
"He made us work all week," said Harris. "He was trying to come after us. He looked good in practice."
Not perfect; Harris said he intercepted him "a couple of times." But what Manning did was enough to
convince not only his coaches, but his teammates, that he was ready.
"It was just good to get him out there working with us, man, just having that presence out there [and] in
the locker room," Harris said. "You need that. You need that guy, and that's why he's here, that's why
he's [No.] 18, so right now, he feels like he's ready to go."
Most importantly, he handled his duties with dignity and class.
"It just says who he is as a professional," Green said. "This whole week he's been doing some things for
the scout team, and to be a guy that's been in the league 18 years and be able to be that focused and
giving a look for the defense just shows a lot about who he is as a person."
"True professional. I mean, that's who Peyton is. He's a true pro," added running back C.J. Anderson. "I
mean, I've only been around him three years, but in 18 seasons, he's seen the ups and downs.
"He went out there at practice every day. He still talked to Brock. He was still going through situations,
even on the sidelines and in here [the locker room], he was going through situations. It's like all of us:
When he got his opportunity, he made the most of it."
What comes next is unknown. But for Sunday -- and the days leading up to it -- Manning showed once
again how to lead, how to play and how to be a pro.
"I mean, you're looking at one of the best to ever play, and he's going through the things that he's going
through. It kind of makes you [consider] you're going through right now and it makes you go, 'Man, just
shut up and keep grinding,'" Anderson said. "That's what he did."
And because he did, he was ready when Kubiak called his name Sunday, and he helped the Broncos get
back on course to a win that ensures they will be at home for as long as they advance in the AFC
playoffs.
Nobody yet knows what's next or who will start in the divisional-playoff game on Sunday. Manning's
foot will have to be monitored to see how it responds to Sunday's work.
But as the postseason dawns, the Broncos have two quarterbacks their players trust. Two quarterbacks
in whom they believe they can win. It took them both to get to 12-4 and the top seed in the AFC
playoffs. It still might take both to accomplish all of their goals in the coming weeks.
"There are so many people involved with us being in the spot that we’re in today," Kubiak said. "For
[Manning] to be there, ultimately, today for this football team in the second half and find a way to get
us over the hump says everything about the man’s character, about what he is, what he stood for and
what he continues to stand for."
And it says a lot about a team that made a bevy of mistakes, but adjusted and -- with the aid of its topranked defense -- didn't let five giveaways beat them.
Peyton Manning's heroic return was Joe Namath-like
By Mike Klis
9 News
January 3, 2016
The first time I cried watching a game was in 1971, when Joe Namath came off the bench for the New
York Jets.
Broadway Joe was already a Super Bowl hero by then but he had missed the previous 13 months, first
with a broken wrist, then a knee injury, and this was his first game back. His Jets were losing to the San
Francisco 49ers and the crowd of nearly 64,000 fans at Shea Stadium went berserk.
Tears streamed down my face as I watched the TV cameras shake from the crowd as Namath strutted in.
And the eyes watered again when Namath got hot, throwing two of his three touchdown passes to
Richard Caster and nearly pulling off a comeback win.
Did Peyton Manning remember that game when Namath came off the bench and went crazy with
Caster?
"No, I don't remember that," Manning said.
I went back and checked. Manning was five years from being born. Probably should have checked before
I asked. He may be old, but he's not that old.
I didn't cry when Manning went in Sunday to replace Brock Osweiler with 8:18 left in the third quarter
and his Broncos down, 13-7 against the lousy, if determined San Diego Chargers in the game at Sports
Authority Field at Mile High.
Still, it was a cool moment.
Like Namath in 1971, Manning was coming back from an extended layoff from injury. Like Namath from
44 years ago, Manning was coming off the bench with his team behind.
Coming in to save the day. The Mile High crowd of 74,601 gave him a rousing standing ovation. What
was Manning feeling as he trotted on to the field to an ear-splitting roar?
"I had nothing to draw on," Manning told 9NEWS in a hallway off the Broncos' locker room. "When
you've played 18 years, you think you can draw on something about every situation. I had nothing to
draw on something like that. I've always played. I've always started."
What Manning did, of course, was not bask in the cheers but ask the crowd to quiet down so he could
call the plays in the huddle. He had no reservations about spoiling the party so he could get down to
business.
"I'm pretty sure they were sitting in the same seats when they were booing pretty well six weeks ago
against the Chiefs after my fourth interception," Manning said with a wry smile. "I'm pretty-level headed
about this. But look, coach Kubiak said, "Are you ready if it happens that way.' I said 'yeah.'
"But if you went back and looked at that first half again, Brock threw good throws and made good
decisions. I have been there. I have been there. I think after the first series of the second half, the ball
security was better. There were no tipped-up balls. There was one screen pass that was tipped up and
went to the ground. It's a funny game.''
Manning led the Broncos to 20 second-half points and a 27-20 come-from-behind victory. Broncos head
coach Gary Kubiak had not made a final determination on his starting quarterback for the playoffs, but
indications are he is leaning towards going with Manning.
Osweiler did well. He is 5-2 as a starting quarterback for the Broncos, including their final game win
against the Chargers. He has a far brighter future as an NFL quarterback after this season than does the
39-year-old Manning.
But Manning will be the Broncos' quarterback in these playoffs. Once a legend makes a heroic return,
you don't go back to the other guy. Namath finished out the 1971 season for the Jets, by the way,
winning his last two games.
Peyton Manning both transcendent and throwback
By Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press
January 1, 2016
Not since he was a skinny 18-year-old freshman at the University of Tennessee has Peyton Manning
served as a backup.
With his longtime understudy Brock Osweiler making his seventh straight start for Denver on Sunday,
Manning will be the No. 2 quarterback for the first time since replacing an injured Todd Helton against
Mississippi State on Sept. 24, 1994.
That's 7,772 days.
A fourth interception in a loss to Kansas City in mid-November, and a searing jolt of pain in his left foot,
brought a premature end to Manning's day and maybe even his magnificent career.
Manning, who remains tied with Brett Favre for most regular season wins — 186 — by a starting
quarterback, spent the next six weeks in street clothes before being able to suit up again.
His legacy, though, was on display in every single NFL game played during his absence.
Like Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White on defense or Jerry Rice and Don Hutson at wide receiver,
Manning changed the game itself.
"He was on the forefront of basically a revolution in the way offenses are run in the National Football
League," Joe Theismann said. "His footprint was bigger than just the cities he played in. He transformed
the position. The style of offense that he ran in Indianapolis was revolutionary and nobody ever figured
out how to stop it there — or in Denver.
"The only thing that's basically slowed Peyton Manning down was Father Time."
Whether or not he's back in the shotgun this month or next season hollering out "Omaha!" No. 18 has
left an indelible imprint on America's most popular sport. And on Madison Avenue.
His dry wit and star power have been a staple of late-night television and 30-second commercials for
nearly two decades. And when he stepped onto the football field as the top overall draft pick by the
Colts in 1998, Archie Manning's kid was equal parts transcendent and throwback.
A pioneer in the way he deciphered defenses and directed play at the line of scrimmage, pacing from
tackle to tackle, pointing and hollering, he became a model for every quarterback who's come along
since. He was at the vanguard of the aerial fireworks shows that light up today's scoreboards and big
screen TVs.
"I think from the sense of quarterbacks, he's been fast-paced, no-huddle, dynamic offense, score a lot of
points, and score quickly," said his brother, Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner for the Giants.
"He has won a lot of football games. Now you see that more. More teams are doing it. The Colts kind of
started that trend and did it well for a long time."
So did the Broncos, where Manning threw 140 of his NFL-high 539 TD passes, including a record 55 in
2013.
Manning was also old-school in the way he served as his own de facto play caller, endearing him to the
players of a previous epoch, noted former All-Pro safety John Lynch, whose playing career spanned
Manning's arrival.
Lynch called the five-time MVP a "genuine game changer" and said he's among the biggest reasons the
NFL is so popular.
"I started in '93, my preseason went like this: Marino, Elway, Kelly and then we opened against the
Chiefs and Joe Montana. So, I caught that era, and now I caught this current era," said Lynch. "And so
much of your opinion of who's the best ever is how you fared against them, and my teams never fared
well against Peyton Manning. He was always one step ahead of us."
Manning was never the best athlete, but his off-the-charts preparation and other worldly memory recall
made him rise above the rest, suggested DeMarcus Ware.
"He beat you mentally," said Ware, who came to Denver for the chance to play with Manning after the
Cowboys released him. "That was his guide: physically you might be faster than me, you might be more
athletic than me, but I'm going to outsmart you every time."
Manning's work ethic and machinations at the line allowed him to find the underbelly of any defensive
formation, adjust accordingly, and deliver the pass with precision.
Broncos guard Evan Mathis also came to Denver to play with Manning, and he said the passer's
perfectionist style was infectious.
"You have your natural leaders, and he is in that category. You're not only learning schematics or onthe-field stuff, but you're learning and seeing proper habits," Mathis said. "That kind of stuff is
contagious."
Theismann said Manning's "understanding of the game and work ethic were at the highest standard. He
was the barometer by which so many measured excellence in the league. Brock's had literally the best
seat in the house to be able to learn."
Indeed, Osweiler said, "There's not a day that's gone by since I've been in the league that I haven't
learned something from Peyton."
Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas said he, too, has been blessed to work with Manning because
"when you see him on the field, you want to be perfect, too. And before long, you're better than you
thought you could be."
Former Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, whose interception of Tom Brady helped send Indianapolis to
the Super Bowl the year Manning won his only championship ring, said: "That's what the game is like
playing with Peyton Manning, taking it to another level about how you view yourself and your career to
want to be great."
Manning missed all of the 2011 season following neck fusion surgery. This year has been agonizing, too.
Bothered by a torn left plantar fascia for months, Manning threw just nine TD passes and 17
interceptions — which still leads the league even though he hasn't played since Nov. 15.
While he was sidelined, several unsubstantiated reports painted the league's only five-time MVP as a
bad teammate or a cheat. The NFL Network alleged he'd refuse to serve as Osweiler's backup once
healthy, and Al Jazeera reported Manning obtained HGH from an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis,
although his accuser recanted.
Those reports pained teammates and friends.
"It does, incredibly," said Lynch. "Because the guy's had such a wonderful career. He's meant so much to
this league. Those are the things that really bother me, because he frankly doesn't deserve it.
"He's never been a backup in his life. This is all new to him. But his attitude is incredible. I mean, he said,
'Hey, I'm trying to get healthy, I'm doing everything I can to be the best support to Brock.' And any
notion that he's told them, 'Hey I'm not going to be your backup,' that's garbage," Lynch said.
Lynch tells a story about he and Manning were driving to Colorado Springs on a golf outing when they
saw a group of kids playing football at the park. Manning looked over at Lynch and said, "Let's surprise
these guys." They pulled over and played with them for an hour.
"I've seen so much of that kind of stuff, it's a shame all this other stuff comes up," Lynch said. "He's a big
boy. He'll handle it well, and he has. But you feel like this is a guy who should have the opportunity to go
out on top."
Even as a backup, 'he's still Peyton Manning'
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
December 30, 2015
Peyton Manning isn't all the way back. He won't get to that point, at least not during this season. The
nature of plantar fascia injuries ensures that.
But part of Manning is better than nothing at all. And even though he will serve as the backup if he
makes his expected return in uniform Sunday against San Diego, he's in a better position to have an
impact on the team -- and with his teammates on the sideline.
"There was one time that me, him and Brock [Osweiler] were all in one huddle during the Pittsburgh
game," Anderson said. "I can't remember what we were talking about, but there's times he's come to
me and said some things, and I took that advice like I always do, and I made it work.
"It's like another coach on the coaching staff. When he's on the field, he's another coach, and now he's
just waiting his turn again. That's just a great thing."
Moments like those that he's had on the sideline with teammates will increase with him back in
uniform, practicing every day and ready to step in at a moment's notice.
"I know that I'm glad that I can get back on the practice field this week and be more of a participant and
hopefully more of a resource to the team," Manning said. "When you're in street clothes, you're not
practicing and you're kind of on your own rehabbing, you just don't feel like you can help all that much.
"I've tried to help some. I've tried to be there for Brock and be there for any questions they've had, but I
can be more of a help to the team now that I'm more available."
And he has teammates looking forward to -- and ready to rely upon -- his counsel.
"He knows his role, and at the end of the day, he's still Peyton Manning," Anderson said. "Whatever he
sees on the football field, if he pulls us aside and tells us, we'd be idiots not to listen to him."
They'll listen, and Manning will have an impact on the Broncos' pursuit of a world championship, even if
he never makes it off the sideline during a game.
"He's just that player, man. He's a great player. He's a great teammate," Anderson said. "He's trying to
win -- whether he's in or not in, he's trying to win. You see somebody who's trying to win, and is not
worried about himself."
Anderson has spoken over the last two years about what he's learned from Manning, and how he's
learned to see and study the game better because of him. It's helped him become one of the league's
best running backs in blitz pickup; he learned to see blitzes developing before the snap because he
learned how to see what Manning saw.
Now he's learning another lesson from the 18-year veteran quarterback: how to handle a reduced role.
That's difficult for anyone who is as competitive in the NFL, and especially so for Manning, given his
success and relentless work ethic.
"He has ups and downs and his career, and he's handling it well," Anderson said. "We all have up and
down times. But when you have a leader that can come up to you, and you can see him do it, you can
push through, too."
And the result is a locker room that remains undivided. Many quarterback issues cause fissures within
the team. This one hasn't.
"He's handling it well from that standpoint. At the end of the day, we've got to go play football. It
doesn't matter: You can go line up at quarterback this Sunday," Anderson said. "We've got to go play
football no matter who's lined up under center.
"That's how we looked at it all season, whether it's Peyton or Brock, Trevor [Siemian], or if it got even
worse, whoever else. We've just got to go play football and win games."
Bronco teammates laud Manning for taking on backup
role
By Mike Klis
9 News
December 30, 2015
You know how people like to rip those at the top. One criticism about Denver Broncos' quarterback
Peyton Manning during his incredible career was that he was stat happy. That it was always more about
Peyton than it was the team.
Just because he WAS the team so many years doesn't make that true.
By agreeing to be Brock Osweiler's backup, Manning is making the ultimate team-before-self move.
"Can't be easy but for him to do that it shows that he's all about the team," said Broncos backup
linebacker Corey Nelson.
"He continues to show how unselfish of a guy he is, how much of a team player he is,'' said Broncos tight
end Owen Daniels. "I think he's always been like that. Maybe it takes something like this to not leave any
doubt in anyone's mind. This is a reiteration of what kind of guy he is."
Because he won't start against the Chargers, Manning won't get the all-time win record. He will remain
tied with Brett Favre for the victory lead with 186 wins.
So much for that national report two weeks back that essentially said Manning was refusing to be No. 2.
Manning has mentored Osweiler for four years. Yet, Manning won't take credit for Osweiler's fine play
in leading the Broncos to a 4-2 record the past six games.
"No, I'm not taking any satisfaction,'' Manning said. "He deserves all the credit for that—how hard he's
worked. He has done a heck of a job, really played well under tough conditions Monday night against a
really good team. Really good win. All the credit goes to him. That's where it belongs. He's really worked
hard. I'll be there to help and support him anyway I can."
This is the plan by the way for the playoffs. Osweiler starts. Manning is the back up.
Can you imagine – Osweiler goes down with 5 minutes left in Super Bowl 50. The Broncos are down a
touchdown.
And look who's coming off the bench …
Just because he's a backup now doesn't mean Manning won't wind up with a happy ending.
As he rehabs foot injury, Peyton Manning says he's
'trying to be a good teammate'
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
December 3, 2015
As Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning deals with recovery from a tear in the plantar fascia of
his left foot, he's trying to pitch in. Manning said his focus is on getting healthy and trying to be a "good
teammate" as Brock Osweiler run the offense.
Manning, who spoke for just under 10 minutes Wednesday on a variety of topics, said he was "proud" of
how Osweiler has played, especially in the team's Sunday night win over the New England Patriots.
"It's was a great win. Brock, I'm proud, happy for the way he's played and proud of the way the team has
played," Manning said. " ... Happy for everybody."
Osweiler has efficiently run the offense in both of his starts. He had 250 yards passing and two
touchdowns in the Broncos' victory over the Chicago Bears to go with 270 yards passing and a
touchdown in the win over the Patriots.
His finished a five-play, 83-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass against the Patriots with 1 minute, 9
seconds left in regulation. The TD briefly gave the Broncos a 24-21 lead.
And after the Patriots tied the score with a field goal on the last play of regulation, the Broncos won in
overtime on a 48-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson.
"Peyton was one of the most excited people in the locker room after the game on Sunday," Osweiler
said following practice Wednesday. "He was ecstatic for the team … he's the ultimate teammate … he's
supporting everybody along the way."
Because it was a home game and he was not undergoing rehab because his foot was immobilized in a
cast, Manning participated in all of the meetings leading up to the Patriots game. He was in the locker
room two hours before kickoff and sat with Osweiler during halftime.
Manning has been in the team complex this week, with a walking boot on his left foot. He said
Wednesday the boot will come off Friday and rehab will be plotted at that point.
"[I] try to be a good teammate, try to answer any questions Brock may have or [quarterbacks coach]
Greg Knapp may have," Manning said. "[I] try to help wherever I can. You can't help as much as you can
when you're playing on the field, but those are kind of things I've been trying to do."
Manning said he had not spoken to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak about traveling to San Diego this
weekend.
"We're trying to get him healthy where he can get back on the field where he can work with us," Kubiak
said. " … With the boot he can go through rehab, with the cast he couldn't. So that's what he's doing and
the next step is when the boot comes off.
"I can tell you right now, we talk every day. And they know what we're doing, Peyton knows exactly that
we're trying to get him as healthy as we possibly can … And Brock knows that he's the starting
quarterback for this team, this week. We're all in getting ready for San Diego."
Peyton Manning: 'It's difficult not being out there'
By Mike Klis
9 News
December 2, 2015
For the past two weeks, Peyton Manning was following locker room decorum that the backup
quarterback should not be heard from.
Problem was, the Denver Broncos' backup quarterback was generating more stories than the starter.
And the starter, Brock Osweiler, was playing well.
So it goes when the quarterback presently not playing is one of the best of all time – and has almost all
the career passing records to prove it. There have been speculative reports on Manning's health.
Reports on Manning's future. Reports on Manning's current status, healthy or not. Manning decided to
address five reporters – no cameras -- in front of his locker Wednesday.
Manning has a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot – ("I think it's like being a little bit pregnant,"
Manning said. "You are or you aren't. You can call it a tear.'') -- that caused him to miss the past two
weeks and at least one more this Sunday at San Diego. Has the down time caused Manning to reflect on
his football mortality?
There was a report last week that said Manning is planning to play next season, even if it's for a team
other than the Broncos.
"Not really. This is a time when 'they' and 'sources' kind of show their head a little bit," Manning said.
"I've always wanted to meet 'they' and 'sources' because both seem to know a lot.
"I haven't thought much more than trying to get healthy. … Some people try to get back, some people
try to get healthy. I'm trying to get healthy before I can try to get back."
Manning visited noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. on Nov. 23. It was
recommended that his left foot be placed in a cast. A week later, the cast was removed, although
Manning's foot is now immobilized by an enormous boot.
This isn't the size of a snow boot. This is more of a deep-wader, duck hunting-sized boot.
"It's a matter of discipline whether you take it off or not," Manning said. "I told them once they took the
cast off (Monday night) they were going to put another cast back on. I said, "Is there another option
besides putting the cast back on?' … (The boot is) pretty much the same thing. You can take it off to
shower so that's probably the biggest difference."
The boot will be removed around 5:30 p.m. Friday. He will start rehabbing on Saturday. The team leaves
Saturday for San Diego and its game Sunday afternoon against the Chargers.
Manning said he had not talked to head Coach Gary Kubiak about whether he would make the trip.
"It's obviously difficult not being out there," Manning said. "Being a competitor, always being able to
play, you certainly want to be out there. I think any competitor would tell ya they would be lying if they
said it wasn't difficult to not be out there.
"It is. But while I'm out, I'm trying to do whatever I can to help. I've always been a team player. Try to be
a good teammate. Whether it's answering any questions that Brock may have. Or (quarterbacks coach)
Greg Knapp may have. Try to help wherever I can.''
And yes, Manning is happy for Osweiler, the quarterback he helped mentor the previous 3 ½ years.
Osweiler is 2-0 since Manning went down, including a 30-24 overtime win against previously undefeated
New England on Sunday night in the snow and cold at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"It was a great win," Manning said. "Brock, I'm proud for the way he's played, happy for the way he's
played. And by the way the team has played. The team has played really well two weeks in a row. Happy
for everybody."
9News had to know: Once Manning gets back healthy, and with Osweiler playing so well, would
Manning be willing to accept a backup role? Manning started answering before "backup role" could be
stated.
"It's so far ahead of what I'm thinking about," he said. "I'm doing what coach Kubiak asked me to do
(which) is try to get healthy. I'm following his instructions. I look forward to being healthy yesterday. I
can assure you. This cast is like a holding pattern. Everybody says, 'Is it better, is it better?' The answer is
I don't know because I'm not putting any pressure on it. It's sort of immobilized. The idea is for it to help
toward the healing process. But there's no guarantee, whatsoever. All the other questions and
speculation, I don't have anything for you on that.''
With walking cast still on, Peyton Manning stays
involved
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
November 30, 2015
After greeting longtime rivals and acquaintances like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and watching his
teammates warm up Sunday, Peyton Manning returned to the locker room to watch the Broncos' 30-24
overtime win over the Patriots on Sunday night.
The decision to have him in the locker room wasn't about staying out of the public eye. Rather, it was
about continuing to give his foot as much rest as possible while he wears the walking cast that is
expected to be removed at some point later this week.
"We talked about it. He could have been on the field. That didn't make much sense to stand out there
for three-and-a-half hours," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said Monday.
"He could have gone to the booth, so he's got to go up and down with the cast on him. We settled on
basically [saying], 'We have a nice, comfortable, warm spot for you here in the locker room.' That's how
it came about."
Manning was able to study the game from that vantage, and offered Brock Osweiler advice after
watching the first half.
"Peyton just had some great ideas about what he saw watching what was going on," Kubiak said. "He
had our game plan with him. He started pointing out some things to me about some of the things that
he felt good about, and he was echoing that to Brock.
"He and Brock sat there at halftime [going] through our list of what we're coming out with, that type of
thing. [He was] just a positive reinforcement as we're playing. We knew we were in a tough ball game
and needed to play well in the second half. Having him there was a boost, I think, for everybody."
What comes next for Manning remains up in the air. The only aspect of his next few days etched in
concrete is the knowledge that he will not play in San Diego next Sunday, leaving Osweiler to make his
third consecutive start.
The walking cast on Manning's foot is expected to come off sometime this week.
"The biggest question this week is really going to be about when the cast comes off," Kubiak said. "Does
it come off early this week or does it come off at the end of the week?
"The progress has been good. The next step when he comes out of it is to get back into the rehab
process into the field."
The rehabilitation in the wake of Manning's plantar fascia tear paused after he donned the walking cast
last week. The cast was placed on his foot following a consultation with foot and ankle specialist Dr.
Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C.
Kubiak admitted that he didn't know what Manning's timetable would be after the cast is removed -and whether taking it off early or late this week would make a difference.
"I'd be overstepping my bounds there. I don't know," Kubiak said. ""I know he's not going to come out of
the cast and go straight to the field. It's going to be out of the cast, some rehab, so there is a process
there to go through."
Manning lent Osweiler a helping hand on big win
By Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press
November 30, 2015
This is Brock Osweiler's team — for now, at least. And everybody's on board, including Peyton Manning.
The five-time MVP hobbled by an injured left foot met with Osweiler at halftime Sunday night to go over
things he'd seen on TV while watching the Patriots-Broncos game from an auxiliary area outside the
team's locker room.
He gave his long-time apprentice tips on how to beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the previously prefect
Patriots (10-1).
Osweiler did the rest, leading the Broncos (9-2) back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to hand New
England its first loss. He checked to a run in overtime and C.J. Anderson scampered 48 yards down the
left sideline for a 30-24 win that tightened the AFC race.
"Peyton just had some great ideas about what he saw watching what was going on," coach Gary Kubiak
said Monday. "He had our game plan with him. He started pointing out some things to me about some
of the things that he felt good about, and he was echoing that to Brock.
"He and Brock sat there at halftime before we actually go through our list of what we're coming out
with," Kubiak said. "(He was) just a positive reinforcement as we're playing. We knew we were in a
tough ball game and needed to play well in the second half. Having him there was a boost, I think, for
everybody."
Manning didn't make the trip to Chicago for Osweiler's first career start a week earlier so that he could
continue getting treatment. A day after Osweiler won his starting debut against the Bears, Manning was
fitted for a walking cast.
Manning, who will resume his rehab after the cast comes off sometime this week, met briefly with Brady
on the field Sunday night before retreating indoors, out of the camera lens' view.
"He could have been on the field. That didn't make much sense to stand out there for three and a half
hours," Kubiak said. "He could have gone to the booth, so he's got to go up and down with the cast on
him. We settled on basically we have a nice, comfortable, warm spot for you here in the locker room."
So, Manning had the same vantage point as millions of viewers across the country, watching Brady
capitalize on the kinds of early mistakes that have doomed Denver before.
Brady threw TD passes to tight end Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler following Britton Colquitt's
shanked 25-yard punt and Osweiler's tipped interception at his own 15-yard line before the Broncos
came in at the half trailing 14-7.
Brady's third TD made it 21-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Osweiler kept his poise.
"The biggest thing is you don't want to panic, I think down 14 points going into the fourth quarter
against the Patriots, it would be easy to try to force things and Brock didn't," left tackle Ryan Harris said.
"None of us did."
On the winning play, Osweiler, who swears he never let a day go by where he didn't learn a lesson from
Manning, diagnosed the defense and checked into a run.
"If 18 was in there he would have done the same thing," Anderson said.
That's the point: there's no drop-off with Osweiler.
Anderson bounced left and followed blocks by tight end Vernon Davis and Harris to give Denver one of
its biggest regular-season wins.
"It means we can beat anybody," linebacker Brandon Marshall said, "because it's true."
It also means the world to Osweiler's growth as a quarterback, suggested Harris.
"You've got to be able to win situations in the NFL and once you've seen you can be successful in a
situation I think it kind of gives any player — quarterback, lineman, receiver, running back — a lot of
confidence," Harris said. "And he's learned that. That's part of being a pro: getting in those situations,
winning those situations and carrying it with you into the next week."
That conviction is contagious, too.
"Brock's doing exactly what we all expected of him," Harris said. "It's not just that he practiced with us
(every Wednesday even when Manning was healthy). We could tell in the things that he says week to
week, how he prepares. All of us prepare so hard and the last thing you want to do is play with someone
who doesn't do that.
"And Brock, even before he was starting was preparing very well. And that just gives everybody
confidence that, hey, we do our job, we're going to be in the right play, we're going to be doing the right
things, we can be successful."
Brock Osweiler has help from Peyton Manning to get
ready for second start
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
November 25, 2015
With his second career start just a few days away, Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler doesn’t
know how many more games he’ll start this season and he doesn’t know how long Peyton Manning will
be out.
What he does know is Sunday night he will be behind center against the New England Patriots – they are
the league’s top scoring defense – in a prime-time matchup that will have a lot to say about the AFC’s
playoff seeding.
“All I know is that I’m playing quarterback this week," Osweiler said. “... That’s where my focus is. Last
week I kept my focus small; I kept it on the Bears' defense and it seemed to work pretty well. This week I
know I’m the starting quarterback Sunday night against the Patriots ... and then next Monday we can
talk about the next week."
Osweiler waited 43 months to make his first NFL start last Sunday in Chicago and it took just a week to
make the second one. He finished 20-of-27 against the Bears for 250 yards and two touchdowns in
Chicago.
On Sunday, football fans will see if he can construct something close to the opening act against the
undefeated Patriots with Bill Belichick and New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia trying to
make it as difficult as possible on Osweiler, who turned 25 on Sunday.
“I know they’ve been causing a lot of chaos for quarterbacks; they’ve been getting to quarterbacks,"
Osweiler said. “... They just play extremely hard. They know their scheme inside and out."
In addition to the Broncos coaches this week, Osweiler does have a little more help. After Manning was
held out of both practices and meetings last week to focus solely on rehab, Manning is back in meetings
and made an appearance on the practice field Wednesday with a walking cast on his left foot.
After a visit with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson on Monday in North Carolina, Manning is now
scheduled to wear the walking cast for seven to 10 days and then restart his rehab on his injured foot.
He will miss, at minimum, two games, but Manning offered a helping hand as Osweiler prepares for a
defense that usually has a surprise or two for opposing offenses along the way.
“Peyton’s been great to me; he was in meetings [Wednesday]. He’s been talking me through his past
experiences going against the Patriots and whatnot," Osweiler said. “He was out here at practice helping
me out, asking me questions. Peyton’s been a great teammate and obviously I love having him around.
It’s a great brain to pick."
Manning was in the Broncos’ locker room following practice. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak was asked
Wednesday if he believes, despite the Broncos adding a fourth quarterback to the roster in Christian
Ponder, if the expectation was for Manning to return to the field before the season is over and Kubiak
said, “Absolutely. He’s doing everything he can to come back."
Kubiak also added: “The injury is frustrating for him, but his frame of mind is good right now and the fact
that this is what I’m doing and the fact that [the cast] is going to come off, go back to work, it should
help me. He has a clear understanding of where we’re trying to go next."
With records come game balls, and Peyton Manning has
a museum's worth
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
November 15, 2015
A game ball is given in recognition of a job well done.
The game ball from the Denver Broncos' game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday is beyond that.
It is validation of what Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has done for a career, a
remembrance of being a part of something much larger.
"Game balls -- game balls are how you remember things sometimes," Broncos linebacker DeMarcus
Ware said. "You can look right at them and remember everything right away. They're painted, got the
date, the score, the teams. They're a story every time. And Peyton? He's got a lot of stories."
The story Sunday was told in the city of his second NFL chapter as Manning added one of the most
difficult NFL records to achieve to his already-crowded résumé. With his 4-yard pass to Ronnie Hillman,
he set the record for career passing yards. Manning, who has 71,871 yards after Sunday's loss to the
Chiefs, passed Brett Favre on the all-time list.
Manning added the milestone to the substantial list that includes most passing yards in a season, most
career touchdowns, most touchdowns in a season, most 4,000-yard seasons, most 300-yard games and
most games in a career with four or more touchdown passes.
And someday, perhaps, the game ball will be displayed in a room somewhere. A big room. A really,
really big room.
"Think about it: Peyton is probably winning 10 game balls a year, 10 a year at least," Ware said. "So,
that's 170 before this year, at least, so he'll be right up at 180 when this year is over. I usually get maybe
seven game balls every year, and I've got them all in a bin and someday I'll build some place to put them
so I can sit and look at them, enjoy them, remember the games. But Peyton, he would need a museum,
something that big. Yeah, a museum."
Manning will go into the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. This is his 18th season, and with each
passing week it seems he hits another benchmark. But the record Sunday represents longevity,
excellence, durability, a little luck and countless hours of preparation, all wrapped up.
"Peyton would never talk about any of that," linebacker Todd Davis said. "That's not what we see from
him. He's got too much humility for that. But we all know, we all know the numbers and there isn't
anybody in this locker room that doesn't want to help him set every record that can be set. We're all
going to look back someday and say we were there. And a game ball from that day, if you can do that,
then that's even better. You could look at that and it would all come back."
Manning has traditionally steered clear of talking about what records mean to him. He called Sunday's
game "one of those important division matchups," and didn't acknowledge any disappointment, at least
beyond losing a game, about last Sunday's stumble in Indianapolis, to his former team, that left him
three passing yards short of the milestone.
He also swatted aside any discussion of the standings, the playoffs and the additional parts of the
league's record book he put his name into against the Chiefs.
"We're trying to win every game, that's your job is to try to win every game that you play," Manning
said. "We're disappointed about [last] Sunday, but we have to move on, have to learn from it and
hopefully it can make us better. That's what we're trying to do this week is to correct some of those
mistakes and try to be better the next time."
The wins, the memories, the work, the teammates, the coaches, time spent -- it's all there.
"Question is how many animals have lost their lives to make those balls? I think he's got a decent farm
by now," tackle Ryan Harris said. "He's got to be at least 10 a year, at least, if over-under is 150, I'm
taking the over. He could put one in every Papa John's.
"That passing yards record, that's 41 miles? I'd love to know how long it would take if me and you just
threw a football back and forth to each other, how long it would take to get to 41 miles. How much time
would that take? And to have not just one person, but four, five, six, maybe seven people running at
you. The bottom line is no question, every single guy on this team feels fortunate to be on the same
team with him. And there will be a time when we look at a game ball, hopefully, and remember it all."
Simply The Best
The Broncos' Peyton Manning set the all-time yardage record against the Chiefs on Sunday. Here's a look
at the leaders.
PLAYER
YARDS
Peyton Manning
71,840
Brett Favre
71,838
Dan Marino
61,361
Drew Brees
58,409
Tom Brady
55,668
Peyton Manning eclipses Brett Favre as all-time passing
yards leader
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
November 15, 2015
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was on the brink of another career milestone when time
ran out the past Sunday.
Manning entered Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs just 3 yards short of Brett Favre's all-time
mark of 71,838 career passing yards. With his 4-yard pass to Ronnie Hillman in the first quarter,
Manning took over the top spot.
The record was the highlight of an otherwise dreadful afternoon for Manning, who threw an
interception on his first pass and went on to throw three more before being replaced by Brock Osweiler
midway through the third quarter with the Broncos trailing 22-0.
Manning was 5-of-20 for 35 yards with no touchdowns and the four interceptions when he was
replaced. Denver went on to lose 29-13.
Manning remains tied with Favre for most career wins by a quarterback at 186. Sunday's game marked
Manning's 265th regular-season start and 57th start with the Broncos since he signed with Denver in
2012.
Manning was denied a chance to set either record the past Sunday in Indianapolis against the Colts -the team that selected him No. 1 in the 1998 draft and where he played 14 seasons -- when Broncos
cornerback Aqib Talib poked Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the right eye in the game's closing minutes.
As a result, the Broncos did not get the ball back for one last possession.
Since signing with the Broncos in 2012, Manning has gone 45-11 as a starter in the regular season and
set NFL records for single-season passing yardage (5,477 yards), single-season touchdowns (55) and
career touchdown passes (530 going into Sunday's game).
In addition to Manning and Favre, Dan Marino is the only other quarterback in league history to have
topped 60,000 career passing yards.
Peyton Manning breaks NFL's all-time passing-yardage
mark
By Andrew Mason
DenverBroncos.com
November 15, 2015
You could start throwing passes at Mount Evans or St. Mary's Glacier, make it all the way down through
the Front Range to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and you still wouldn't have traversed as much air
distance as Peyton Manning has during his 18-season career.
40.8 miles. No one has thrown for more after Manning's 4-yard completion to Ronnie Hillman in the first
quarter here Sunday took him past the 71,838-yard standard established by Brett Favre during a 19season career that ended after the 2010 season.
Manning received a standing ovation after the completion, which came 4:23 into the first quarter. But it
was the high point of one of the most frustrating days of his career -- a 5-of-20, 35-yard performance in
which he threw four interceptions and finished with a 0.0 quarterback rating before being lifted for
Brock Osweiler in the third quarter.
In the wake of the 29-13 loss, Manning didn't want to reflect on the milestone, as historically notable as
it was.
Manning's long journey began with a 15-yard pass to Marshall Faulk nine minutes, 25 seconds into his
first regular-season game, played against the Miami Dolphins at the since-demolished RCA Dome on
Sept. 6, 1998.
In the years that followed, the yardage came in torrents. It came via 14 seasons with at least 4,000
yards; he's now on pace for a 15th.
But most importantly, the yardage came with success. Manning isn't just a stat monster; he's a winner.
Each of the last 13 seasons he's started has ended in the postseason, and with at least 10 regular-season
wins. He's well on track to extend both of those streaks this year.
Manning's teams passed early and often because for so many years, it was what they did best. And
nobody ever passed the football better than Manning and the Broncos in 2013, when he set league
records for passing yardage (5,477) and touchdown passes (55).
Every yard that follows for Manning will represent a new record, and a new bar for future quarterbacks
to clear. But they'll have a long journey ahead of them, a nearly 41-mile trek that took the most prolific
passer in NFL history nearly 18 years to traverse.
How Peyton Manning toppled Brett Favre's yardage
record
By Scott Miller
ESPN.com
November 15, 2015
It's not hyperbole to say there were plenty of early signs suggesting Peyton Manning would one day
finish atop the all-time yardage list. In his first NFL game, on Sept. 6, 1998, he threw for more than 300
yards. If you add up all of Manning's completions since then -- every dump-off to Edgerrin James, every
bomb to Demaryius Thomas -- they'd cover a 40.7-mile span. That's three times the length of
Manhattan, and enough for Manning to break Brett Favre's all-time mark of 71,838 career passing yards.
Here's a look at how Manning did it and what records might be next on the 39-year-old's list.
Remember when there was legitimate debate about taking Manning with the No. 1 overall pick? That
didn't last long, as Peyton proceeded to lead the NFL in passing in two of his first six seasons. Not bad.
And how about this: From 1920-2003, only one player in the history of the league (Dan Marino) had ever
thrown for 4,000 yards in six consecutive seasons. Manning matched that number by the time he was
27. The one blip in Manning's march to 71,839 yards came in 2011, when he missed the entire season
while recovering from a neck injury.
Yards by Season
Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in career receiving yards -and more than 80 percent of their 29,925 combined yards started with a pass from Manning. Perhaps
what's most incredible is what the QB has done with Thomas in such a short time. The 6-foot-3 Thomas
has gained 5,236 yards on Manning's throws in 57 games. That pace (91.9 yards per game) exceeds what
Manning was able to do with both Harrison (80.7 ypg) and Wayne (67.5 ypg).
Most Yards By Player
Manning's longevity is a major reason he reached 71,839. He has missed just 16 games in his 18-year
career (all coming in 2011). And according to Elias Sports Bureau research, there are only two other
active NFL players who were playing when Manning made his pro debut: Adam Vinatieri and Charles
Woodson. At this stage of his career, Manning has played -- and beat -- all 32 NFL franchises, but which
one did he have the most success against from a yardage perspective? That honor goes to the Dallas
Cowboys, who never held Manning below 250 yards passing in five regular-season games. Back in 2013,
he put up 414 inside Jerry World in a 51-48 shootout win. Amazingly, that was only the ninth-best
passing performance of Manning's career. (The best, in case you're curious, came against the Arizona
Cardinals in Week 4 last season: 479 yards on 47 attempts ... at 38 years old.)
Five Favorite Opponents (min. five games against)
There's a narrative out there that needs to be debunked. It goes something like this: Since Manning
returned from a neck injury in 2012, he has become more reliant on short passes. What do the numbers
say? From 2012-15, 52 percent of Manning's passing yards came via throws of 10 yards or shorter. And
from 2006-10, 52 percent of Manning's passing yards came via throws of 10 yards or shorter. In other
words, Manning hasn't changed his philosophy because of his age or declining arm strength; throwing
short and keeping it simple is just the most effective way to move the ball through the air in today's NFL.
Reliance On Passes Of 10 Yards Or Fewer*
*Air yard data available from 2006-15.
Here's what Manning has actually become more reliant on as he has grown older: yards after the catch.
From 2006-08, just 34.4 percent of his yardage came via YAC. That has risen to 42.5 percent in his past
six seasons.
Percentage Of Yards Gained After The Catch*
*YAC data available from 2006-15.
Manning now holds the all-time record in the following major categories: passing yards (career and
single-season), touchdowns (career and single-season), four-plus TD games (career and single-season),
300-yard games (career), game-winning drives (career) and comeback wins (career). Here's what could
be next up for No. 18.
Records Manning Still Might Break
Brett Favre, Peyton Manning took different paths to
greatness
By Patrick Saunders
Denver Post
November 13, 2015
Legends leave lasting images.
There is Brett Favre, running free from the pocket, stiff-arming a blitzing defender, then firing an
improbable pass through a tight window to hit a receiver for a touchdown.
There is Peyton Manning, scanning the defense, flapping his arms like a giant bird as he screams an
audible: "Omaha! Omaha! " A moment later, with defenders' heads still spinning, he nestles a pass into
the arms of a wide-open target.
Two quarterbacks, so different, yet so alike, wrote the NFL record book. Now Manning is about to pen
the definitive chapter.
Sunday afternoon against Kansas City at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Broncos' 39-year-old
quarterback needs just 3 yards to move past Favre to become the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards.
In his 20-year NFL career — 16 of them wearing the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers — Favre
passed for 71,838 yards.
And, if Manning goes on to beat the Chiefs, he also will pass Favre to claim the record for most victories
by a quarterback at 187.
Tony Dungy knows both quarterbacks well. He coached Manning for seven seasons in Indianapolis and
faced Favre twice a year while coaching Tampa Bay for six seasons. The quarterbacks are bound
together by two overriding characteristics, he said.
"Right away, people see the contrast and say, 'These quarterbacks are so different.' But to get to those
kinds of records they had to have something in common," Dungy said. "They are both very, very tough
guys. I can't overstate how tough you have to be to play that many games, week in and week out. I know
when I first came to Indianapolis, the only game Peyton had ever missed was because of a broken jaw.
"Second, you have to be dedicated to winning. You had to be willing to do what was necessary to win.
That means going to great lengths, every day, every season and every offseason."
Manning accumulated his yards and victories more quickly than Favre. Sunday marks Manning's 265th
game, and start, while Favre played in 302 games, starting 298 times.
"It's pretty staggering when you think of their numbers," said CBS Sports analyst Trent Green, who had
three consecutive seasons of 4,000-plus yards passing as Kansas City's quarterback. "First, you have to
be healthy enough, long enough, to put up those kinds of numbers. I mean, Brett set the record for
consecutive starts (297) , and then what Manning is doing now is really is nothing short of spectacular."
Former Broncos and Tampa Bay safety John Lynch frequently lined up against both quarterbacks. They
gave Lynch headaches in dramatically different ways.
"I'll tell you want, they were both a heck of a lot of fun to play against," said Lynch, now an analyst for
Fox Sports. "Brett kind of shot from the hip. He was the ultimate gunslinger. Guys would ask Brett, 'Well,
what did you see on that play?' He'd say, I don't know, I just thought the guy was open.'
"And sometimes you'd look over at Brett in the huddle and he would be laughing or grinning over at
you. It was pretty amazing."
Manning is a different breed.
"Brett had that cannon arm, but Peyton is so calculating," Lynch said. "Peyton did so much from the
neck up. It shows you that there are different ways to skin a cat."
Favre, ever the gambler, gave defenders a chance to put up or shut up. More often than not, Favre's
athleticism and daring won out but not always. His 508 careeer touchdown passes rank second to
Manning's 539.
"Coach Dungy had Brett pegged perfectly," said Lynch, who played for the Buccaneers from 1993-03.
"Coach would tell us, 'He thinks he's better than you.' It's not arrogant, it's just an attitude that he thinks
he can get the pass in at any angle.
"So coach said, 'You are going to have four or five chances to intercept Brett. If we catch two or three,
we have a good chance to win.' But they were really hard to catch because Brett threw them with such
sizzle. The flip side was, if you didn't make him pay for his mistakes, he would come back to burn you,
because Brett was just too good."
During his career, Favre threw 336 interceptions, with 3.3 percent of his passes picked off. Manning, has
thrown 247, and has an interception rate of 2.6.
Manning's pre-game film study, ability to read defenses and mental dexterity at the line of scrimmage
sets him apart.
"Peyton transformed the position, and changed what was required at the line of scrimmage," Green
said. "It goes back to the 1960s and '70s when quarterbacks called their own plays, except that Peyton
was doing it on the fly at the line of scrimmage."
That created nightmares for the defenders staring back at Manning.
"We would work all week ... not showing this tendency, not showing any 'tells,' coming up with a new
game plan," Lynch said. "Then on game day, we would show a defensive look that we had never shown
before. But Peyton would still have it down and make the right call. I'd stand back there and think, 'Now
how the heck does he know what we are doing?' "
Relentless preparation has always defined Manning.
In 2008, the Colts selected Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez in the first round of the draft.
Because of school commitments, Gonzalez couldn't participate in the Colts' spring workouts and
practices. That wasn't acceptable to Manning.
"Peyton had won three MVPs already, and we had won a Super Bowl, but Peyton still prepared like no
one I have ever seen," Dungy said. "Two days a week, on his own, Peyton would drive three hours from
Indy to Columbus (Ohio) to meet with Anthony for an hour, then throw balls for an hour, and then drive
back home.
"No one outside our team knew about that, but that shows you just how far Peyton would go to
succeed. Peyton was already in his 11th year, but there he was, driving all of that way to work with
rookie receiver. Peyton did that because he just knew that we needed this guy if we wanted to win."
As Peyton Manning closes in on yards record, a list of
his top 10 moments
By John Parolin
ESPN.com
November 13, 2015
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is approaching another record -- this time, he’s moving in
on Brett Favre’s career mark of 71,838 passing yards. Manning needs just 3 yards against the Kansas City
Chiefs on Sunday to pass Favre.
Here's a look at 10 of Manning's best moments, and a few other records he set along the way:
1. Entering Week 17 in 2013 against the Raiders, Manning needed 265 yards to break Drew Brees’
single-season record for passing yards (5,476). Manning threw for 266 yards -- by halftime. With 18
seconds left in the first half, Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for a 5-yard touchdown that gave him the
record. Manning sat out the second half, a 34-14 Denver win, to rest for the playoffs.
2. Manning entered Week 5 of 2013 with 60,957 career passing yards, trailing Dan Marino by 404 yards
for second most in NFL history. Manning threw for 414 yards in a 51-48 win against the Cowboys.
Manning broke the record with 1:57 in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard pass to Thomas. The game was
tied at the time, and Manning drove the Broncos to set up a winning Matt Prater field goal.
3. One week before Manning became the 11th quarterback with 40,000 passing yards, Manning passed
a Colts legend. In a Week 10 game against the Chargers in 2007, Manning hit Reggie Wayne for 39 yards
and passed Johnny Unitas as the Colts’ all-time leading passer.
4. On Monday Night Football in Week 6 of 2012, Manning’s 21-yard touchdown toss to Brandon Stokley
midway through the fourth quarter completed a historic comeback against the Chargers. The Broncos
trailed 24-0 at halftime. Manning completed 13 of 14 passes and threw three touchdowns in the second
half, posting a Total QBR of 98.0 after halftime.
5. With their 8-0 record on the line against the Patriots in Week 10 of 2009, the Colts overcame a 17point fourth-quarter deficit to win 35-34. Manning threw a 1-yard TD pass to Wayne with 13 seconds
remaining. The game is most remembered for Bill Belichick’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from
the Patriots’ 28-yard line while leading by six points with two minutes remaining. The gambit failed, and
Manning’s touchdown to Wayne came four plays later.
6. Manning entered a game in Week 11 of 2007 against the Chiefs with 39,972 yards, on the doorstep of
becoming the 11th quarterback with 40,000 passing yards. After a 4-yard completion to Dallas Clark,
Manning hit Wayne for 38 yards and clinched his place in the 40,000-yard club.
7. The Broncos finished the 2012 season with a loss to Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs. In
Week 1 of the 2013 season, Manning got his revenge, throwing for a record-tying seven touchdowns in a
49-27 victory over the Ravens.
8. In Week 5 of 2003, the Colts trailed the Buccaneers by 21 points in the fourth quarter on Monday
Night Football. Manning led the Colts to 24 unanswered points to complete the comeback. He threw for
two touchdowns, including a 28-yard toss to Marvin Harrison with 2:29 remaining to bring the Colts
within seven. The Colts became the first team in NFL history to win after trailing by 21 or more points
with less than four minutes to play. Manning completed 34 of 47 passes for 386 yards.
9. The longest TD of Manning’s career was an 86-yard pass to Marcus Pollard, on the first play of the
game in Week 10 of 2001 against New Orleans. He equaled it in 2014 with an 86-yard touchdown to
Thomas in Week 5. Manning has six career TD passes of 80-plus yards, with three coming on the his
team’s first play from scrimmage.
10. Manning's first completion went to the only (current) Hall of Famer to catch a pass from Manning.
Manning hit Marshall Faulk for a 15-yard gain in the first quarter of the Colts' Week 1 game in 1998. The
Dolphins, led by Marino, won 24-15, but Manning finished with 302 passing yards. It was his first career
300-yard game.
Peyton Manning set to break career passing yards
record
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post
November 11, 2015
On any given Sunday, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning breaks an NFL record before he can even
break a sweat in the game. Up next: 71,839 career passing yards. After his first completion against
Kansas City, the football will be shipped directly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Provided, of course, that Denver teammate Demaryius Thomas doesn't throw away the prized souvenir
of Manning's historic achievement.
"No, I will give this ball to Peyton," said Thomas, laughing as he vowed not to mess up Manning's next
big NFL moment. "This time, I won't throw the ball in the stands."
Thomas did what?
Yes, Thomas sheepishly admitted, he once tossed a valuable piece of Manning memorabilia into a deep
Black Hole.
Hey, stuff happens in Oakland. Thomas didn't mean to do it. Honest.
As you might have noticed, it's hard to keep track of all Manning's records without a scorecard, a
reminder on your smartphone and regular updates from Canton, Ohio. How many mementos of
greatness has the Pro Football Hall of Fame already collected from Manning through the years?
"We have enough items for a whole Peyton Manning wing in the building," said Joe Horrigan, the Hall's
affable historian.
Barring an unexpected flare-up in his sore foot or the Broncos switching to the wishbone before kickoff
Sunday at Sports Authority Field, Manning will beat Brett Favre's record of 71,838 yards with the first
Denver completion — provided it's good for at least 3 yards. And if Manning goes on to beat the Chiefs,
he also will pass Favre again to claim the record for most victories by a quarterback at 187.
Which record is more valuable?
I'm not about to brush off throwing for nearly 41 miles against NFL competition as small potatoes. No
wonder Manning's arm ain't quite what it used to be. He has completed passes for longer than the
distance from Denver to Longmont while playing for the Broncos and Indianapolis.
Quarterbacks, however, are measured by victories. If anybody wants to criticize Manning for not
winning at a high rate in the playoffs, then it's only fair to recognize he has averaged more than 10 wins
per season for 18 years.
The passing yardage record is cool. But the mark for victories is the real mark of excellence.
You don't have to take my word, though. I asked Horrigan: Which football would he consider more
valuable in the Hall of Fame's collection? The ball Manning threw to set the career yardage record? Or
the game ball to commemorate victory No. 187?
"Ultimately," Horrigan said, "victories are what it's all about."
Whew, that's good to know, because it certainly should make Thomas feel better.
Remember back in 2013, when Manning was the Luke Skywalker of "Star Wars" numbers? Manning set
too many records for even a smart man like Thomas to count.
On the final Sunday of the regular season, Denver went to Oakland for a Dec. 29 play date and carved up
the hapless Raiders. With Denver ahead 24-0 late in the second quarter, Manning took possession at his
11-yard line with only 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining until halftime. It would prove to be Manning's
final drive of the regular season, as he gave way to backup Brock Osweiler in the second half.
But there was time for one more touchdown and one more record.
Manning completed all eight passes in the drive, the last throw a 5-yard timing pattern in the left flat to
Thomas, who walked into the end zone for a touchdown with 13 seconds on the clock.
It was significant because that last yard covered by Thomas allowed Manning to eclipse the singleseason passing-yardage record of 5,476 yards by Drew Brees by a single yard. Another football for the
Hall of Fame! The scene could not have been scripted more perfectly.
Except for one teensy-weensy detail.
Thomas unwittingly tossed the ball into the stands, rewarding a Denver fan who had braved the Black
Hole to cheer for the Broncos.
"And a Raiders fan took the ball away!" Thomas said.
Alert and intrepid public relations director Patrick Smyth immediately took action to retrieve the lost
souvenir, but this being the Black Hole and all, Smyth smartly assigned a Broncos intern to execute the
rescue mission.
"See?" said Thomas, smiling. "We got the ball back."
The good guys won. In the end, they always do.
Peyton Manning left a legacy of caring for kids
By Gregg Doyal
Indianapolis Star
November 7, 2015
So the dad asked a question.
“What kind of story is this going to be?”
Jesse Collins is looking at me, and the rest of the room is looking at me, and until then I’d been gazing at
all the football stuff in here — one of five rooms in the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent
that was decorated personally by Peyton and Ashley Manning.
Now I’m looking at the kid on the bed, a boy of 12, sitting next to an Indianapolis Colts jersey and helmet
signed by Manning, who from 1998-2010 was the greatest player in franchise history. In a few days, for
just the second time since joining the Denver Broncos in 2012, Manning will play as a visitor at the
football palace he helped build, Lucas Oil Stadium.
This kid on the bed, he has an appallingly aggressive form of cancer. His hair is falling out. His arms are
bruised from all the needles that have been jabbed into them. His throat? Don’t ask about his throat.
And whatever you do, don’t ask to see the picture this kid took, of the blistering sores caused by
chemotherapy.
“It’s gross!” says the kid’s sister.
“It’s a memory,” the kid says. “After I’m done with this, I can look at the picture and say, ‘I got through
this.’”
The kid is sitting in his hospital bed in a Colts jersey. He’s wearing Colts pajama pants, and he’s sitting
under a Colts blanket. Over his shoulder, Peyton Manning is throwing a pass from a picture on the wall.
His dad wants to know what this story will be about.
I look at him, at his wife, his daughter, the nurse. I look at the kid on the bed. And this is what I say:
The story will be about your son. Also it will be about the great, great things Peyton has done in
Indianapolis.
And I can tell you one thing it won’t be about.
It won’t be about football.
***
Well, maybe a little bit about football.
See, the kid plays. His name is Carson Collins, and a few years ago he played in the Brownsburg Junior
Football League. He was a quarterback, like Peyton Manning.
In March he was playing baseball when his right shoulder got sore. He’s a pitcher. Shoulders get sore.
Then his back started hurting. His neck. An armpit. He had a fever. Doctors tested for meningitis. They
gave him a CT scan, drew blood, noticed a lump near one of his lymph nodes and took a biopsy.
In July the doctor at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital asked Carson’s parents to come into the
hallway.
Carson’s older sister started to cry. Bailey Collins is 17, and she knew. Carson, he knew too. But he
snapped at Bailey.
“Be positive!” he said. “It could be nothing!”
It was cancer. Burkitt lymphoma, it’s called. It’s a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a real long shot,
diagnosed in about 500 U.S. kids every year. It’s often fatal, but doctors caught it early in Carson Collins
and are treating it aggressively at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital while the kid stays in a room
decorated by Peyton himself, with a playroom down the hall and arcade video games and gentle nurses
and positive doctors.
Peyton Manning, the man who saved the Colts in the late 1990s and could save them again — imagine
him coming back as general manager — returns Sunday. His Broncos play the Colts.
I can’t bring myself to write about football.
Because this kid. Stop reading and look at his picture. But come back, when you’re done. I’m about to
write some words about Peyton Manning. Welcome home, 18.
***
He left us, but not really. He left our NFL team — but he left behind something as lasting, something as
life-giving, as the children’s hospital that has borne his name since 2007.
And Peyton Manning, he isn’t like a lot of athletes — most athletes, I’d say — who lend their name to a
cause and consider it a job well done. And it is, it is. Put your name on a library, a foundation, a hospital,
and you’re making the world a better place.
But do what Peyton Manning does, and you’re doing more. He didn’t forget Indianapolis even when a
neck issue in 2011 — and the availability of Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL draft — ended his career here.
His children’s hospital at St. Vincent has treated more than 100,000 kids, kids from all 92 counties in
Indiana.
And Peyton Manning takes this very seriously.
“The commitment you see from Peyton on the field, the commitment he expects of himself and his
teammates, we see that here,” says St. Vincent Health CEO Jonathan Nalli. “Even with him not being in
town, it’s like he is right next-door. When it comes to strategic planning for the children’s hospital and
pediatric services — cardiology, oncology, you name it — we bring Peyton into the loop and he provides
guidance. The level of his engagement is phenomenal.”
Peyton writes letters to families at the hospital, and sometimes he decides a letter isn’t enough.
Sometimes the phone rings in a patient’s room in the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and the voice
on the other end says something like, “Hi, this Peyton Manning. I’m calling to see how you’re doing, how
we’re treating your son, and what else we can do for him. And is it OK if I speak to your son?”
So this is what else I tell Jesse Collins, when he asks what this story will be about. Peyton plays football, I
tell him, but he left behind something bigger. He left a legacy. It’s this hospital, it’s this room, it’s that kid
on the bed. Your kid.
Jesse Collins nods.
***
Carson is going to beat this. The odds say he will — they were better than 50-50 when he was first
diagnosed, and they are better now after his first four rounds of chemo — and so does his attitude.
See, Carson Collins has no doubt he will beat this. You saw his comment earlier, about the photo he took
of his throat.
“After I’m done with this,” he had said, “I can look at the picture.”
After I’m done with this ...
They’ll be happy to see him back in Brownsburg, where public schools all over town are raising money to
help cover his medical bills. More than 75 people from Brownsburg have paraded through the hospital,
including his fourth-grade teacher from three years ago at White Lick Elementary, Mrs. Smith. After
Carson is done with this, he will return home a conquering hero.
But, man, are they going to miss Carson Collins at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
Carson doesn’t miss a beat here, see. He asks Dr. Doug and all his nurses a litany of questions, he knows
how the machines in his room work, he knows this is his eighth stay in the hospital since July 24 — he
knows the date — and he knows he has two chemo treatments left.
When I get to the room, I’m asking his parents about the diagnosis. Carson takes over the interview,
and, believe me, it’s for the best. He knows this stuff cold and when someone interrupts him — usually
Bailey, that sweetheart — Carson gets exasperated and then announces:
“BTTS — back to the story,” he says, and he’s back at it, telling me about the spinal tap he will get soon.
He knows it’s called an intrathecal, and he tells me what that means. I’d tell you, but I didn’t understand.
Later, Carson’s mom — Bobbi — tells me something heartbreaking.
“He knows more than me sometimes,” she says. “Some of it, I would like him to forget.”
BTTS …
Carson is so on top of things, he knows the nurses’ schedules for the rest of the year. He knows his sixth
and final chemo treatment will be in six weeks or so, and he has asked Dr. Doug to time that treatment
so that he is discharged from the hospital either on Dec. 11 or Dec. 27, because both of his favorite
nurses — Allison and Lacey — are working those days.
Carson knows this.
Carson also knows how to do the nae nae and the whip, and he does those dance moves with Karen, a
physical therapist. See, at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital they’re caring not just for his
condition; they’re caring for every bit of the kid.
Each room is decorated differently. One of them, a little girl who loved horses raised the money herself
to decorate the room in an equestrian theme. She had cancer, see, and that’s the room where she was
treated. The cancer is in remission, and the room remains an equestrian theme. The girl donated her
medals and ribbons to the room.
Peyton and Ashley Manning decked out two rooms in football gear. Carson Collins is in one of those, and
he’s dressed in Colts apparel. He has school
And someday he’s going to leave Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and never come back, not as a
patient anyway, and that’s why this story about Peyton Manning is finished and I’ve written almost
nothing about football.
Because some things are more important than football.
Peyton Manning's mark remains -- and will remain -- in
Indianapolis
By Mike Wells
ESPN.com
November 6, 2015
Sunday’s game against his former team could be the last time Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton
Manning plays an NFL game in Lucas Oil Stadium, a building he helped get built during his 14-year career
with the Indianapolis Colts.
But just like when Manning said goodbye to the Colts franchise in 2012, the 39-year-old quarterback will
leave his mark on Indianapolis long after he retires.
“When you put everything together, Peyton wasn’t only the face of the city of Indianapolis or the face of
the state of Indiana, he was the face of the NFL for a long time,” Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard said. “I
think after he retires, he belongs here even though the cities of New Orleans and Denver would like to
claim him, too. The children’s hospital is here and we love him here.”
Retirement is the one of the furthest things from Manning’s mind. His focus is strictly on helping the
undefeated Broncos move to 8-0 and handing the Colts their fourth straight loss.
“Every week, we’re trying to get more comfortable with all the changes here,” Manning said. “We’re,
every week, concentrating on trying to get things on the same page here and adjusting to who we’re
playing each week. That’s really kind of all the focus is on. There’s plenty to focus on from those two
standpoints.”
Manning’s play helped the Colts go from the old RCA Dome to Lucas Oil Stadium. With Manning as their
quarterback, the Colts were 141-67, went to the playoffs 11 times and to two Super Bowls. He was
released following the 2011 season and Indianapolis selected quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1
overall pick in 2012.
Linebacker Robert Mathis, punter Pat McAfee and kicker Adam Vinatieri are the only remaining players
on the roster from when Manning, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, took his last snaps with
Indianapolis in the playoff loss to the New York Jets on Jan. 8, 2011.
“I remember watching an interview he did before I joined the Colts where he said he wanted to change
the Colts from being the team others looked forward to playing to a team that was a constant
contender,” McAfee said. “I think what he did was help mold this city into one of the greatest football
cities in the country. He had a hell of a run here. He helped transform the city to not only being a
basketball city, but also a football city. Whenever a great player moves to another team, they’re still
going to be remembered and that’s why you still see fans wear his jersey and cheer for him.”
Sunday will be just Manning’s second game in Indianapolis as an opponent, but he has remained a
regular visitor to the city, seeing sick children at the hospital that has his name on it, Peyton Manning
Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent. And even when Manning can’t visit the sick children, he picks up the
phone to check on them more than 1,000 miles away in Denver.
“There was immediate reassurance from Peyton (after he left Indianapolis in 2012) that it would still be
his hospital and that he still very much wanted to be a part of it,” St. Vincent CEO Jonathan Nalli said.
“His commitment can't be measured. His commitment remains so much stronger because he is so many
miles away in Denver and it’s as if he’s still in town when it comes to Peyton Manning Children’s
Hospital. You think of Peyton Manning, and Indianapolis is one of the first places you think of."
Welcome to The State of Peyton
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
November 6, 2015
The football, delivered with startling swiftness by Peyton Williams, soars over a thicket of outstretched
limbs and lands 40 yards away in the hands of Peyton Trexler. There is a cheer as the flashes of a dozen
smartphones capture the historic moment.
Williams is a lean freshman quarterback at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Indiana. Trexler, a
precocious sophomore receiver, caught 18 touchdowns at Southwood High School in Wabash, Indiana.
They were part of an unprecedented gathering this past Sunday at the Sports Zone Indy.
Call them the children of Peyton Manning.
During his 13 active seasons here with the Indianapolis Colts, Manning produced 399 touchdown passes.
According to statistics, there are probably even more boys named after him. In 1998, when the Colts
made Manning the No. 1 overall draft choice, the most popular names for boys in Indiana were Jacob,
Austin and Michael. Peyton wasn't even a top-100 name, a good distance behind even Kaleb, Jalen and
Gabriel.
But as the Colts improved, so too, did your chances of being named Peyton. In the team's sweet spot
from 2004 to 2010, Peyton ranked consistently in the 60s, 70s and 80s, peaking -- not surprisingly -- with
Indianapolis' victory in Super Bowl XLI at the end of the 2006 season. Girls named Payton also became
more prevalent. The year Manning left for the Broncos? Peyton had fallen back into obscurity.
With the lure of national airtime via an ESPN NFL Countdown audience -- not to mention 16 free pizzas - we corralled no fewer than 23 football-playing Peytons, nearly all of them named after the man
himself, this week. That's not even half the football-playing Peyton haul. There are 57 Peytons on
Indiana high school football rosters this season.
They came in a dazzling array of shapes and sizes and hues. One of them, Peyton Stoddard, was a 10year-old with a shocking pink Mohawk. Another, Peyton Sturgill, was a 1,000-yard rusher as a senior for
Peru High School. All bound by No. 18.
An enduring gift
James Pruett loved Peyton Manning. One day his wife, Tracie, pregnant with her third child, called him
at work.
"I said, 'I've got the perfect name.'
"He said, 'What's that?'
"And I said, 'Peyton.'
"He goes, 'Peyton it is.'"
Wham, bam. Case closed.
Fast-forward to Colts training camp. One day James and the boys took in practice, then wandered over
to the autograph session. Peyton asked his father to put him up on his shoulders so he could see better.
Manning walked by, but wasn't signing.
"Hey, Peyton," James yelled. "My son's named Peyton. He's a quarterback and he's No. 18."
Manning stopped, circled back, signed Peyton's hat, rubbed his head and wished him luck. As she tells
the story, Tracie is getting teary. James died a year ago to this very day.
"My husband was such a huge Colts fan, [the name] was something I wanted to do for him," she said.
"Now I look back and I didn't know in the future such a tragedy was going to happen. But now I have
that legacy of my son having his favorite football player's name."
Today, Peyton Pruett is a freshman quarterback at Center Grove High School. During his interview, that
hat was sitting on his head.
The No. 2 option
Alarmingly, Peyton Sturgill, the running back from Peru High School, could have been named Ryan -after Ryan Leaf.
"That's right," said his father, Bill. "My wife was pregnant, and it came down to Peyton Manning or Ryan
Leaf -- whoever the Colts were going to take with the No. 1 pick. That was how we named our boy."
Three days after the Colts selected Manning -- and the San Diego Chargers opted for Leaf with the
second overall choice -- Peyton Sturgill entered the world.
The Sturgills know they dodged a big-time bullet. "Yes," Bill acknowledged, "he came out to be an NFL
bust."
Said Peyton, "Looking back on it, most of my life I didn't think about it. But recently, it's like, how crazy
would it have been if my name was Ryan, and how different would the state of Indiana be if Peyton
wasn't drafted by the Colts?
"I mean, when they named me Peyton they were taking a risk on whether this guy's going to be a
superstar. Or people are going to ask me, 'Who are you named after? Who is that?'"
Self-fulfilling prophecy
A name is forever; on average, males born in the United States can expect to live to the age of 76. In
more than a handful of cases, these parents proved remarkably prescient. Their sons, named for Peyton
Manning, grew up to be quarterbacks -- and some of them wear No. 18.
"My parents were big season-ticket holders, tailgated all the time," said Peyton Young, a freshman
quarterback at Western Boone High School. "Peyton was their favorite player. Why not name their son
after him?"
Especially after he was born on the 18th.
Years later, Peyton was sitting in his third-period class when he received an envelope from the school
office. It said it was from the Denver Broncos, but Peyton wondered if the upperclassmen were playing a
joke on him. When he opened it, there was an autographed Manning photograph, arranged by a mutual
acquaintance.
The inscription: "To Peyton Young. Great name. Best of luck this football season and beyond."
In the cards
"My mom was pregnant with me at the time, and [my parents] went shopping," explained Peyton Allen,
now a wide receiver at Avon High School. "My dad went over to get a pack of football cards. When they
opened up the pack, the first card in there was the Peyton Manning rookie card. They were torn
between naming me Ted [Jr.], or naming me Peyton.
"I wouldn't want to be named Ted."
Actually, Kelly Allen was already in labor when they bought the cards at the Meijer store. And Peyton
Manning was already in the process of becoming her favorite football player. It was her husband,
naturally, who was set on Ted. They took the card as a sign.
"It was just like, well, there it is," Ted said. "That's our kid's name."
Peyton, born in 1999, shrugged.
"It's kind of a silly story," he said. "That's just sort of a weird way to name your kid."
Well, that worked out
Peyton Watson, a running back at Eastbrook High School, actually preceded Manning's arrival in
Indianapolis. He was born in 1997.
"There was a lot of talk about Peyton Manning before he even came up," Watson said. "He's always
been a great player, like when he went to the University of Tennessee. My parents had always been
fans."
Does that mean his folks were ahead of the curve?
"Yeah," he said, raising his eyebrows, "for the first time they might have been."
And then he laughed.
The Manning middle
The story, at least initially, is familiar: Mom liked the name, dad was a fan of the Colts and their dashing
quarterback.
Thus, Peyton Williams was born in 2000. He was the guy who threw the touchdown pass in our 8-on-8,
all-Peyton scrimmage last Sunday.
Back in fifth grade, Williams did a biography of his hero and namesake.
"And I was just looking him up, reading books about him.
"And his middle name is Williams."
Peyton Williams Manning. Kind of scary, actually.
"Yeah," Williams said. "It's weird."
Williams, however, wears No. 1.
"I mean, I didn't really like 18," he said, grimacing a bit. "It just didn't fit me well. I like single-digit
numbers. I think they look best."
It's endless
Peyton Stoddard, he of the pink Mohawk, is an engaging little fullback and linebacker in Decatur,
Indiana. His friends sometimes call him Peyton Manning. He has, on those awkward occasions, actually
signed autographs by that name.
Peyton Jones, 9, played quarterback for the junior Broncos, of all teams, in the Washington Township
League. He has not been asked to sign autographs. But his friend, Jackson Hamilton, calls him Peyton the
Manning.
Peyton Ensor is a freshman wide receiver at Southwood High School. His mother wanted to name him
Cameron, but his grandmother kept calling him Peyton. "They argued about it for a while," Ensor said. "I
guess my mom gave in."
Peyton Meyer, a quarterback at Batesville High School who wears No. 18, used to sign his papers from
kindergarten to third grade as "Peyton Manning."
Peyton Hobson, a slot receiver for the Centerville High School Bulldogs, is named after two Hall of Famecaliber players. "A couple of days before I was born, Walter Payton died," Hobson said. "But my mom
liked Peyton Manning. She took the spelling from Peyton Manning."
Peyton Vanwinkle, a wide receiver for Centerville High School, was named after Manning because it was
his father's turn. "We were at the hospital," said his mother, Kelly. "I said to my husband, 'I named our
daughter, and so now you get to name our son.' And he wanted to name him Peyton, after Peyton
Manning." Of course he did. "I hesitated a little bit," Kelly admitted. "I wasn't real sure about naming our
son after a professional athlete. Is this person going to be a good person? Are they going to represent
the name well? Peyton Manning has definitely done that."
Peyton Manning has always 'raised all boats' with the
Broncos
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
November 5, 2015
It was, and still is, the called shot.
It was the on-the-money prediction, given by Rod Smith, just after Peyton Manning signed with the
Denver Broncos in 2012.
“I know this team, I know this place,’’ Smith said then. “I've played inside these walls, I've lived here.
And after he plays for the Denver Broncos, it will be like he played here for years and years. People will
be talking about how they remember Peyton Manning and what he did for the Broncos."
Here it is now, three-plus seasons later, the Broncos are 7-0, one of four remaining undefeated teams in
the NFL and on track for a fifth consecutive AFC West title. Manning will have been behind center for
four of those and many around the team wonder not if, but when, he will be put into the team's Ring of
Fame, when the waiting period for that -- five years -- could be the same as, or longer than, his time with
the team.
The Broncos have been to the Super Bowl -- the franchise’s seventh trip to the title game -- and with
Manning have won 13, 13 and 12 games before whatever becomes of the current season. Broncos
executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway, who knows a thing or two
about being the face of a franchise in the Mile High City, has always explained Manning’s signing as one
“that raises all boats.’’
Sunday’s game in Indianapolis is the Broncos’ eighth contest of the current season, against a Colts team
that knocked the Broncos out of the postseason last January. But Manning still casts an enormous
shadow in Indianapolis, where he was the centerpiece of the Colts for 12 seasons before the team
released him and he signed with the Broncos.
“[Indianapolis] is a great city, great people, just like here in Denver -- great community,’’ Manning said
this week. “They love their sports and the sports teams are a big part of the community. I've been real
fortunate to play for two football teams and two cities in communities that are very connected. The
Colts always did a great job serving the community there when I was there. They encouraged that. They
emphasized that. ... It's the same way here in Denver. We've got a lot of guys doing a lot of great things
in the community, as well. I've been real fortunate from that standpoint.’’
Away from football, Manning has made Denver, and Colorado, part of his off-the-field endeavors, with
annual grants to wide a variety of charitable organizations. He’s been the keynote speaker at banquets,
he’s made surprise appearances at schools and hospitals.
And for the passionate football souls in the Rocky Mountain region, he brought their beloved team back
into the annual Super Bowl conversation, the exact place Elway once put it and the exact place owner
Pat Bowlen always said it needed to be.
However or whenever Manning’s time as a Broncos player ends, there will have been many who spent
more time in a Broncos uniform. But it’s unlikely many will have meant more to the organization.
“He’s Peyton Manning, man,’’ said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “He changed everything when he signed
here. Champ [Bailey] always used to say a guy like Peyton means you’re not hoping to have a chance at
the Super Bowl sometime, Champ said a guy like Peyton means you always have a chance at the Super
Bowl and everybody knows it, players, fans, everybody.’’
Peyton Manning finally in sync with Broncos' offensive
vision
By Jarrett Bell
USA Today
November 2, 2015
Peyton Manning won’t say I told you so.
Not here. Not now.
Yet shortly after the aging Denver Broncos star had his best game of the season in a Sunday night romp
– outplaying reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers in a battle of unbeatens – Manning was surely tempted.
Would you blame him?
All season, the 18th for Manning, the narrative has pretty much concluded that he’s washed up, carried
by the NFL’s best defense on a trip headed to another early playoff exit.
But that’s not all she wrote, after all.
“How can I say this, without hurting anybody’s feelings?” Manning said after passing for 340 yards and
tying the NFL record for career victories by a quarterback (186) in the 29-10 statement against the
Green Bay Packers. “I just don’t give what y’all say that much energy.
“I’m not going to pull a Jim Mora on you and say the famous, ‘You think you know, but you just don’t
know and you never will.’ It’s a great line. I’m not saying that. I’ll say it at some point. It’s not the time
now. I just have been very determined to get comfortable in this offense.”
What a fine time for Manning, 39, to have a retro performance. The Broncos inducted team owner Pat
Bowlen into the team’s Ring of Fame at halftime, although Bowlen, stricken by Alzheimer’s disease,
could not attend. During the weekend, they also honored the 1997 Super Bowl championship team –
which, by the way, defeated the Packers for the crown.
So in addition to team architect John Elway, so many of the Broncos stars from the ‘90s – Shannon
Sharpe, Terrell Davis and Rod Smith among them – were at Invesco Field. Even Mike Shanahan, who left
with hard feelings, came back.
“Anytime you put your owner in the Ring of Fame, you have to win the game, right?” Manning said.
Right.
Yet this Broncos performance was most significant because of what it meant for the present – not the
past.
Finally, the new offense installed by new coach Gary Kubiak (Elway’s former backup) operated like the
unit he envisioned all along – with Manning leading the way, but getting much-needed help.
Denver rolled up an even 500 yards, and when that type of production is complemented by the NFL’s
best defense (which flustered Rodgers and limited the Pack to 140 net yards), it lends credence to the
notion that the Broncos might indeed be able to win a big one with Manning.
Of course, this was one night. The New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals are the two other AFC
teams that match Denver’s 7-0 start. There’s a lot of football left.
But for the first time this season, the Broncos put together the complete package that showed the
formula that it will take to make a serious championship run.
It’s funny to think that an undefeated team can get a confidence boost about now, but given the
struggles that have been there for the offense, it was just that.
DeMarcus Ware, who had one of the three sacks on Rodgers, called it, “a big measuring stick.”
Especially for Manning, who entered the game tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions and dead-last
among active throwers with a 72.5 pass efficiency rating (only since-released Ryan Mallett had a lower
mark among qualifiers).
Kubiak said it is more a matter of Manning having confidence in the pieces around him as he adapts to a
new offense, but that goes both ways.
In any event, Manning found his rhythm on his big night by repeatedly stinging the Packers with passes
over the middle. If not Demayrius Thomas (8 catches, 168 yards) working slants and in-patterns, it was
Owen Daniels or Virgil Green, the tight ends, working the seams.
Then you knew he was on, when he connected with Thomas on a 47-yard rainbow along the sideline to
open the second quarter. Deep passes have been such a drag this season for Manning.
With that throw, Manning showed that there is still some deep accuracy left in his golden arm.
No, he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and he had another pick, on another throw to the sideline.
But those details didn’t define the game. Not when the running game came to life with 160 rushing
yards, including 101 on 14 carries by C.J. Anderson. Like his quarterback, Anderson exploited the middle
of the Packers defense on a 28-yard touchdown run. Ronnie Hillman, meanwhile, ran for two
touchdowns.
This is what happens when a young, much-maligned offensive line plays its best game, opening holes for
the backs and protecting Manning to the point that he was never sacked and generally had the time
needed to scan the field.
“This doesn’t guarantee anything,” Manning cautioned, “but it proves what we are capable of when we
execute.”
Afterward, Kubiak presented Bowlen’s wife, Annabel, with a game ball.
Surely, Manning will get a well-deserved game ball, too.
Although Manning played it cool, Ware shed some light on just how geared up his quarterback was to
have a big game before the national TV audience.
Ware said that since coming to Denver, he’s established a ritual of encountering Manning and urging
him to, “Show up and show out.”
Before Sunday’s game, though, it was Manning who sought out Ware to deliver that message.
It showed Ware that Manning was indeed in the right space.
Now it’s a matter of staying there.
Manning not finished, not saying 'I told you so'
By Mike Klis
9 News
November 2, 2015
Peyton Manning can't move anymore. Not that he ever could.
In the growing list of what Manning can no longer do now that he's 39 years old, it started there with his
lack of mobility.
Next was: Manning no longer had the arm. This was the biggie. The flaw that draws the most
commentary. The Denver Broncos' quarterback can't make his throws anymore, needs to step up and
put all of his body into making the downfield throw. He never had a John Elway bazooka in the first
place, and now that Manning had four neck surgeries and still has weakness in his grip and he's 39 years
old, well, he just can't do it anymore.
The craziest, most ludicrous criticism of Manning was he no longer made wise decisions anymore. As if
age has made him not wiser, but slower of mind.
"How can I say this without hurting anybody's feelings? I just don't give what y'all say much merit,"
Manning said following the Broncos' 29-10 win against the Green Bay Packers in Denver Sunday night.
The problem until Sunday that was most overlooked - and perhaps the only problem there ever has
been - was Manning trying to learn the new offense devised by his new head coach Gary Kubiak. There
was an adjustment in formation, as Manning went from taking the ball from directly under center to the
pistol position, which is halfway between the center and shotgun.
But there is so much more. There were new route combinations, personnel groupings, checks and playcall sequences. And there is the timing of it all. There has to be cohesion. It all has to be timed up with a
running game that had not been clicking.
For some reason, it clicked like a nursery rhyme against the Packers.
"As a team, we just played fresh. We just played fast," Kubiak said. "To me, that was the fastest we've
looked in a while.''
Manning completed 21 of 29 passes for a robust 340 yards. He completed a deep go-route to Demaryius
Thomas for 47 yards. He threw a deep out completion to Thomas for 30 yards.He play-action bootlegged
right to complete passes to tight end Virgil Green. He zipped passes across the middle.
Manning engineered a unit that amassed 500 yards in total offense. Manning can still pass for 340. His
offense can still pile up 500. He can still win.
"I'm not going to put a Jim Mora on you and say the famous, 'You think you know, but you just don't
know, and you never will,''' Manning said. "Although that's a great line ... I have just been very
determined to get comfortable in this offense for coach Kubiak, coach [Rick] Dennison and for coach
[Greg] Knapp and I to get on the same page. Like I said earlier last week, we are all 100 percent
committed to getting on the same page. We're not where we want to be, yet. We're going to continue
to grind. I've just been very determined. I knew this was not going to be an easy transition. I can't say
that a lot of what's happened so far this season has been a surprise to me. It has been somewhat kind of
what I expected to happen. There were going to be some rough times, some rough patches and rough
parts of the transition, but we've never wavered in our commitment to try to get on the same page and
get everybody going in the right direction."
He did throw an interception on his final pass that put a statistical smudge on his otherwise brilliant
performance. But by then, the Broncos were up 29-10 with 10 minutes remaining and the pick gave
Green Bay the ball at its own 29. What were the Packers supposed to do with it against the Denver
defense? On the first play, Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked for a 9-yard loss.
Manning and Rodgers have won a combined seven league MVP awards. On this night, the guy with five
of those seven prevailed. The biggest play of the game occurred in the third quarter. Green Bay and
former University of Colorado kicker Mason Crosby had just drilled a 56-yard field goal.
The Broncos' 17-0 lead was now trimmed to, 17-10. Momentum had shifted Green Bay's way. On the
Broncos' next possession, they were confronting third-and-8 from their own 22. Hold them there, and
the Packers were back in it.
Instead, Manning hit Thomas across the middle for a clutch, 20-yard completion. He then connected
with Andre "Bubba" Caldwell for 24 yards. The drive ended with running back C.J. Anderson bursting up
the middle for a 28-yard touchdown. The Broncos lead was up to 24-10. There went Green Bay's last
gasp at victory.
Manning is now one win and 284 yards passing from becoming the all-time leader in both categories. He
already has the touchdown pass record (537). He can set the last two significant career records next
week against, of all teams, the Indianapolis Colts, in of all places, Lucas Oil Stadium.
Manning and Brett Favre currently are tied for most wins by a quarterback with 186. Favre's 71,838
passing yards will soon be passed by Manning, who has 71,555. The Colts were Manning's team through
the first 14 seasons of his career. The excitement he brought to that city is credited with the impetus to
the team building their retractable-roofed stadium that opened in 2008.
Manning is now in his fourth season with the Broncos. During that time, the Broncos have posted a 4510 record, including 7-0 this year. And yet, there was all this talk about what Manning can no longer do.
There should be less such conversation this week.
"I don't look at this like a "I told you so' moment because I don't really listen to what you say in the first
place," Manning said.
Wonder how he puts it when he does want to hurt somebody's feelings.
Peyton Manning does not need your sympathy
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post
October 29, 2015
Peyton Manning does not need your sympathy.
"No, absolutely not. Absolutely not," Manning said Wednesday, when asked if fans should feel sorry for
their struggling quarterback. "Hey, I want to play better ..."
But here's the thing even a knucklehead like me can grasp: In his 18th NFL season, Manning has never
been a more sympathetic figure.
Manning has ceased to be the master of the football universe, able to control defenses with a simple
wave of his hand and a shout of "Omaha!" at the line of scrimmage. For the first time since anybody in
pro football can remember, the game not only looks hard for Manning, it is hard for Manning.
As a quarterback, Manning used to be perfect. Remember? He was half-man, half-robot, all MVP.
But Father Time has robbed a chunk of his skills. There are 32 NFL teams, and according to the league's
quarterback rating system, Manning ranks No. 31. While the Broncos are undefeated, Manning has
thrown interceptions that cause heads to be slapped in disbelief.
The robot bleeds.
Manning has never looked more vulnerable in the pocket. And, in an odd way, the flawed Manning we
now see wearing No. 18 for Denver has never been so easy to like.
Pondering the Ring of Fame ceremony Sunday that will celebrate franchise owner Pat Bowlen, Manning
told a funny story of meeting the man who would sign his paychecks in Denver. During his time in
Indianapolis, Manning was a Broncos-killer in the playoffs.
"I got to meet Mr. Bowlen a couple times when I played for Indianapolis. I don't think he liked me all
that much, to tell you the truth," Manning said. "He was a competitive guy, and he liked the Denver
Broncos. I get it, and I respect that."
Since 2012, Manning has thrown passes for the Broncos. But he is America's quarterback. There are
1,000 reasons why. After the Colorado theater shootings, Manning phoned victims in the hospital. As a
philanthropist, his foundation donates more than $1 million annually to kids. But also he's a regular
dude who eats chicken parm because, you know, it tastes so good.
When I write that Manning is over the hill, fans write me. Their mission is to shoot the messenger, with
anger born of watching their favorite quarterback suffer and frustration that their arms aren't long
enough to give Manning a hug. So they vent: "You and other Peyton-bashers don't deserve to cover
him," insisted Greg Coleman, a lawyer by trade.
Part of the raw beauty of sports is the scoreboard doesn't care what your name is. No credit is given for
the five MVP awards in the trophy case, and a blitzing linebacker does not care about all of Manning's
humanitarian deeds off the field.
The beauty of watching Manning play quarterback now is found in the imperfect art of growing old.
When Manning plops himself down on the bench after an unproductive offensive series, he looks
exhausted. When unleashing a throw, nobody in the stadium, not even Manning himself, knows for
certain if it is going to be a perfect spiral or a wounded duck. The fourth-quarter drives he has
engineered to win games seem as much about will as skill.
But can we please stop with the crazy talk that Denver should replace Manning with Brock Osweiler?
"What bothers me is when people say, 'You should bench Peyton Manning.' That right there is the
dumbest damn thing I have ever heard in my entire life," retired Broncos receiver Rod Smith said.
It's not always pretty. The end seldom is. Know what is inspiring, though? You can tell Manning still loves
every imperfect minute of what's left in his athletic career. The moment that rang true about Manning
at age 39 was the pancake block he threw in Cleveland, leveling Browns defensive back Donte Whitner,
a highlight that deserves to be set to music of the Toby Keith song "As Good as I Once Was."
In victory or defeat on any given Sunday, whether Manning throws a dart to Emmanuel Sanders or he
stinks up the joint, does he still wake up on Monday and love his job?
"It's supposed to matter to you," Manning said. "It's supposed to mean something to you. When you
win, you're supposed to be excited. When you lose, it's supposed to bother you. We had a quote up in
the team meeting room today saying when you truly invest in something, you care about your
investment.
"As the great Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh said in 'Bull Durham': 'I sure like winning. It's, like, better than
losing.' "
Peyton Manning's 2015 season is special for many
reasons
By Woody Paige
Denver Post
October 24, 2015
No more whispering or wondering.
This is Peyton Manning's sun-setting season.
It will end triumphantly in 105 days at Super Bowl 50, or in disappointment on that February Sunday
night, or perhaps, alas, before.
So, savor, and appreciate, his last ride.
Many years ago I saw Sinatra perform in Las Vegas. His voice wasn't as strong, silky-smooth or stretched
as it once had been. The melodies seemed smokier, subdued and softer. But he still remained the
Chairman of the Board.
Like Sinatra, Manning, even in the twilight of his career, is an eminent entertainer.
This Sunday is Peyton's final regular-season bye until the goodbye.
Rather than be on his back, people should have his back.
When all is considered, this could be not Peyton's worst, but, rather, his greatest season. He has aged in
football years visibly; his skills are diminished; his hand is "tingly" from damaged nerves, and his arm and
legs are weaker; defenses are wiser to what he no longer can do; he has been forced into a new system
mostly unsuitable; he has not been aided by a forceful running game or a stalwart, cohesive offensive
line; his tight ends and slot receivers are nonexistent; and Manning's mental mistakes have been
magnified.
Yet, he has been provided with the most extraordinary defense of his 17 seasons on the field in the NFL;
he has a coaching staff striving to adjust to his needs; and the other players are doing their best to make
the most of their quarterback's last hurrah.
Peyton said after the victory at Cleveland that he wouldn't be going to Las Vegas during the off week
because of his unluckiness. Wrong. The Broncos are lucky to be 6-0. They could be 5-1, 3-3 or even 2-4.
Phillips' Screwdrivers have been amazing, astonishing and astounding — interceptions, fumble
recoveries, sacks, stops.
And in defense of Manning, he has been remarkable when it matters.
Consider:
The 75-yard pass play with Emmanuel Sanders at Cleveland and the 72-drive in overtime for a field goal.
Manning has an NFL-record 56 game-winning drives — including three in 2015.
The two touchdown passes before halftime in Kansas City to tie the game, and a 80-yard drive to tie it
again — before the victory.
Long throws to Demaryius Thomas and Sanders to help propel Denver in Detroit.
The fourth-down, 1-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels in the victory over Minnesota, and another
late drive for the go-ahead field goal.
He isn't the Manning of old, but the old Manning isn't finished.
Peyton has two more NFL records just ahead.
He will tie Brett Favre's record for most career regular-season victories by a quarterback, 186, with the
next. And the Broncos play Favre's former team, Green Bay, next Sunday. Peyton might break the record
against his own former team, Indianapolis.
Already this year, Peyton has surpassed Favre's record for combined regular-season and postseason
passing yards, and, with 71,215, Manning is 624 yards from breaking Favre's regular-season career
passing yardage mark of 71,838. That record is forthcoming probably at home against Kansas City on
Nov. 15.
"Peyton has a few things left to accomplish" before he retires, his father, Archie, told me recently.
Those are two to add to the two dozen he already owns.
And there is, of course, a fourth Super Bowl to play in and second to win.
Although Peyton contemplated retirement after last season, he ultimately decided to return. He has said
this season he is not thinking about retirement. But he knows the end is near.
As Manning walked victoriously out of Arrowhead Stadium, and then the Coliseum in Oakland, he
realized he wasn't going back.
He will have one, probably two, more memorable duels with Tom Brady, who is talking about playing
another 10 years.
Thusly, those who have had the grand opportunity to watch Peyton in Denver should be enjoying this
season instead of lambasting him or demanding that he be replaced by an unknown quality.
Nobody criticized Frank Sinatra at the conclusion because he wasn't a young crooner or made him do
rock 'n' roll. They sat back and enjoyed "My Way."
Gary Kubiak should let Peyton Manning play in the shotgun and run the offense his way. He has earned
the right.
And we should sit back and enjoy the song of the swan.
Peyton Manning pens birthday note for 88-year-old fan
By Leslie Ackerson
9 News
October 6, 2015
You see it as soon as you pull up to the house.
From the flying Tennessee flags to the orange front door, Elfrieda Graves and her family are all Vol.
"I love watching games with her," says her grandson Nathaniel Furrer, "She's yelling - Good play! Or,
good job, guys!"
"No matter if they win or lose she says they are my boys," said granddaughter Hannah Furrer.
So when Elfrieda's 88th birthday approached, it only seemed fitting, too, that "Nanny" deserved a gift
from her favorite football player of all time, Peyton Manning.
"I can't explain it, it's always been there since the first time I saw him play," said Elfried, "I just got
transfixed with it, because not too many people can throw a ball like him."
"She said she didn't want any presents for her birthday or party or anything," said Hannah, "So I wrote
him a letter asking him to send her a birthday card."
In just two weeks the Denver Bronco quarterback - and former University of Tennessee great - sent a
response and a gift Elfrieda never expected.
"I was so taken back I started crying for joy," said Elfrieda.
"Nanny is such a character, so we knew any reaction we got out of her would be entertaining," said
Hannah.
Manning sent a signed poster of himself playing in a Broncos game and message for the birthday girl.
"Happy 88th birthday, thanks for your support of me, all my best to you, Peyton Manning. Number 18,"
reads Elfrieda.
Even though they've never met, she feels Peyton is family.
"I've been watching him so many years, and he is like one of my grandsons," she said. "Just liking the
way he played, the way he conducted himself."
Of course, all grandchildren deserve the best spot in the house and Elfrieda has already decided she will
hang the framed poster among her grandkids' pictures.
"He is definitely a good model for what he does," said Elfrieda.
"Just that he would take five minutes out of his day to sign that, somebody he had never met that's all
the way across the country, that's amazing to me. It just shows his character."
While this present is one of her favorites, Elfrieda says the best gift will always be her family.
"That's a great gift for me, each and every birthday - to be here with them," she said.
Elfrieda is now an NFL football fan just because of Peyton Manning. She says she wishes someday she
could sit down and have a cup of coffee with him.
Manning's Chattanooga Heroes Fund tops $1 million
By Ben Swanson
DenverBroncos.com
September 23, 2015
In two months, the Chattanooga Heroes Fund -- established by Peyton Manning and his family in
partnership with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker -- has raised over $1 million, which is an endowment
large enough to sustain the fund for the foreseeable future, the Community Foundation of Greater
Chattanooga (CFGC) announced Wednesday.
The fund was established to support the families of the servicemen who lost their lives or were
wounded in the July 16 shootings in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support shown to these families through contributions to
the Chattanooga Heroes Fund," Manning said. "Now that contributions to the fund have topped $1
million, we decided to end the contribution phase on September 30 and focus on providing assistance to
those in need.
"Thanks to the goodwill and generosity of so many donors, the fund is fully equipped to provide longterm financial support for the affected families as they face the challenge of rebuilding their lives – and
their futures,” Manning added. “We would like to express our sincerest appreciation to each and every
person, family, and organization that made a donation in honor of the servicemen who sacrificed their
lives, and the police officer who risked his life to protect the greater Chattanooga community on July
16."
Manning, who lives in Chattanooga for part of the year and went to school at the University of
Tennessee in Knoxville, felt compelled to help one of the places he calls home in the aftermath of the
tragedy.
"The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga would like to reiterate our gratitude to donors
across the U.S. and beyond who have provided support for the Fund," said Pete Cooper, president of the
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. "We will continue working closely with Peyton
Manning, Senator Corker, and key military and governmental officials to ensure proper protocols for
funds disbursement are in place, and to provide appropriate support to the families based on their
needs."
Though contributions to the Chattanooga Heroes Fund are closed, anyone who would still like to make a
gift in support of the families affected on July 16 -- or in honor of military and government service
personnel after Sept. 30 -- may still do so through the CFGC 7-16 Freedom Fund, which is dedicated to
providing college scholarships for children and spouses of the fallen servicemen, Cooper said.
Donors can also contribute to the CFGC First Responders Fund, which is dedicated to providing financial
support to families of Chattanooga area first responders killed or wounded in the line of duty.
The Chattanooga Heroes Fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.
Chattanooga’s oldest community-based foundation, the CFCG has track record of managing funds
dedicated to addressing areas of critical need in the Greater Chattanooga community for over 50 years.
This includes the administration of more than 350 funds totaling more than $100 million in assets and
more than $14 million in grants in 2014.
Peyton Manning eclipses 70,000 passing yards
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
September 17, 2015
With a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders midway through the third quarter Thursday
night at Arrowhead Stadium, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning carved yet another slice of
NFL history.
With the play, Manning became the second quarterback in NFL history to surpass 70,000 yards passing
in his career. Brett Favre holds the record with 71,838 career passing yards, another benchmark
Manning is expected to eclipse this season.
Manning finished with 256 yards passing, going 26-of-45 with three touchdowns and an interception, in
the Broncos' 31-24 comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Only one other quarterback has surpassed 60,000 yards passing in a career: Hall of Famer Dan Marino,
who had 61,361 career passing yards.
Manning, who had 175 passing yards in the Broncos' season-opening win over the Baltimore Ravens,
entered the game needing 134 yards to reach the milestone.
However, after Thursday's win, the focus was on the Broncos' stunning rally, which saw them score two
touchdowns in the final minute of the fourth quarter to claim the victory. Manning threw a touchdown
pass to Sanders with 36 seconds left to tie the score. Then, Brandon Marshall stripped Chiefs running
back Jamaal Charles, and Bradley Roby returned the ball 21 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds left,
capping the comeback.
"To be able to win two games in this fashion, you can always refer back to games like this later on in this
season," Manning said, also referencing the Broncos' opening win over the Ravens, which they sealed
with a 17-play final drive that took 10:56 off the clock.
"These are obviously great times to play football," Manning said. "To win a division game on the road, a
great atmosphere, this place is always a great place to play football, and the crowd was rocking
[Thursday], they were into it. ... Yeah, I think this is one that you always remember, certainly the way it
ended."
Manning's father, Archie, was on the losing end of the last NFL game to feature a team scoring two
touchdowns in the final minute of the fourth quarter with the second being the go-ahead score,
according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Archie Manning's New Orleans Saints lost 20-17 to the Atlanta
Falcons on Nov. 12, 1978, with the Falcons' Haskel Stanback scoring with 57 seconds left, followed by a
touchdown pass from Steve Bartkowski to Alfred Jackson with 10 seconds left.
Peyton Manning work to connect with younger
generation, his teammates
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
September 9, 2015
It's a question of birthdays.
Candles on a cake, miles on the human odometer and experience. And Peyton Manning has had 39
birthdays, that's the number in his age-is-just-a-number approach to his 18th NFL season.
Manning sets the tone for the Denver Broncos, a team that from the executives' offices on down
believes it can be in the Super Bowl conversation.
One of Manning's biggest football jobs for the coming season may not have a whole lot to do with X's or
O's. Certainly, Manning needs to adapt to a new offense, throw touchdown passes and lead a team
through the inevitable ups and downs of the season. But to do that he will also have to connect with
teammates, all of his teammates, many of whom are getting younger all the time.
"I understand it's different for me now, and I understand I need to be more conscious of it, work at it,
understand it," Manning said with a laugh. "A couple years ago I think one of the rookies said: 'I was 5
years old when you were a senior at Tennessee.' I don't want to hear that, but it teaches you a quick
lesson of where you are and what you need to do."
The 53-player roster the Broncos figure to take into Sunday's regular-season opener against the
Baltimore Ravens features 14 players who are 23 or younger, 20 players who are 24 or younger. The
youngest Broncos player -- rookie cornerback Lorenzo Doss -- was six months old when Manning started
his first game at the University of Tennessee.
"When I got drafted, one of the first things I thought was playing on the same team as Peyton Manning,"
Doss said. " … An incredible person, one of the best ever and just wants to win."
The opposition can also become enamored. Houston Texans practice squad cornerback Charles James
approaching Manning during warmups before a preseason game to tell Manning he's "a f---ing legend,"
a free-spirited moment caught on the HBO series "Hard Knocks."
Manning knows he has to bridge the gap between where's he been to get to where his teammates are
at the moment. When the Broncos claimed two players off waivers Sunday -- tight end Mitchell Henry
and center James Ferentz -- one of the reasons Broncos coach Gary Kubiak offered was: "We got a little
younger ... so, that's a good thing."
"You've got to work at it," Manning said. "When you first get in [the NFL] and you don't have kids, you're
the same age and you're all kind of doing the same things. But now things are different, life is different,
things change when you have kids. It changes your time; it changes your life. ...Get to know [your
teammates], when you have the time, when you do those things, any functions, or eating lunch, sitting
in the cafeteria, whenever you have a chance."
Former Broncos guard Orlando Franklin has portrayed Manning as distant at times. In a Pro Football Talk
appearance shortly after he signed in San Diego in free agency, Franklin said Chargers quarterback Philip
Rivers was "more approachable" than Manning.
For his part, Manning took issue with Franklin's assessment.
"I really disagree," Manning said. "I'm approachable, I like to engage, but I think you do have to work a
little harder at it as you go. ...There is an age thing. You can outgrow the locker room and if you remove
yourself too much, then you become distant. I try to cut up, I'm the butt of many-a-joke in there; I like
that."
But much in the way Manning attacks a game plan, he believes a little more information can go a long
way.
"It's a conscious decision," Manning said. "But I try to study the bios, get to know them, talk to them,
introduce myself, the sooner we can get to work together, the better. If you're going to succeed you
need everybody, I know that, I understand it. I really do."
Peyton's legacy on Indiana HS football is easy to spot
By Kyle Neddenriep
Indianapolis Star
September 3, 2015
Run your finger down a high school football roster in Central Indiana this season. There's an increasingly
good chance you'll find a "Peyton" on the roster.
It makes sense, right? Peyton Manning was drafted No. 1 by the Colts in the 1998 draft, right around the
time this generation of high school players was born.
A study of rosters shows there are at least 15 "Peytons" on area teams this season. Consider it another
lasting, living legacy of former Colts' general manager Bill Polian choosing Manning over Ryan Leaf.
"It was a unique name at the time our son was born," said Jeremy Young, whose son, Peyton, is a
freshman at Western Boone and was born on July 18, 2000. "It's authentic. We love Peyton Manning.
We weren't 100 percent sure about naming our son Peyton, but when he was born on the 18th
(Manning's jersey number), then we were certain."
The popularity of the name coincided with Manning's rise as college star at Tennessee and later with the
Colts. According to statistics tracked at socialsecurity.gov, the boy's name "Peyton" ranked as the No.
664th most popular name in the United States when Manning was named the national player of the
year in 1993 as a high school senior in New Orleans.
In early 2007, Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears. That year, there
were 3,371 boys born named Peyton to rank as the 125th most popular name nationally.
In Indiana, not surprisingly, the numbers are even more pronounced. "Peyton" first registered on the
state's top 100 list for boys names in 2000, Manning's third season with the Colts, at No. 78. It rose as
high as No. 65 in 2006.
Avon junior Peyton Allen, born in February 1999, was ahead of the curve. His parents were fans of
Manning at Tennessee and were considering either Peyton or Ted, the latter his father's name.
"The morning I went into labor we were at Meijer and my husband picked out a pack of football cards,"
Kelly Allen said. "The very top card was a Peyton Manning rookie card. That decided it for us."
Peyton Allen is a big Manning fan. When he was in elementary school, he read a story that Manning
didn't play organized football until the seventh grade. To the surprise of his parents, Allen followed the
same path. He tried out for quarterback as a seventh grader, but eventually settled into his current
position as a wide receiver.
"I enjoy having that name, to be honest," Peyton Allen said. "Growing up, I was always a big fan of him. I
never really thought too much about being named after him, but it's pretty cool. I like it a lot."
Steve Guidry wore an orange No. 16 Peyton Manning Tennessee jersey in the 1990s. When his son was
born on Jan. 16, 1999, there was no doubt he'd be named Peyton.
"I was actually a Notre Dame fan but I was definitely a fan of Manning at Tennessee," Guidry said.
"When our Peyton was born, Manning had only been with the Colts for a year and it wasn't a name you
heard very often. You see it a lot more now, which is really cool because it shows the influence he's had
here."
Peyton Guidry, a junior at Mooresville, is not a quarterback. He chases quarterbacks.
"He's a defensive end," Guidry said. "He's trying to sack quarterbacks."
Heritage Christian sophomore Peyton Estes is a quarterback. So is Western Boone's Peyton Young,
though as a left-hander he might more resemble Steve Young than Peyton Manning.
But Young does wear the same No. 18 as his namesake.
"From the minute he could walk, we were throwing him a football," Jeremy Young said. "So we always
thought he'd be a receiver. You don't see too many left-handed quarterbacks."
Peyton as a girls' name has long been more common, though it is also increasing in popularity. Every
year since 2008, it has ranked among the top 60 names nationally for girls. In 2009, when Manning led
the Colts to a Super Bowl for a second time, "Peyton" ranked 49th in Indiana as a girls' name. "Payton",
a more common girls' spelling through the years, ranked 66th.
Before the Colts arrived in 1984 – and to an extent, even today – there were a large number of Chicago
Bears' fans in the area. Plainfield sophomore linebacker Payton Leath and Eastern Hancock sophomore
receiver Payton Wilkinson were both named after one of the Bears' all-time greats, Walter Payton.
Though Manning left the Colts for the Denver Broncos in 2012, his legacy as a football player and for his
philanthropic work will leave a lasting impact for decades to come. His name will also live on, in more
ways than one.
"Everything he's done since our son was born has reinforced us liking the name even more," Jeremy
Young said. "The excitement he brought to our town and everything he's done for our community is
hard to believe. We used to get some questions about our son's name when he was little. Now, you
don't even think twice about it."
For future reference: Andrew was the 17th most popular boys name in Indiana in 2014.
Peyton's place
Here's a look at where Peyton ranks for boys' births in Indiana during his tenure with the Colts (source:
socialsecurity.gov)
1998 – outside top 100
1999 – outside top 100
2000 – 78th
2001 – 79th
2002 – outside top 100
2003 – outside top 100
2004 – 86th
2005 – 70th
2006 – 65th
2007 – 66th
2008 – 81st
2009 – 99th
2010 – 91st
2011 – outside top 100
*Of note: When Manning was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy at Tennessee in 1997, "Peyton" ranked
52nd that year as a boys' name in Tennessee.
*Of note II: The highest-ranking state for "Peyton" as a boys name in 2014 was Mississippi, where it
ranked 60th. Manning's father, Archie, played in college at Ole Miss. It has not ranked in the top 100 in
Colorado as a boys' name since Manning's arrival as a Bronco in 2012.
Peyton Manning seeks to break more records, defy age
By David Ramsey
Colorado Springs Gazette
September 1, 2015
Peyton Manning is 39, and he wants to continue starting at quarterback in the NFL. If you know anything
about Manning, you realize he did not return to the Broncos this season to embrace mediocrity. He
wants - he needs - to soar.
Soaring old quarterbacks are not common. Manning is attempting to conquer age. Remember, the aging
process is undefeated.
Terry Bradshaw retired at 35. Roger Staubach departed the Cowboys at 37. Joe Namath was done at 34.
Johnny Unitas, the greatest quarterback of the 1960s, dragged his battered arm and body through three
ill-advised seasons after he turned 38. In those three seasons, he threw 10 touchdowns and 22
interceptions. He ended his playing days in San Diego, thousands of miles from his beloved Baltimore.
This past offseason, Broncos' guru John Elway hoped Manning would return for a last quest for a Super
Bowl title. This was, in a way, a contradictory hope.
Elway, tears in his eyes, retired when he was 38.
Brett Favre offers the most encouraging example for Bronco fans who hope Manning can defy age.
Favre was 40 when he joined the Vikings in 2009. He had struggled through a below-his-standards 2008
season with the Jets. He had been pushed out the door by the Packers, who were smitten with a young
quarterback named Aaron Rodgers.
Favre did not step into a time machine. He only played as if he had stepped into a time machine. He
threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while directing the Vikings to a 12-4 record and a
trip to the NFC title game in New Orleans.
Even at 40, Favre was fully Favre. A Hall of Famer. An ultra-dangerous force.
The Broncos are taking steps to allow Manning to be fully Manning when the playoffs arrive in January.
At practices in August, Manning often was seen strolling the field with hands in his pocket. He chatted
every few minutes with coach Gary Kubiak. He offered wise words to backup Brock Osweiler. His most
vigorous physical activity was tying his shoes.
Elway knows about pushing a beat-up body. During the 1998 season, his last with the Broncos, he
missed four starts. Elway wants a healthy Manning for each of the Broncos 16 regular-season games,
and beyond.
"Even though you can't feel it now, if you're doing too much work now, eventually that's going to catch
up to you," Elway said of Manning taking days off from practice. "... That's the key thing. He'll never feel
it, but all of a sudden you get to December or we get to January and if we haven't taken care of that in
August, September, October, then that could hurt him and us."
"... I think that he realizes where he is, so I think he's getting a lot better at understanding what his body
can and can't do. Our mind thinks that our body can always do it. No matter if you're 55 like I am or 39,
you still think you can do certain things. And you just can't do that."
No, you can't.
What Manning seeks is not impossible. It is improbable.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has rewritten a lot of records. Sure, he is listed as the quarterback
with the most touchdown passes in his career on Thursdays (32) but here are some of the more
meaningful records:
NFL career passing touchdown record: 530
Single season touchdown record (2013): 55
Most passing yards, season (2013): 5,477
Most games throwing for 300+ yards: 91
Most passing touchdowns in a single game (tied, 2013): 7
Most seasons with 350+ completions: 10
Most games completing 80-percent passing: 17
Highest yards-per-game, season (2013): 342.31
Most seasons passing for 4,000+ yards: 14
Most consecutive seasons with 25+ touchdowns: 15
Manning needs 2,148 yards passing to top Brett Favre as the all-time leader in that category. Favre has
passed for 71,838 yards. The distance totals 40.817 miles.
Peyton Manning playing alongside and against many of
his fans
By Nicki Jhabvala
DenverPost.com
August 24, 2015
Seventeen NFL seasons, 14 Pro Bowl selections, seven first-team All-Pro honors, five MVP awards, a
Super Bowl ring, a Super Bowl MVP award, the NFL record for career touchdown passes and countless
other accolades and all-time records will do this.
Peyton Manning, a sure-fire hall-of-famer, is widely regarded as one of the best to play the game, at any
position. As he enters his 18th season, and as many come to grips with the fact that his presence in the
pocket is expiring, Manning finds himself playing alongside and against many players who idolized him
when they were growing up.
“I try not to think about this too much, but I had his college jersey when I was in junior high, so it goes
back to me being a fan even back then when I was quarterback back then,” tight end Owen Daniels said.
“Obviously he was one of the best to do it in college and at this level, and now to be in the same huddle
with him is pretty special. I look at it as art to play with a guy like that and you just want to give your
best effort on every down.”
Ty Sambrailo, the Broncos’ rookie left tackle out of Colorado State, said in May that the opportunity to
play alongside Manning is “unbelievable.”
“That’s a future hall-of-famer and that’s exciting to be in the same building as him,” Sambrailo said in
May, after the two crossed paths in the team cafeteria.
Two preseason games into his pro career, the appreciation of Manning is still there for Sambrailo.
“It’s a dream come true, really,” he said after Saturday’s win in Houston. “I mean, I’ve been watching
him play since I was a little kid, so it’s kind of crazy to be out in the huddle and get play calls from him.
It’s football still, and we’re all here for a reason, we’re all professionals, so it’s your job to protect
whoever’s back there, and it just happens to be one of the greatest.”
The Manning fans can also be found across the line of scrimmage.
Houston’s rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson had two tackles in Saturday’s preseason game, and
recorded a pass defensed against Manning that forced a three-and-out on the Broncos’ opening drive.
Johnson’s reaction?
“Yeah, yeah. It was pretty cool,” he said. “It was pretty cool just going out there, lining up, and looking in
at the quarterback and it was Peyton Manning. That’s pretty cool.”
Peyton Manning shows improved velocity in camp with
Broncos
By Troy Renck
Denver Post
August 20, 2015
The defiance emerged before the decision. During Super Bowl week, Peyton Manning stood before the
media and talked like a man ready to prove something. He began working out maniacally in February,
between trips, between hunts, between speaking engagements.
He arrived back at Dove Valley in April, appearing ready and rested. He returned to training camp,
stronger and leaner, roughly 5 pounds lighter, according to Seattle Seahawks broadcaster and former
Manning backup Brock Huard.
Manning will make his preseason debut Saturday at Houston, expected to log at least a quarter and
possibly as much as a half. He enjoyed a successful training camp — he's healthy — as he reluctantly
adjusted to a three days on, one day off routine.
Something interesting emerged in the process. Teammates began talking. It's fair to wonder if their
praise is because it's Manning. But this praise, unsolicited in some cases, is based on what they are
witnessing in practice.
"It's different than a year ago. It's crazy, but he's throwing the ball a lot harder and even more accurate
than last year," defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. "I think that goes to diet, preparation and how the
practices are tailored so they aren't taxing on the body. He's the player he's always been with a little bit
more edge."
Manning's adjustments have extended to his equipment. This has not been the summer of glove. Wide
receiver Emmanuel Sanders roused interest last week when he suggested Manning's velocity improves
when he isn't wearing a glove.
"I feel like he's trying to get more catches or something, like he's going through you to try to butter me
up," said Manning, who threw 34 touchdown passes in the first 11 games last season, but only five in
the final five. "For four years, it seems like when there's not a lot to talk about, the glove is kind of a goto move."
Manning wears the glove in the cold and poor weather as a concession to the nerve issues he's
experienced since undergoing multiple neck surgeries before joining the Broncos. Does the lack of
handwear indicate the nerves are regenerating or that his grip is improving? He smirked and said he
wasn't sure.
"I practiced with (the glove) in the spring, but I haven't worn it as much during training camp. I don't
really have a set play one way or the other. I feel pretty comfortable with both," Manning said. "Yeah, I
should (try) a pickle jar or something (to test his grip). Can I unscrew it?"
Comfort remains a theme Saturday as Manning shows how he fits in coach Gary Kubiak's offense, which
centers on a zone-blocking running attack and more under center work. He will work with the first team,
minus receiver Emmanuel Sanders who likely will sit out with a hamstring injury. Pro Bowler Demaryius
Thomas and tight end Owen Daniels will see their first playing time. Running back C.J. Anderson will
receive more carries. And all eyes will be on the offensive line, where center Matt Paradis, left guard
Max Garcia and left tackle Ty Sambrailo bring zero regular-season experience. They will attempt to keep
Manning safe against the fang-bearing Houston Texans' J.J. Watt.
"Those guys have worked hard. They've improved just during camp," Manning said. "This will be a good
test. You're trying to get ready for a four-quarter game. I don't know how long we'll stay in there, but
you want to try to convert some third downs, and I'd think it would be ideal to get some red-zone work
and some goal-line short yardage."
Football meets futbol: Peyton Manning meets Carli
Lloyd
By Ben Swanson
DenverBroncos.com
August 22, 2015
Legends of the gridiron and pitch collided Saturday night in Houston when Peyton Manning met reigning
FIFA Women's World Cup champion Carli Lloyd following the Broncos' victory at NRG Stadium.
For Lloyd, it was a bit of reversal of her experiences meeting fans over the past couple months since she
and the U.S. Women's National Team teammates won the World Cup title in July.
"I typically don't really stalk too many people out there," she said with a laugh. "I kind of know what it's
like, but for me, I really respect athletes and professionals that are just pros on and off the field and
Peyton is one of the best athletes ever, one of the greatest football players ever and just so classy,
humble and goes out there and does his job. So, for me, this has probably been one of the coolest
moments post-World Cup, to be able to meet somebody who, for me, I just admire and respect. So it
was a pretty cool and amazing moment."
For Lloyd and her Houston Dash teammate Jessica McDonald, meeting Manning and talking to him after
the game was certainly a powerful experience and the feeling was returned by the five-time MVP, who
congratulated Lloyd on the memorable World Cup run she and the team had.
"It was definitely inspirational, simply because he's such an incredible athlete on and off the field,"
McDonald added. "He always works incredibly hard, so being a professional athlete myself, we look up
to players and athletes like Peyton Manning in different kinds of ways, whether we play the same sport
or not. So just having the ability to meet him has been absolutely incredible."
Lloyd's admiration for Manning and the impact he has on the field as a player and off the field as a
person has also made her a Broncos fan, she said, even though she's an Eagles fan at heart because of
where she grew up just outside of Philadelphia.
"For me, when Peyton went to the Broncos, that was when I continued to follow him and he's probably
one of my all-time favorite athletes," Lloyd said. "So it's good to see somebody of that caliber be able to
lead a team and I'm always following the Broncos and wishing them well. I was hoping they'd pull out
that Super Bowl against Seattle; unfortunately, it didn't happen, but I'm just a big fan and hopefully they
do good things this season."
That wasn't the only person Lloyd and McDonald met as they chatted with Executive Vice President of
Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and some of the players in the hallway outside the
locker room.
Since the World Cup victory, Lloyd and her teammates have received a staggering amount of messages,
recognition and support from figures in sports and outside of it, including President Barack Obama,
seven-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and many more — and now
Manning.
"There's been so many people that have watched the game and I wasn't really able to kind of go back to
see who was tweeting about it and talking about it, but there were so many professional athletes who
were just glued to their TV and they weren't necessarily soccer fans or women's soccer fans, but I think
we captivated a nation and I think everybody jumped on board and everybody was following.
"I go through airports and everything and I've got security guys saying 'Well done, well done.' Basically
we captivated everybody and it was just one of the most memorable moments and best summers I think
I've had thus far. And it's just been incredible seeing all the support around the professional athlete
world and getting tweets from the president and Kobe Bryant and everybody. So it's been really cool."
@thekidmcmanus
Nice meeting you after the game @CarliLloyd, come out to practice anytime and kick some field goals
with us. Show off that golden boot
@CarliLloyd
Definitely will take you up on that! Nice meeting you.
As career winds down, Peyton Manning takes it in and
makes adjustments
By Sam Farmer
Los Angeles Times
August 15, 2015
As he gears up for his 18th NFL season, the quarterback who wears No. 18 for the Denver Broncos can
see his illustrious career unfold in a collection of mental snapshots.
"There's a certain age that you hit when you start doing that," said Peyton Manning, 39, standing in a
quiet hallway at team headquarters. "I really enjoy interacting with the fans. My kids have been out to
practice a bunch this year. The rookie skits. Things you know will never happen again."
Manning, the NFL's only five-time most valuable player, isn't putting a stop date on his career, nor is he
looking at this season as some type of rocking-chair tour. It's just that, since joining the Broncos from
Indianapolis in 2012, after sitting out a season because of a neck injury, he has learned to appreciate the
small moments. In that sense, he has savored football through a slow-motion lens.
he gears up for his 18th NFL season, the quarterback who wears No. 18 for the Denver Broncos can see
his illustrious career unfold in a collection of mental snapshots.
"There's a certain age that you hit when you start doing that," said Peyton Manning, 39, standing in a
quiet hallway at team headquarters. "I really enjoy interacting with the fans. My kids have been out to
practice a bunch this year. The rookie skits. Things you know will never happen again."
Manning, the NFL's only five-time most valuable player, isn't putting a stop date on his career, nor is he
looking at this season as some type of rocking-chair tour. It's just that, since joining the Broncos from
Indianapolis in 2012, after sitting out a season because of a neck injury, he has learned to appreciate the
small moments. In that sense, he has savored football through a slow-motion lens.
A few weeks later, it was Manning's coach, John Fox, who played keep-away by completely changing the
offense. Seemingly overnight, after a 22-7 loss at home to St. Louis in Week 10, the Broncos went from a
passing to running team. Denver averaged 24.3 carries in the first 10 games, and 33.3 in the final six.
Manning never got into a groove — a quadriceps injury late in the season didn't help — and the Broncos
were one and done in the playoffs, losing to the Colts in the divisional round. Later that week, the club
showed Fox the door.
"The pendulum swung so far so that instead of getting balance, we kind of swung it too far back to the
running game," said John Elway, the Broncos' top football executive, while surveying training camp this
week from his office balcony. "It was a hard adjustment for Peyton, hard for him to be able to stay
loose. When you go from throwing it so much in a game to all of a sudden you're not throwing it until
third down, it was a bit of an adjustment."
Now comes another adjustment, as Elway hired Kubiak, his old backup quarterback during their playing
days in Denver. It wasn't an obvious choice, because Kubiak showed when he was Houston's coach that
he favors a run-based offense, and prefers his quarterbacks under center and not making a lot of
adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Manning has been almost exclusively a shotgun quarterback,
particularly in recent years, and constantly directs traffic before the snap.
"It won't be easy for Peyton," said his friend, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, who calls Manning
among the smartest players in NFL history. "Because he's always been, 'What's the defense doing?
What's the disguise?' … That was his game. No one figures out stuff better than Peyton Manning.
[Opponents] don't show him the same defenses they show other people. They don't show him the same
defenses they showed him the last time they played. They don't even show him the same defense in the
second half that they played in the first half."
So if Manning is playing faster, with younger players around him, and not making all his typical tweaks
and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, he could be limited in how much he uses his best weapon —
his brain. Madden, for one, thinks Manning will adapt.
"If you had a place where you grade for 'figuring out,' he'd get an A-plus in figuring out," Madden said.
Elway scored similarly high marks near the end of his hall-of-fame career. Like Manning, he went from a
passing offense to a more balanced scheme at the end of his career, one that showcased Denver
running back Terrell Davis, and Elway closed out his era with back-to-back Super Bowl rings.
"The older you get, instead of being the machine, you've got to become a cog in the machine," Elway
said. "Even though your mind tells you that you're still getting better. So there's an adjustment to that."
So far, Manning is adjusting just fine. He's leaner than he's been in years, and his passes in practice have
had an extra zip to them.
"His arm is as good this year as it's been since he's been here," Elway said. "You can just tell by the way
the ball comes off his hand. A lot of times, the arm's moving faster than the ball. But his ball is popping
off. He threw a ball the other day farther than he's thrown it since he's been here. He's usually 45, 46
yards. He threw one 50."
Manning is 6 feet 5 inches, and backup Brock Osweiler is 6-8. That kind of height is a big advantage for a
quarterback taking a snap under center because he can see over the towering offensive linemen whose
helmets are just a few feet from his face.
And although some quarterbacks who spend the majority of their time in shotgun allow their footwork
to get sloppy, that won't be a problem for the meticulous Manning.
"At our football camp in Louisiana, I think we're the only camp in the country that still teaches under
center, the three-step and five-step drop," Manning said. "Most everybody is teaching shotgun… I never
did shotgun in high school. I was under center quite a bit during my time in Indianapolis."
Manning likes that when he's under center, he doesn't have to take his eyes off the defense, even for a
split second.
"You can be looking out at the left cornerback during the snap to make sure whether he's pressing or
bailing," he said. "Whereas in the shotgun, you're looking at the ball for that little bit of time."
Likewise, that's just the way he approaches these final years of his career. He doesn't want to blink.
Archie Manning says Peyton Manning is a 'realist' on
subject of retirement
By Ben Fredrickson
Knoxville News Sentinel
August 5, 2015
It’s a staple of sports talk radio in Knoxville.
At any point during the week, you can start the car, dial in your station of choice and embrace the
debate.
How much longer will Peyton Manning play?
The Tennessee legend’s dad weighed in Tuesday night.
“He’s a realist,” Archie Manning said of his middle son. “I know this: He would like to get everything he
can get out of this year, and see what happens.”
The head of the Manning family was the featured speaker at the 34th annual Greater Knoxville Sports
Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony at the Knoxville Convention Center on Tuesday.
Ten inductees entered the fold: Bob Kesling (broadcaster), Brian Brophy (track), Joan Cronan (athletic
director), Antone Davis (football), Herman Goddard (auto racing), Charles McRae (football), Vernon
Osborne (coach), Eddy Powers (official), Gloria Ray (athletic director) and Bob Woodruff (athletic
director).
Each carries a long resume of success in his or her field. The Mannings can relate.
Peyton Manning broke the huddle on his 18th year in the NFL during Denver Broncos training camp last
week. The restructured contract he agreed to this offseason expires after 2016.
“Peyton has been very fortunate,” Archie Manning said. “He missed a year (2011) with four neck
surgeries. Other than that, he’s been pretty doggone healthy. Hopefully, he can stay healthy this year
and enjoy his year. Knock on wood.”
Meanwhile, Eli Manning is entering his 12th season as a New York Giants quarterback.
Throw in Archie Manning’s 14-year NFL career and the family has combined for 19 Pro Bowls and three
Super Bowl rings.
These guys know a thing or two about longevity.
“It takes some really good fortune,” Archie Manning said. “Football is physical. You’re going to have
injuries, so you’ve gotta be lucky to get through it without the injuries that cause you to hang it up and
not be able to play any more.”
At some point, sooner rather than later, Peyton Manning will have to hang it up. Many fans hope his
post-playing career involves a role with the UT football team. Archie Manning pumped the brakes.
“I don’t know if Peyton is thinking about that,” he said. “He thinks a lot of (UT football coach) Butch
(Jones), though. Peyton loves his school, and keeps up with the players here. He likes to come work out
in the summer. He’s really excited about the players that Butch had recruited and the progress they’ve
made. He knows, like we all know, it (the SEC) is a tough league. I think Coach Jones is the right guy. I
think Tennessee fans are going to be in for an exciting year.”
He hopes the same is true for the Broncos. Part of the reason he didn’t re-join the College Football
Playoff selection committee after neck surgery made him withdraw last season was to ensure he had
more time to watch the Broncos.
How much longer will Peyton Manning play?
His dad won’t say for certain. And maybe he doesn’t know. He just knows this season is an important
one.
Peyton Manning pulls young fans from crowd for
passing drill
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
August 2, 2015
So, what’d you do Sunday?
For two Denver-area boys, that question will be the jumping off point for a can-you-believe-it story
about their morning trip to Denver Broncos training camp.
Jet Yang (11 years old) and Eric Vue (12) were sitting in the crowd at the team’s morning practice -- Yang
in a Demaryius Thomas jersey, Vue in a Peyton Manning jersey -- when a future Hall of Fame
quarterback strolled over and pointed at the two boys.
“He just pointed right at us," a still-somewhat-stunned Vue said.
With the Broncos going through a special-teams drill on one field, Manning and the other quarterbacks
were on the other field, getting ready to toss some passes in the scoring zone to stay loose.
Manning put the two boys in the receiver line and they took several turns as Manning threw some fade
routes into the end zone. With every throw to the boys, the crowd at that end of the field erupted with
the catches and groaned in unison at the close calls.
At one point Thomas even lined up as a defender for a throw, giving Yang some advice just before the
snap.
“It was great," Manning said following practice. “I’m just glad they caught them, some good work
there."
Vue said he doesn’t play organized football, but Yang said he just started playing youth football this year
in Broomfield. Asked whether he wants to be a receiver, Vue said with a smile: “I’m hoping to be a
running back, but maybe now receiver."
Peyton Manning says he can fit any offense Gary Kubiak
wants to run
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
July 31, 2015
At 39 years old, in his 18th NFL training camp, the thought of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton
Manning throwing on the move might not be something many folks have considered.
But in the Broncos' new offense under head coach Gary Kubiak, Manning will throw on the run more this
season than he might have in any of his previous 17 seasons -- and he said Friday that suits him just fine.
"I feel that I throw pretty well on the run, to tell you the truth," Manning said following the Broncos'
opening training camp practice Friday. "I never had as many designed rollouts or scrambles, but I've
sprinted out through the years. I do that in the red zone a lot -- throwing on the run and sprinting out. I
actually think I throw pretty well on the run for a guy that doesn't really run well. I actually throw well
on the run, maybe even better than some guys that actually run well."
It has been part of the offseason narrative -- how Manning, almost exclusively a stand-tall pocket passer,
would fit into Kubiak's version of the West Coast offense, which has featured a steady diet of
quarterbacks rolling out and tossing the ball on the run.
Manning said he has always practiced throwing on the run, even still using tips his father, Archie
Manning, gave him over the years. Archie Manning was an accomplished scrambler in his career, often
forced to throw on the run behind offensive lines that struggled to protect him.
"I will say, my dad did throw real well on the run and could run well at the same time," Peyton Manning
said. "He did at a young age kind of teach me about throwing on the run. There is a couple of little things
that he taught me that I still carry through. I've always felt I've been a pretty accurate thrower on the
run. A lot of times you see quarterbacks sprinting out, you see a guy wide open, you see the pass is
inaccurate, goes into their feet or over their head because the quarterback is not as accurate throwing
on the run ... so I feel like I can get out there when a guy's open, I can be able to get him.''
Asked how he coaches the technique at the annual Manning Passing Academy, Manning smiled and
said, "You've got to maybe sign up for the camp, I don't want to give away all the secrets, then nobody
would come back next year."
Even with some late-season struggles to close out 2014, Manning's 4,727 passing yards were fourth in
the league, and his 39 touchdowns were second. Manning has said he believes he can fit any offense
Kubiak wants to run.
Sundays with Sacco: Manning always gives back
By Jim Saccomano
DenverBroncos.com
July 26, 2015
When it comes to anything that makes our society better, Peyton Manning is all about "we," never
about "me."
On Thursday it was announced that he has started the Chattanooga Heroes Fund at the Community of
Greater Chattanooga, in honor of those who lost their lives and those who were wounded in the recent
shootings in Tennessee.
Donations to the Chattanooga Heroes Fund from individuals, companies and organizations are
welcomed in any amount, and information about support is available elsewhere on the Denver Broncos
website as well as via other media.
When families need help, Manning is there.
To be sure, the Denver Broncos have a long list of players who do great work in the community.
Just one example is that also on Thursday, safety David Bruton Jr. announced his Bruton's Books
foundation is hosting a recreational bike ride on Sunday to support early childhood reading programs.
But no one has visibility within the National Football League community like Manning, who is, in my
opinion, the overwhelming choice as the face of the NFL.
His charity roots extend from Louisiana through Tennessee and Indiana, and most recently are growing
in Colorado.
There is a litany of causes and concerns that he routinely aids, but we have found that his passion for
support is matched only by his desire to do so privately as often as possible.
The Chattanooga shootings moved him to action for two reasons: Manning's association with the city of
Chattanooga and his love and passion for America's military.
He was in Chattanooga when the shootings occurred and went to the site as soon as he could to thank
the first responders. The only reason his visit became public was that the Chattanooga Police
Department proudly sent out Twitter announcements noting it and thanking him.
Upon the creation of the Chattanooga Heroes Fund, with Manning naturally making an initial
contribution, he commented, "Our family has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the great city of
Chattanooga. It has a very special place in our hearts. The five servicemen who gave their lives, the
police officer who risked his life in order to protect others, and the actions of many other first
responders were truly heroic."
Manning knows about heroes.
He could have done anything, but anything less than the absolute is too little for him, so he was once
again moved to action.
There are full explanations and comments about the Chattanooga Heroes Fund elsewhere on the
Denver Broncos website, but you will not find Manning tooting his own horn anywhere.
He is in fact the complete embodiment of team owner Pat Bowlen's spirit of giving, which is basically to
always do the right thing and don't broadcast it.
Like the Lone Ranger, if you are waiting for Manning to stay for pictures with the news media to
promote his giving, you are in for a long wait. There have been innumerable interview requests, both
from local media and from huge national organizations, to discuss his charity. Each of these is met with a
polite decline.
Peyton Manning is as polite as he is private, which is completely so on both counts.
In Indianapolis, he made so many unannounced visits to the Saint Vincent's Children's Hospital and
quietly supported it in so many ways that they changed the name of the hospital to the Peyton Manning
Children's Hospital, operated by Saint Vincent's.
Those of us with the Broncos remember back to 2012 and the horrific theater shootings in Aurora.
Manning almost immediately called public relations and asked one question, "How can I help?"
And he did so much, but in keeping with Manning's spirit or privacy I will just note that it is never his
way to do a public thing in a public way. Whenever possible, do it in a cloak of secrecy.
This is a huge part of his leadership initiative, and likely the best part.
He hosts Make-A-Wish visits every Friday of the football season. But it is from the heart and for the kids,
not for cameras.
Those who receive them are well familiar with his propensity to write letters and make phone calls,
always from the heart and authentic. It is just not in his DNA to do less than his maximum in any
troubling situation.
Once in a while a recipient makes the letter public, usually through a combination of great thanks and
shock that he would reach out as he does.
Recently I sat next to a total stranger at a baseball game, and he was proudly talking about his son, who
is a Navy Seal. As the game and our conversation wore on, when he realized I worked for the Denver
Broncos, his comments turned exclusively to Peyton Manning.
But not one comment had to do with Manning the quarterback. He told me story after story of personal
visits by Manning with his son and other Seals, in every possible venue, and I never have heard anyone
make remarks so strong about a player's genuine support for our nation's military.
My comment to him was that probably the 10 most impressive things I feel about Manning are all about
community.
At the core of our being is a fundamental question: What does it mean to be a human on earth? How
are we to act?
"How can I help?" is at his core.
His greatness on the football field is matched only by his true philanthropic spirit.
Expert and amateur analysts can and will debate his rank among all-time quarterbacks seemingly
forever, but what can never be debated is his level of concern and work for our society beyond football.
The Broncos and our fans are fortunate to be able to call Peyton Manning one of us.
Peyton Manning establishes Chattanooga Heroes Fund
to honor shooting victims
By Ben Swanson
DenverBroncos.com
July 23, 2015
Peyton Manning has a long-standing love for and connection to the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and
to help them in their time of need he has established the Chattanooga Heroes Fund.
Wherever Peyton Manning has gone, he's tried to make as lasting an impact off the football field as he
does on it. He has established a charity foundation that gives grants to organizations in each state he's
put down roots: Louisiana, Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado. And now with the impact of a sudden
tragedy in a place that he loves, he wanted to find a way he could help.
On Thursday it was announced that Manning has started the Chattanooga Heroes Fund at the
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga in honor of those who lost their lives and those who
were wounded in the recent shootings in Tennessee, and to help support their families at this difficult
time.
Manning has made an initial contribution to the fund, and additional donations can be made online at
CFGC.org, by phone at (423) 266-0586 or by mail (more information below).
The fund will provide financial support to help the families and individuals directly affected by the
shooting to receive longer-term financial to alleviate their need. The Chattanooga Heroes Fund intends
to bridge a gap between the short-term financial needs and what challenges they may face in years to
come.
"Our family has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the great city of Chattanooga, and it has a
very special place in our hearts," Manning said. "But on July 16th, this strong, welcoming community
was forever changed by the tragedy that unfolded.
"The five servicemen who gave their lives, the police officer who risked his life in order to protect
others, and the actions of many other first responders were truly heroic. We are proud to team up with
the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to establish the Chattanooga Heroes Fund honoring
these heroes and helping to provide for the future of their families."
Former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker has also made an initial donation to the fund, joining Manning.
“We deeply appreciate Senator Corker’s support in establishing the Chattanooga Heroes Fund and hope
that others can do what they can to recognize the noble actions of the servicemen who sacrificed and
risked their own lives last week,” Manning said.
The Chattanooga Heroes Fund will be administered by the Community Foundation of Greater
Chattanooga, the city's oldest community-owned foundation. With over 50 years of managing funds to
address areas of need in Chattanooga and the greater community, the CFGC has shown an outstanding
track record as it's managed 350 funds that total more than $100 million in assets and more than $14
million in grants in 2014.
“We are proud to support Peyton by serving as home for the Chattanooga Heroes Fund, and we will
work closely with him to ensure proper protocols for funds disbursement are in place,” said Foundation
President Pete Cooper. “We will also work closely with the appropriate military personnel to ensure
support from the funds reaches those families.”
How to support the Chattanooga Heroes Fund
Donations to the Chattanooga Heroes Fund from individuals, companies and organizations are welcome
in any amount.
Give By Check
Checks should be made payable to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga with
"Chattanooga Heroes Fund" in the memo. Mail checks to:
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga
Attn: Chattanooga Heroes Fund
1270 Market Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Give By Phone
You can make a donation over the phone by calling (423) 266-0586
Give Online
You can support the fund at CFGC.org, where there will be an option available on the homepage.
About Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga:
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga is a community-owned foundation dedicated to
supporting programs and initiatives seeking to provide solutions for areas of critical need throughout
the greater Chattanooga area. Through grant-making to local non-profits, fund management and
resource support for community programs and college scholarships for area students, Community
Foundation helps individuals, businesses, organizations and private trusts leverage the power of their
own philanthropic contributions to help make Chattanooga greater. For more information, visit
CFGC.org.
Peyton Manning going to Canton to see Bill Polian
inducted
By Darin Gantt
Pro Football Talk
July 22, 2015
Peyton Manning’s definitely going to Canton one day, he just hasn’t been there yet.
But the Broncos quarterback says he’s making a special trip this year, to see his former Colts General
Manager Bill Polian inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Manning called into SiriusXM NFL Radio last night to talk with Polian and Alex Marvez, and said he
wouldn’t be missing the ceremony for the man who drafted him.
“I’m excited for Bill’s induction and I plan on being there,” Manning said. “I’ve never been to Canton
ever, Bill. I remember a couple of years ago when the Colts played in there I had my knee issue so I had
to miss the trip to Canton, so coming to Canton to see Bill make his speech will be my first trip, and I
couldn’t be more proud and excited for Bill.”
Polian was quick — and correct — to note that Manning would be going. And while Polian’s work
building the Buffalo teams that went to four straight Super Bowls was perhaps his best work, drafting
Manning and keeping the Colts consistently competitive and winning one Super Bowl was also a big part
of his resume. Their 115 regular season wins together in the 2000s were the most for a single decade,
and that’s not the result of just drafting one guy.
Manning said it was Polian’s dedication to the grind that made him stand out, and made him successful.
“I always knew that Bill had my back,” Manning said. “We were always trying to do the same things,
trying to win, trying to rob the same train if you will. We all had the same goals in mind, but I always
knew that Bill had my back and that always meant a lot. You like playing for guys that you know are
going to have your back and are kind of right in the middle of it fighting with you.
“Even though Bill wasn’t on the field on Sundays, it felt like he was. He was out there on the practice
field every practice. I can’t think of a practice in my 14 years in Indy that Bill wasn’t right there behind
the players next to the assistant coaches in his shorts and t-shirt right in the middle of it. He’s an old
coach so he’s got coaching in his blood, and then on Sunday’s I’m telling you he was on that field until
the last possible minute walking through the stretch lines, shaking everybody’s hand, and so it felt like
he was out there with us. And then of course he was the first guy to greet us in the locker room, either
to shake our hand and congratulate us after a win or put his arm around us after a loss. It was a special
privilege to play for a guy like that and that’s not necessarily normal.”
And that’s why Manning is making his first pilgrimage to Canton, where he’ll doubtless make copious
notes and plan meticulously for his own arrival.
Archie Manning talks about Peyton, Eli, Cooper
By Jimmy Watson
ShreveportTimes.com
July 20, 2015
Playing on bad football teams with below average offensive lines has taken a physical toll on former
New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, who walked and talked slowly, but remained
personable during Monday’s Camping World Independence Bowl Kickoff Luncheon at the Shreveport
Convention Center.
Manning struggled up the steps to the podium, then joked about having to rise out of the recliner where
he sat for his interview by Shreveport-based sportscaster and longtime family friend Tim Brando.
Manning has endured neck, back and knee replacement surgeries in recent months and remains on the
mend.
The health issues aren’t surprising after the Drew, Mississippi, native played for 10 years with the Saints
while never managing a winning season or playoff berth. Manning was traded by Bum Phillips to the
equally bad Houston Oilers in 1982.
“It was obvious Bum didn’t want to be (in New Orleans). I told him later I could forgive him for trading
me, but not for trading me to Houston,” Manning quipped. “That was the worst offensive line I ever
played behind. They were killing me on second down and they were killing me on third down. It killed
me to get traded.”
The I-Bowl luncheon, which annually attracts a sold-out crowd and kicks off concerted preparation for
Northwest Louisiana’s annual postseason contest, featured a repeat format of Brando interviewing the
College Football Hall of Famer on stage. Brando conducted a one-on-one interview with former
Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith last year.
Attendees were welcomed by Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler and IBowl chairman Kyle McInnis, while Patrick Netherton served as emcee.
The Ole Miss All-American may not be bounding across stages any longer, but Manning, 66, can still
deliver a good stories, especially about his family, which includes NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton
Manning.
One of his favorite stories detailed Peyton’s appearance on Saturday Night Live when one of the skits
about a mock football camp required Peyton to hit a child with a football. Manning said his son didn’t
want make the toss even though it was with a Nerf football.
“But all the parents on the sidelines were yelling, ‘hit my kid, hit my kid,’” said Manning chuckling.
A 44-year resident of Louisiana, Manning also tossed a shout-out to Airline coach Bo Meeks as one of
just a couple of former college quarterbacks who have assisted in all 20 of the recently completed
Manning Football Academies.
“We had no idea the camp would turn into a national camp like starting with 185 campers and now with
1,250 from 46 states. Our first four counselors 20 years ago were Peyton Manning, Jake Delhomme,
Brandon Stokley and Bo Meeks,” Manning said. “We had all four of them there this year.”
Manning poked fun at his wife, Olivia, who chose not to stay long when her husband signed with
Minnesota in 1983.
“On Christmas Eve not long after we moved up there, it snowed 14 inches. I woke up the kids to let
them see it. We had a pond out back and Olivia asked me where the ducks were,” Manning said. “I told
her they had gone south for the winter. She said, ‘well, we are too.’”
Olivia Manning also forced her husband to take part in the ESPN film, “The Book of Manning,” which
provided in-depth coverage of the Manning family influence on football.
“We had the preview in Oxford (Mississippi) before a home football game as a fundraiser for Eli
Manning Children’s Clinic,” Manning said.
He mentioned eldest son, Cooper, who conducts ESPN-like interviews with youngsters at the Manning
Camp, often picking at the attendees for their outfits and other eccentrics. “Coop” also got in a jab at
Peyton, who was going through a traumatic time after being released by the Colts in 2011 following
neck surgery. He worked out for several NFL coaches, including the late Bud Adams of the Tennessee
Titans.
“Bud Adams offered Peyton a lifetime contract,” Manning said. “Coop called and wanted to know if that
was Bud’s or Peyton’s lifetime.”
The 2015 Camping World Independence Bowl is slated for Dec. 26 at 4:45 p.m. at Independence
Stadium.
Manning is a former SEC Player of the Year and was named All-America in 1969 and 1970. Manning was
the second overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft and was a Pro Bowl selectee in 1978 and 1979.
A New Orleans Saints Ring of Honor member, Manning is the chairman of the National Football
Foundation and was an inaugural member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. He and
Olivia live in the Garden District of New Orleans.
Manning methodical in decision to return
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
July 21, 2015
The last time most of the NFL saw Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning play, he was
unrecognizable.
Manning looked frustrated, flustered, impatient, injured and every bit his 38 years in the Broncos' 24-13
loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round of the playoffs. His body language was loud and
clear; Manning was out of sorts and couldn't rebound.
Manning took that last game into the offseason and it remains the last impression many have of him. It
was also his starting point in a methodical, straight-talk-filled decision to return for 2015.
As Manning wrapped up his offseason work last month, with training camp on the horizon, he broke
down why he decided to return for his 18th NFL season. In the end it came down to mind, body and
spirit.
The first step, of course, was finding out whether the Broncos -- who had parted ways with coach John
Fox and several assistants after that early playoff departure in January -- wanted him back.
"There were two times in my career when I didn't really know what was going to happen, it was four
years ago with the [neck] injury with the Colts and then this past offseason, kind of what direction are
they heading in here and am I a part of it?" Manning said. "There was a bit of that unknown. ... I think
people like to know what's going on, what direction they're going, where I fit in, do I fit in? What's the
plan?
"It's probably more common to have unknown than to always have the known and I've had the known
16 out of 18 years [in the NFL] so that's, kind of going back to my injury, I never really said: 'How come
this injury happened to me?' Because injuries happen to everybody, they just hadn't happened to me
until that point ... So, all of that is kind where you are as you make a decision."
The Broncos hired Gary Kubiak as coach in January. He hired Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator.
Kubiak plans to build an offense that runs the ball and protects Manning better -- one that forces
defenses "to defend the whole field." He made it clear he wanted Manning back, but also wanted the
quarterback to be at peace with whatever decision he made.
"I guess I looked at what he did last year and just thought, he's coming back because he was still at the
top," said Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, referring to Manning's 4,727 passing yards, 66
percent completion rate and 39 touchdowns. "We didn't get the end of the season we wanted,
everybody was disappointed; I don't think anybody can think about later right then."
Manning said he is less on edge with a plan in place. After hearing the team wanted him to return, the
next step was a no-B.S. physical. Manning needed assessment of his recovery from the thigh injury he
suffered in December, his arm strength and his ability to move in the pocket. So in early February
Manning went home to New Orleans to visit with trainer Mackie Shilstone.
"I think you like to know in February, kind of where you're going to be, in March, in April, kind of what's
going on," Manning said. "Stress is a word you always try to avoid. It's not healthy for you; but I guess
my nature would be I really like to know what's going on so I can get to work on it. What do I need to
do? Let's get going, otherwise you're behind."
Shilstone, who has worked with a variety of high-profile athletes including Serena Williams and baseball
Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, was charged with answering Manning's questions. The future Hall of Fame
quarterback said he was willing to walk away if he got "the tough answers."
"I did that personal assessment, I worked with a trainer to really get that answer, to say 'Hey, let's ask
the hard questions, let's find out, is there something I'm not seeing here?'" Manning said.
Shilstone went through Manning's laundry list of questions and gave him the green light physically to
play another season.
Now that Manning was assured the Broncos wanted him back and physically he could still play at a high
level, he had one last hurdle to clear.
"After you kind of get that physical answer you look at what it takes to prepare for a season and to play
in a season," Manning said. "Of course then you ask yourself, do you like doing that work in February? If
I thought this was a drag, there's a couple ways you could go, a couple questions you have to answer.
"I always felt like I knew what I wanted to do, I just wanted to make sure physically and mentally, things
were checking out like the way you wanted them to do. To me they all have to match up. You can't feel
good physically, but, boy, I dread going to do this; that's not being fair to the team. I thought it was a
good, a really good, physical and mental assessment, I got honest answers."
Honest enough, Manning said, that he believed he could fit into the Broncos' offense, "do my part for
this team" and find a comfort zone he did not have in that January loss. Once he agreed to a $4 million
pay cut -- money he can earn back if the Broncos win the Super Bowl -- Manning had all of the boxes
checked.
"I wanted to be here, this is where I wanted to be," Manning said. "So, don't look back. I was glad to get
that part of it resolved and let's go. To me, it's all kind of supposed to answer itself. I don't think I've
been shorted as far as playing. Even like a few years ago, if that had turned out differently, 13 years of
unbelievable health and playing, that's special."
Peyton Manning visited Chattanooga Police after
Tennessee shooting
By Will Brinson
CBSSports.com
July 20, 2015
Last week, a tragic shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee claimed the lives of four Marines, while also
wounding two other men and a Chattanooga Police officer.
The shooting occurred at the Naval Marine Corps Reserve base near Amnicola Highway which is,
according to WCRB TV in Chattanooga, where Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning came by to support
the police and military members suffering after the loss of their friends.
The police confirmed the visit by posting a pic of Manning and an officer on Twitter.
Chattanooga Police @ChattanoogaPD
Thank you for stopping by and for your support Peyton Manning #chanews
3:02 PM - 19 Jul 2015
Manning made his professional life in Indy with the Colts and now Denver. But he is flat-out revered in
Tennessee, where he played college football for the Volunteers. (I went to high school in Chattanooga
and the level of love for Manning there can't be overstated.) His visit certainly meant a lot.
It's also a classic Manning-type visit too. He showed up, did good for the lives of others and didn't make
any noise about it.
We've seen Manning go the extra mile to meet North Pole fans, quietly pay tribute to young Broncos fan
who passed and send a letter to the mother of a Colts fan she lost.
In short, Manning's known for a lot of things -- both good and bad -- he does on the field. But his offfield stuff continues to have an incredible impact on football fans.
Trip to Manning Passing Academy ends in tragedy
By Aaron Matas
USA Today High School Sports
July 18, 2015
We often gather in times of need.
“We’re devastated and heartbroken,” Tim Dalton of Erie said.
The Daltons aren’t used to receiving assistance. They’re usually giving it.
“It helps that so many people are here,” said Tim’s son Sebi. The 14-year-old was recently headed to a
different kind of gathering. He had a spot at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana.
“I thought it was fantastic. You get to meet the Mannings,” Sebi told 9NEWS.
During a family road trip early Thursday morning on an Oklahoma highway, the Daltons witnessed an
accident. A motorcyclist had struck a cow that wandered into the road. They stopped to give help.
“That’s when a tragic series of events happened,” Tim said.
While waiting on the side of the road for emergency responders, a semi hit the same cow and lost
control. The truck hit the family’s car. Sebi and his two younger sisters were fine, while his dad suffered
serious internal injuries. Sebi’s mom, Mary Grace, was killed. They were only there to give.
“That’s the kind of person she was,” her husband Tim said. “She was a very kind and giving person and
she insisted on stopping to help.”
She was 46, and grew up in Louisiana-Manning country. Mary Grace was so happy her youngest boy
stuck with football.
However, Sebi never made it to the passing academy. On Wednesday, with the family grieving back at
home, the phone rang.
“‘Tim, this is Archie Manning’, and I was taken aback and excited, but he was just concerned and asked
how we were and how Sebi was and said it just dampened the mood on the camp overall,” Tim said.
The Mannings also sent a football signed by Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning.
“I didn’t expect them to send anything, so when I saw it, I was really surprised,” Sebi said.
It’s just an example of the overwhelming support for the Daltons.
“It made me realize more about how she helped other people and what she did,” Sebi said.
Their house is filled with love and yet, it still feels empty.
“She’s irreplaceable. Irreplaceable,” Tim told 9NEWS.
The woman who loved to give was taken.
Now so many that Mary Grace touched, are giving back to her family. A family that is suddenly in need.
Longmont sculptor carves Peyton Manning out of clay
By Isa Jones
Longmont Times-Call
July 15, 2015
Peyton Manning was sitting in the middle of Tim King's Longmont studio Tuesday afternoon.
Well, not Manning the record-setting Denver Broncos quarterback.
Rather, Manning the 300-pound sculpture.
The sculpture is a bust that has taken 200 pounds of clay and the last year and a half of King's life to
complete, all so it can be covered in chocolate.
King, who has been a professional sculptor for the past 15 years, is working on the bust for
Choctoberfest, an annual chocolate fair that will be taking place in September at the Omni Hotel in
Broomfield. Last January, the organizers went to a Longmont printing shop asking for a 3D printed
statue of Manning to be covered in chocolate and displayed at the fair. The shop recommend King, and
now there is just 20 hours of work left before the Manning bust is taken to get a rubber model and a
resin model made from the clay one. Come September, it will be turned into a chocolate Peyton
Manning.
A, sadly, unedible chocolate Peyton Manning.
At his studio on Tuesday, King was staring at a close-up photo of Manning's neck scar from his past
surgery, trying to figure out where to put in on the bust.
"There is a lot research about the subject matter," King said of his process. "A lot of planning, size, scale,
cost, time frame. Then it changes a lot."
King said he works with clay because it's flexible, allowing him to undo mistakes. He's done sculptures
like this before, but nothing this large, or extensive. While he does spend 30 to 40 hours a week on
sculptures, half of which are commissions, he still keeps a day job at IBM.
For the past few years he has taken to creating molds that are then cast in bronze, which he hopes to do
with Manning eventually, if someone is willing to pay about $55,000.
"It would be limited edition of five or less, extremely limited edition," King said. "That way it stays in the
fine art realm."
King said he sent the plans to Peyton's father Archie Manning, the Broncos and the PeyBack Foundation,
Manning's organization to help disadvantaged youth, so King isn't concerned about legal issues. But he is
making sure there's no NFL or Broncos insignias anywhere. King's Manning is helmet-less, in uniform,
preparing to throw a football.
The insignias would be the only details the bust is missing. Everything else is as detailed as can be, even
down to two middle fingers that are lifted off the football the bust is holding -- a move Manning himself
makes as he prepares a throw.
"I am making sure it has motion, some kind of spiral to it so it makes a person want to look at the back,"
King said.
The bottom of the sculpture is made up of books and contains little hidden messages that only a true
Peyton Manning fan would know like "1903," the address of Manning's high school.
"There's a lot of little hidden things, too," King said. "I would hope someone who is a huge fan would get
it or solve the puzzle."
The bust isn't based on one pose, but an idea based on looking through 500-plus photos. Everything is
researched extensively, even Manning's unique smirk, which, King found out, is because Manning had a
cleft-palette when he was a kid.
"What structures, what muscles does he have that causes that extra offset there?" King asked aloud
while getting a better look at the clay mouth. "There's all kinds of different things that if you don't do
the research, you don't know why a person acts like they do or looks like they do."
King is clearly passionate about his sculpting, enough to ask himself questions like that, at least. It's
those little details, like shining a flashlight over past work to smooth out little rough patches, that keeps
King interested in projects, especially ones of this magnitude.
"It is just about staying connected with it so it's just as exciting in the middle when you're doing all the
grunt work," he said.
Peyton, Eli Manning drop knowledge, and college QB
counselors soak it up
By Jarrett Bell
USA Today
July 13, 2015
Peyton Manning was clearly locked into the moment.
Settled on one knee in the middle of the field, with at least a dozen college quarterbacks forming an arc
behind him, he stared at the feet. And he was typically Peyton picky — no surprise there.
As the quarterbacks took turns throwing off five-step drops during a workout over the weekend,
Manning — maybe the most fundamentally sound quarterback in NFL history — operated with the
precision of a surveyor.
"A quick five!" he exhorted to one quarterback who was a bit slow with his set-up. "Your feet have got
to be moving!"
A few minutes later, Manning was on his feet, setting up another drill by positioning the receivers,
college players from the region who came for the session.
"Hey, let's flatten that angle a little more!" he said, as they began running slants. "Keep that head
around!"
Yeah, he coaches receivers, too.
While younger brother Eli worked with other players at the other end of the stadium at Nicholls State
University, which was Football Central for the 20th anniversary edition of the Manning Passing
Academy, Peyton was pretty much on full blast.
OK, he was never heard yelling "Omaha," but it felt like a real practice. He complimented the good and
grumbled when he saw poor form, crying out stuff like, "Off the plant (foot)!"
For the 37 college quarterbacks who accepted the invitation to work the camp as counselors, along with
dozens of high school and college coaches, this was the ultimate perk. Peyton's father, Archie Manning,
said he pays the college players about $700 for working the camp, and they also go home with a load of
athletic gear.
The bonus? Picking the brains of Super Bowl MVPs Peyton and Eli, with the 90-minute workout Friday
followed by an extensive Q&A session Saturday.
"They talk about any and everything," Archie said. "It's such a closed-door deal between them, that they
don't even let me in the room."
Each night during the camp, the Mannings threw a dinner bash for the staff. And every day, Peyton and
Eli shared a locker room with the quarterbacks.
As Peyton explained to USA TODAY Sports, the access is an essential hook to attract the college
quarterbacks to work the camp. The five-time NFL MVP wants to make it worth their while. What better
way to achieve that than to learn from one of the most decorated quarterbacks in league history and his
two-time Super Bowl-winning brother.
Last year, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were counselors. In previous years, Andrew Luck, Sam
Bradford and Matthew Stafford worked the camp.
"I'm soaking in as much information as possible," TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin told USA TODAY
Sports. "Anything they're willing to give off, I'm taking. I'm trying to be like a sponge."
Watching Boykin throw one strong, tight spiral after another during the workout — or "spin it," as the
oldest Manning brother, Cooper, called it — provided a glimpse of the talent that makes Boykin a
preseason Heisman Trophy candidate.
A camp counselor for the first time, Boykin mentioned several things for which he sought Peyton's
feedback: the three-step drop (specifically the first two steps), rhythm on the play-action pass and and
how to be fluid on throwing to his left.
"I want to know it all," Boykin said.
Meanwhile, another of the most impressive arms working the camp, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg,
was eager to talk to Peyton about fine-tuning his schedule. He wanted input for how to maximize his
days, given college restrictions such as going to class and a limit of how much time is spent with coaches.
"I wanted to find out about what he does on a weekly basis in terms of how he prepares, how he breaks
up his time, how he watches film and those types of things," Hackenberg told USA TODAY Sports.
He came to the right guy. Peyton's anal-retentive routine is legendary.
Hackenberg was recruited to Penn State by Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who formerly held the
same gig for the Nittany Lions and once was Tom Brady's position coach with the New England Patriots.
Hackenberg said his time with Manning over the weekend reminded him of what O'Brien used to say
about Brady's regimen.
"An awesome experience," Hackenberg, a first-time counselor, said as the camp wrapped up Sunday.
"Whatever it was, they (Peyton and Eli) were answering the questions honestly. It was great, just being
able to talk ball.
"I was already talking to them about next year," he added. "We'll see if they bring me back."
Seems like he's in the fraternity now.
"Quarterbacks kind of know what other quarterbacks are going through," Peyton said. "You have a
tough game, an injury — if anybody can relate, it's another quarterback who's been there before."
Peyton and Eli are likely contributing to the development of potential NFL quarterbacks, perhaps future
nemeses. Luck is the former counselor (and camper) who beat Peyton in the playoffs last season. Russell
Wilson is the former camper who beat Peyton in a Super Bowl.
But first things first. Peyton said he hopes his current crop of counselors left camp with a better
appreciation for techniques.
"That theory of 10,000 repetitions," he said. "I passed that a long time ago."
Now he wants to pass it along, too.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning recalls Hurricane Katrina
as 10-year anniversary approaches
By Julie Boudwin
NOLA.com
July 12, 2015
Everyone has a Hurricane Katrina story.
Where they were when the storm hit and the days after Aug. 29, 2005 -- even New Orleans native and
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who was with the Indianapolis Colts at the time the
hurricane barreled toward the Gulf Coast.
On Friday at Nicholls State University for the Manning Passing Academy, the veteran QB recalled his
Katrina experience as the 10-year anniversary is approaches.
"I can remember it very well, 10 years ago where I was and kind of what happened in the days after
that," he said. "We just finished a preseason game against Cincinnati and two days later I think Eli and I
were on a plane down here to deliver some supplies to some shelters in Baton Rouge and had a chance
to come into New Orleans with the Red Cross.
"When you're watching Fox News or whatever it is and you’re seeing a tragedy like what went on in
Charleston, recently, or you see what went on in Baltimore or Missouri and when you're not from there,
it's hard to identify with it. After watching Katrina ... I watch news with a different perspective now
because I know what that was like watching the aerial clips of what was going on to the town I grew up
in."
Manning said he and Broncos running back Montee Ball related to one another of tragedies that
occurred in their hometowns.
"Montee Ball was from right near Ferguson, Missouri and he was watching that and I said, 'Man, I can
relate to what you're going through because I saw that 10 years ago.' ... Being from here and being out
of town during that time is something that will always be with you," Manning said.
Peyton Manning says speed can be overrated, pokes fun
at his 40 times
By Nicki Jhabvala
DenverPost.com
July 11, 2015
You don’t always need speed. Just ask Peyton Manning.
The Broncos’ quarterback and surefire hall of famer is back in Louisiana this weekend for the 20th
annual Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State. During a question-and-answer session with the
campers Thursday, Peyton, a quarterback who isn’t exactly known for his blazing speed, was asked
about its importance at the position.
As if his career alone wasn’t enough proof, Peyton told the campers some tales from his high school
days to further emphasize his point, that speed isn’t vital if you can compensate in other areas.
According to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune, Peyton recounted the time he and Eli ran 40-yard
dashes at the Tulane Football Camp. Peyton, then a senior at Isidore Newman School and a Green Wave
recruit, said he was told he ran a 4.88-second 40.
“I’m pretty sure that was (then Tulane coach) Buddy Teevens just doing some good recruiting. I probably
ran about a 5.1,” Peyton said, jokingly. As for Eli, the youngest kid in the camp as a 7th-grader, well, he
ran a 6.2, according to Peyton. Still joking, obviously.
Peyton also told the campers of an earlier time in his high school career when he and Cooper, as well as
two brothers from nearby St. Martin’s School, worked with a speed coach. After a month, they were
timed in the 40 to see if they had made any progress.
“Cooper ran about a 4.75, which was great (since) he was playing receiver (at Newman),” Peyton said. “I
didn’t hear my time, but the guy from St. Martin’s, who was an offensive lineman, beat me in the 40,
and he ran a 5.8. I don’t know what I ran, but it was somewhere after that (time).”
At 20, Manning camp's influence on NFL is widespread
By Brett Martel
Associated Press
July 11, 2015
Archie Manning never really intended the football camp he founded two decades ago to become a
magnet for future NFL quarterbacks.
The former New Orleans Saints great and father of football stars Peyton and Eli Manning simply saw the
Manning Passing Academy as a way to get the family together and help typical high school quarterbacks
and receivers better enjoy their fall Friday nights. Yet today, the Mannings can rattle off a slew of former
campers or counselors who've become household names on Sundays.
Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have been there. So have Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Andrew
Luck, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles and Marcus Mariota — and that's just the start.
This weekend, Heisman Trophy hopefuls Dak Prescott of Mississippi State and Trevone Boykin of TCU
are part of the camp's 20th edition. They're among 37 college QBs who traveled to a land of vast sugar
cane fields, gently flowing bayous and towering, moss-draped cypress trees to serve as counselors to
1,200 campers.
The Mannings were pleased to welcome them to camp host Nicholls State, about 60 miles southwest of
New Orleans, as long as they remained mindful of the camp's primary purpose.
Everyone who chooses to play high school football "deserves to have a good experience," Archie
Manning preaches. Providing that, he stresses, is "all we want to do."
The Mannings avoid tracking the recruitment ratings or careers of their campers. Archie Manning, for
example, said he didn't realize Wilson had been a camper until the Seattle Seahawks' QB mentioned it
publicly, long after he'd risen to stardom.
"A lot of them, they get to the NFL and they say, 'Yeah, I was camper at the Manning Passing Academy,'
and we had no idea," said Eli Manning, who's entering his 12th season with the New York Giants. "We're
not keeping track or recruiting. They're coming in, they're working and we treat everybody the same."
This year, campers include the sons of Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Saints coach Sean
Payton. Payton's son, Connor, is an H-back, similar to a tight end. Both NFL coaches were there, mostly
as observers, although Payton was sitting in on meetings and was eager to get on the field.
"Sean's enthusiastic. He's all in," Manning said. "He's ready to jump out there and coach somebody."
When the Manning Passing Academy began in the summer of 1996, Archie Manning said he received
word that then-LSU coach Jerry DiNardo and then-Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill had suggested it
would be "nothing more than a recruiting camp" for Tennessee, where Peyton played at the time, and
Mississippi, where Archie spent his college career. Eli, who was in high school when the camp launched,
later played for Ole Miss as well.
"It's not about three-star, four-star, five-star players," Manning said. "That's not the mission and that's
not going to happen. We've never touched recruiting."
There is, however, an unwritten rule that current Ole Miss and Tennessee quarterbacks serve as
counselors, said Peyton Manning, who is entering his fourth season with the Denver Broncos after 14
years with Indianapolis.
This year, Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly showed up, as did Volunteers QB Josh Dobbs.
"I pull for Dobbs and obviously any insight that I can share with him or questions that he has, I'm glad to
answer," Peyton Manning said, also noting with a smirk that he tries not to share too much with the
Vols' Southeastern Conference rivals.
When high school players chat with the Mannings, they get tips on how to strengthen their arms, read
coverages, and develop leadership skills.
"In order to get people to follow you, you have to earn their respect," Peyton Manning tells them. "The
best way to earn their respect is maybe not necessarily by talking to them. It's by showing them. By
being the first one out there. By being the last one off the field, working hard, kind of earning that
platform."
To illustrate his point, Peyton Manning recalls his first offensive series at Tennessee, where he played as
a freshman.
"I kind of had this rah-rah speech: 'Let's go. I'm going to take you down the field and score,' and this guy
grabbed me by the shoulder and said, 'Hey, freshman, just shut the blank up and call the blanking play,'"
Peyton Manning said. "It taught me a good lesson that nobody really wants to hear what you have to say
until you've kind of earned their respect."
As the Mannings' stature has grown with record setting performances and Super Bowl triumphs, they've
received offers to move their camp. Disney courted them, as did another organization in Ohio, Archie
Manning said.
But Archie and his oldest son, Cooper, live in New Orleans, where all three Manning brothers grew up.
The brothers played high school football in Louisiana, "and that's where we want our camp," Archie
Manning said. "It's really the only time we get to spend four days together, the four of us."
For Eli and Peyton especially, the camp also provides a true taste of home. After flying to New Orleans
this week, they dined with their parents and older brother at Galatoire's, a 110-year-old Creole
restaurant on Bourbon Street where jackets are required and soft shell crab is on the menu this time of
year.
"That's a big part of why we still do it and are committed to it," Eli Manning said. "We know these four
days we're going to be hanging out."
In the process, they're influencing the future of football as well.
Peyton Manning will throw passes only to his son after
veteran QB retires
By Julie Boudwin
NOLA.com
July 11, 2015
Denver Broncos quarterback and New Orleans native Peyton Manning wanted to set the record straight
Friday at the 20th Manning Passing Academy. The future Hall of Famer said that once he does retire -which he didn't give a timetable on -- he will not throw a football unless it's in his own backyard with his
son.
So, for future Manning Passing Academy campers, don't expect to catch a ball from No. 18.
"I've enjoyed this camp these past 20 years because I've been a player during that whole time, once I'm
no longer a player I think my role will change a little bit. Put this on the record, I will not be throwing
anymore out there once I stop playing," Manning said. "I know there are some guys out there that don't
play anymore, but still throw, I've never quite understood that. I will not throw anymore unless I'm
playing with my son in the backyard.
"I've enjoyed being able to take a five-step drop and show a high school kid how to do it. To work out
with a college player and share any insight that I have is a different hat you wear as a current player and
so I think I've been a player for the entire 20 years of the camp has made my experience with the camp
even more special."
The Newman product added that he doesn't think about future jobs or what he'll do after he retires.
He's focused on his current job.
"I think you have to be all in on your current job," he said. "I used to hear guys in the locker room, as a
young player, talk about what they were going to do when they finish playing and I used to look at them
like your not doing your current job all that well. I'd like for you to block a little better, you dropped
about five balls last week, so maybe we can hone in on this current job a little more and leave that
business or that real estate deal you got to a later time.
"I'm all in on my current job trying to be the best that I can be and I still love the preparation part. I
really enjoyed that hour and a half workout session with Eli yesterday, it was hotter than fire on that
field, but I think as soon as you stop enjoying that anybody can parachute into an NFL stadium and play
a game and get excited for it, that's not hard to do. If you don't want to workout in July in Louisiana heat
... then you probably need to be doing something else. So I still enjoy doing that and feel fortunate to
still be doing that."
Young QBs learn from best at Manning camp
By Hugh Kellenberger
Jackson Clarion-Ledger
July 11, 2015
Leave it to the family with three NFL quarterbacks to put on a camp that makes everyone equal. In a
youth football culture where everything is about recruiting and you're only considered as good as your
star rating, the Manning Passing Academy is a throwback.
There are some really good high school quarterbacks here, but most of the best ones spent the weekend
across the country at Elite 11 and The Opening on Nike's campus in Beaverton, Oregon, including Ole
Miss commit and Louisiana resident Shea Patterson, who was named MVP of the former. Instead, the
hordes of young men with strong arms are the type that came to Nicholls State University to get better
— to become a more effective starting quarterback for their high school teams, become the starter or
just make the roster. No one is here to ask them who their finalists are, or to pose for the cameras.
"You're correcting them, fixing things, and then on Sunday they're doing it right and have confidence,"
Eli Manning said. "They've gotten better in these three days."
Long before he was Dak, Dak Prescott was one of those guys. He was a high school junior and Haughton
High School's new starting quarterback. Prescott traveled the 325 miles to this camp, and he speaks
glowingly of his experience. He's still in touch with all of his roommates, learned a lot about playing
quarterback and had a lot of fun along the way.
"I got a great experience," Prescott said.
And this is how things come full-circle, because Prescott is back for his second stint as a college
counselor. Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford were the big names his first year in 2009, and six years later
Prescott is that type of guy to these campers. You look around the room and there's Penn State's
Christian Hackenberg, Southern California's Cody Kessler and TCU's Trevone Boykin, among others.
"I remember how excited I was being a camper, to be coached by those type of guys and know that with
the position I'm in I have that much of an impact on these kids is a blessing and very humbling," Prescott
said.
It wasn't any of our Mississippi guys winning the QB challenge on Saturday. Ole Miss' Chad Kelly and
Jackson State's LaMontiez Ivy hit moving golf carts at 10 and 20 yards, but missed the deep (30-ish) one;
Prescott missed the last two. It was a deep and talented field, and some of these guys are going to be
the stars of Saturdays this fall. Some of them are going to be up for the Heisman. Maybe one plays for
the national championship. A handful have a chance to make millions in the NFL.
But the same equality that is the foundation of the camp extends to the college counselors, which is why
Ivy was in the group of 39 quarterbacks selected to participate. He's nowhere near the name of some of
these other guys, but he put up good stats in his first full year as the starter in 2014 (64 percent
completion rate, 7.6 yards per completion, 3,209 passing yards and 25 total touchdowns).
"There's only a selected few, and it's an honor," Ivy said.
And while Ivy is here to help with the kids, leading them through drills and has tasked himself to make
sure everyone is having a good time, there's a lot to gain for him when he comes back to Jackson.
"(Thursday) I was watching Peyton (Manning), and I learned that he was so detailed," Ivy said. "Every
little thing, every little foot (movement), he wanted it precise. His footwork, I'll be looking at that, too,
to try to mimic some of the things that he do and bring them into my game."
Just another weekend at the Manning Passing Academy, where reputation means nothing and everyone
learns a little something.
Football, not the future, is still what has Peyton
Manning’s full attention
By Ted Lewis
New Orleans Advocatge
July 10, 2015
Don’t ask Peyton Manning about his plans for life after football.
He’ll politely brush you off with a “I never think about those things.”
Yeah, right.
And especially don’t ask him what he believes his place in football history is.
“I don’t know,” he said Friday. “That’s deeper than I can think about right now. I’m just worried about
two-a-days here in Thibodaux, Louisiana.”
OK.
So let’s dwell on how, in his 20th year of participating in the Manning Passing Academy, the five-time
NFL MVP — the league’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (who is also on the verge of becoming the
yardage and completions leader), the only athlete invited to participate in both the “Saturday Night
Live” 40th anniversary show and David Letterman’s final show and the one who made a remarkable
recovery from the neck condition that threatened his career four years ago and is coming back for an
18th season when it again looked like he might be finished — can enthusiastically talk about how
stimulating for him it is to tell eighth-graders what they can do to be the best they can be.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re slow or not very strong,” he said. “Get in there and jump rope so at least
you’ll have good feet. And then put in a lot of time in the weight room. And always be learning, always
be asking questions.”
And that, said ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen, who was on hand Friday, is why Manning’s spot on the
Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks has been assured for years.
“Peyton believes in paying it forward, and he always has,” Mortensen said. “That means not just
investing in a camp like this, but investing in the college quarterbacks here, too. That’s because people
have invested in him. He’s a great ambassador for the game of football and will be for a long time
coming.”
Not surprisingly, the idea for the Manning Passing Academy was Peyton’s idea, one that came to him
when he worked as a counselor at Bobby Bowden’s camp during his college career at Tennessee.
Not only was it a chance to teach fundamental passing skills in Louisiana, which was then considered a
quarterbacking backwoods on the high school level, but it also was an opportunity for the Manning
brothers to spend four days together with their dad, something they might not get many chances to do
down the line.
Mind you, this was while Cooper was just beginning his business career and Eli was a freshman at
Newman.
And even now, Archie Manning says, with all he has going on in his life, Peyton annually suggests tweaks
for the camp while determinedly maintaining its core principles.
“A lot of these camps have turned into mini-combines that are all about recruiting and that don’t spend
much time on the freshmen and sophomores,” Peyton said. “We treat the freshman quarterback who
doesn’t have a good spiral the same as the hot shot. The goal is always the same: trying to help the
passing game.”
That also goes for helping the 40 college quarterbacks who work as counselors.
Peyton and Eli, along with visitors who this year include Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy, conduct Q&A
sessions with that group, giving them insight on what will be expected at the next level.
Maybe it’s no surprise that half of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL have passed through the
Manning Academy as either campers or counselors.
The family bonding counts, too.
On Friday, Peyton described the workout session with Eli from the day before — first in the weight
room, then throwing to Nicholls State receivers and running drills with the college QBs — as a special
time because it’s their only chance to do so each year.
There’s time with Cooper, too. Peyton wears No. 18 to honor his older brother, whose playing career
was cut short by a spinal condition.
At the Letterman finale, where tickets were impossible to obtain, Cooper was Peyton’s guest.
Peyton has long claimed that Cooper is Archie’s and Olivia’s favorite because they’re the ones who live
in New Orleans — meaning their three children (Red’s grandkids) are more accessible than Peyton’s
twins or Eli’s three children.
Which leads to questions about where Peyton will live once his playing career is over. Archie professes
not to know and, on Friday, Peyton said, “It’s hard to say. But New Orleans will always be part of my
life.”
Presently there is speculation that Gayle Benson will one day have to sell the Saints and/or Pelicans
because of the difficulty to fulfilling the irrevocable trust for Renee, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc. Peyton
would be a natural to put together an ownership group with himself as president, much as John Elway
now runs the Broncos.
“I’ve heard that story,” Archie said. “I know ownership is something he would enjoy. I know whatever he
does, he will attack it. Peyton has always handled his business well.”
And for this weekend, his business isn’t talking much about the upcoming season, whether it might be
his last or especially what might lie beyond.
It’s about the Manning Passing Academy.
“I meet people who are now in their 30s who were in our camp years ago, and they’ll tell me what a
good time they had and how much it helped them in their high school careers,” he said.
“That’s always a real bonus for me to hear.”
In 20th season, Manning Passing Academy thrives under
patriarch Archie
By Jarrett Bell
USA Today
July 9, 2015
Where's Archie Manning?
As 1,200 kids checked into the Manning Passing Academy on Thursday, kicking off the camp's 20th year,
one of the parents searched for the elusive patriarch of football's first family.
Archie, who suffered a generation ago as quarterback of the then-woeful New Orleans Saints, produced
two sons — Peyton and Eli — who have combined for three Super Bowl MVP awards.
Now maybe Archie will rub some of his post-career Manning magic on the campers.
Or maybe not.
When the camp started at Tulane University in 1996, Archie was a hands-on coach. But not now.
"I'm a golf cart guy now," Archie, 66, told USA TODAY Sports, owning up to age and tender knees. "I
spend most of my time riding around, talking to a lot of parents."
While he works the grounds as the high-profile greeter and head camper, the hands-on field work for
the non-contact skills camp is left to his sons, including eldest brother Cooper, a former college receiver,
and a battery of college and high school coaches headed by Dartmouth's Buddy Teevens. A robust list of
college quarterbacks, as usual, have signed on as counselors.
What a production this has become.
There's a slew of sponsors and the kids get a bag full of swag. Archie mentions an economic impact
study that determined the camp, now staged at Nicholls State University, generates a $2 million pop for
this part of Cajun country (about 60 miles from New Orleans), best known for its sugar cane fields and
alligators.
"We never thought it would grow into this," Archie said.
But it kept expanding, with kids expected from at least 46 states this year. It's a definitive statement
about what the Manning brand has meant for the development of quarterbacks.
A few years ago, Russell Wilson was one of the campers. Last year, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota
were counselors.
"It was Peyton's idea," Archie said, recalling the origins of the event.
When 185 kids attended the inaugural camp, Peyton was in the midst of his college career at Tennessee.
Yet Archie said his son, who in high school attended Bobby Bowden's camp at Samford University, was
inspired to establish something similar to raise the level of high school play in Louisiana.
"He wanted to help the quarterbacks," Archie said. "Nobody could pass the ball. You'd look in the paper,
and the stats for the losing team quarterback would be like 2-for-6."
Although some focus has shifted over the years to account for the evolution of spread offenses, Archie
says the thrust of the camp remains true to its origins. It's still about fundamentals, techniques and
mechanics.
Yet in an age in which quarterbacks have year-round tutors, don't confuse the Manning Academy as a
haven for elite talent. There's no requirement that a camper has to even play high school football to
attend. Jeff Hawkins, the camp administrator who, like Teevens, has worked in that role since the
beginning, estimates 10% of the campers go on to play college football.
"It's about enhancing and enjoying the high school experience," Archie said. "You hear about five-star
camps and all that. Well, this is a no-star camp."
With a schedule outlining the timing of the on-field sessions, seminars and other events over the four
days, it is apparent there has been much attention paid to details — no surprise to anyone who realizes
how Peyton operates. The same precision he brings to his NFL routine spills over to the camp, Archie
assures.
"Every year, Peyton suggests drills, or some tweak, or something with the timing," Archie said.
Conversely, considering the laid-back younger brother who was a camper the first two years, Archie
added, "I'm not sure that in 20 years Eli has ever given me a suggestion."
Plenty of people from the outside have approached the Mannings with ideas, including some with
purported cutting-edge training methods. Archie says that when he forwards the ideas to Peyton, the
response is pretty consistent.
"His mantra is, 'It's an effing football camp!' " Archie said.
It has been an operation with very few glitches over the years. In 2013, Johnny Manziel, who was serving
as a counselor, went AWOL one night and was dropped from his role.
And one time a camper couldn't be located after bed check. It was the only case, Archie said, when a
camper went missing. As it turned out, Archie recalled, the high school upperclassman — knowing his
car keys had to be relinquished upon registration — had brought along a second set.
The tension subsided when the camper returned after midnight — only to get a royal scolding from
Archie, who threatened to kick him out. The camper had sneaked out to visit his girlfriend.
"I told him, 'If you've got a third set of keys and decide to go and see her again, come and get me.
Because I want to see who is that important to you.' "
The next day, Archie said, the kid lived up to the "or else" challenge and enthusiastically led his group
during drills.
Guess the head Manning is still capable of hands-on coaching when required.
Peyton Manning voted No. 5 among NFL’s top 100
players in 2015
By Nicki Jhabvala
DenverPost.com
July 8, 2015
Here’s the thing about Peyton Manning: His “off” seasons are great seasons for most quarterbacks. And
his peers know it.
The 39-year-old Broncos quarterback was voted by his fellow NFL players as the fifth-best player in the
league last season, behind Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Patriots
quarterback Tom Brady and Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
Last season Manning completed 395 of 597 attempts (66.2 percent) for 4,727 yards, 15 interceptions
and 39 touchdowns. Against the 49ers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, he made history (again),
surpassing Brett Favre to become the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown leader with No. 509. He finished
the season with 530 career regular-season TDs.
But the second half of the season failed to match the first as he dealt with a quad injury, and the
Broncos struggled with its offensive line and began to rely more on its run game.
This is the downside of being Peyton Manning: The expectations are high — maybe too high.
In 2013, at age 37, he threw seven touchdowns in the Broncos’ season-opening victory over the Ravens.
He went on to set NFL single-season records with 55 passing touchdowns and 5,477 yards, and led the
Broncos to a record 606 points, a third consecutive AFC West title and a Super Bowl berth. Despite the
Broncos’ blowout loss to the Seahawks in the final game, Manning was voted as the best player in the
league.
In 2013, following his first season as a Bronco, Manning was voted No. 2 in the league. In 2012, after not
taking a single snap the previous season because of his neck surgeries, he was ranked No. 50. That’s
right: Manning doesn’t even need to play to be regarded as one of the best in the league.
And in 2011, the first year of the NFL’s top 100 and after his final active season as a Colt, Manning was
ranked No. 2.
This year, he joins Demaryius Thomas (No. 20), Von Miller (33), DeMarcus Ware (87) and Emmanuel
Sanders (95) as Broncos players in top 100.
Peyton Manning gives jersey sales a Western flair
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
July 8, 2015
If jersey sales were an election, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would carry a wide swath
in the western United States.
According to the Jersey Report, which tracked the best-selling NFL jerseys in each state for the 2014
season, Manning's No. 18 was the top seller in five states. Manning topped sales in Colorado, Wyoming,
Utah, Idaho and South Dakota this past season as the Broncos finished 12-4 before losing to the
Indianapolis Colts in the AFC's Divisional round of the playoffs.
Manning was one of 16 quarterbacks to lead at least one state in sales. Some of the quirkier ones along
the way: The Colts' Andrew Luck led Nevada in sales, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr led Montana in
sales -- Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler is a Montana native, but with just 30 career pass
attempts he doesn't have the résumé to crack his home state -- Cam Newton led Hawaii in sales and
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, a Texas native who played at Texas A&M, led Oklahoma in sales.
The MMQB 100: 6-10
By Peter King
MMQB.com
July 8, 2015
Editor’s note: This is part of our summer series, The MMQB 100, counting down the most influential
people for the 2015 season.
The story about the 10th-most influential person of the 2015 NFL season is not altogether a story about
NFL Competition Committee Co-Chairman Rich McKay. After all, it’s likely that anyone who has clicked
onto this story has already said: “Rich McKay? No. 10? The MMQB has lost its mind.”
Well, that last sentence might be fair. But McKay is No. 10 because he represents the biggest change to
football’s scoring system in the last 103 years. (In 1912, eight years before the birth of professional
football in the United States, the touchdown was changed from five to six points, a two-point safety was
added, and the field goal and point-after-touchdown were retained at three and one points,
respectively.)
McKay is the president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, but he’s on this list because of his role as the czar
of the Competition Committee, the rules-making body that status-quo seekers have been seething
about in recent years—this year, especially—because of the tinkering they’ve done. In recent years, the
committee has recommended, and gotten approval for, changes to overtime and the kickoff (moving it
up to decrease the number of kick returns). This offseason, they made the extra point a slightly more
challenging kick. League owners, cognizant of the 99.5% success rate on PATs over the past four
seasons, voted 30-2 in May to move the extra point line of scrimmage from the two- to the 15-yard line.
That will make the extra point a 32- or 33-yard kick (less of a gimme, but not much less). That will also,
league officials hope, spur more two-point-conversion tries. Last season, there were only 59 of those.
Now, this spring McKay was suspended from the Competition Committee because the Falcons were
found to have pumped in artificial crowd noise during home games. As the club CEO, McKay wasn’t
found to have any role in the crowd-noise issue, but commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him
because he was the club executive in charge of such things. It was a misleading suspension, seeing that
McKay was still allowed to lobby teams on Competition Committee business; he just had to do it strictly
as a Falcons executive. And with some explicatory and gentle arm-twisting by McKay and others on the
committee, there was enough movement by teams that had, for years, not supported the change to the
PAT.
The passage of this scoring rule (thanks to McKay’s mastery of the glacial movement of NFL rules
reform) is why McKay is on this list. (If there was any evidence McKay was involved in the crowd-noise
funny business, The MMQB would not have put him on this list.)
This is a nod to McKay’s influence in the rules-making process. This installment is going to be less about
one man than it is about the way a rule change so many in the league, particularly coaches, did not want
to see came about. How can a man who is not even on the Falcons’ football-operations side—McKay’s
charge from Atlanta owner Arthur Blank these days is to oversee the sale and the construction of the
team’s new open-air stadium in Atlanta—be so influential in the making of the rules of the game?
It’s because he’s a deft politician. And because he’s not afraid to push to change a rule, even if that rule
is 103 years old.
Amending a rule in a right-wing league like the NFL takes time. Patience and time. When McKay took
over as the co-chair of the committee from the late George Young in 1998, Young told McKay not to try
to force change. It just wouldn’t work. First, coaches don’t like to be told what to do, or what rules to
change, by executives. A couple of years ago, then-Jets coach Rex Ryan was adamant that he didn’t want
to change the overtime rules. While most of his peers eventually changed because the coin flip was
weighing too heavily on the outcome of games (nearly six in 10 overtime games in the 10 years prior to
the change were won on the first possession), Ryan didn’t. So the committee had to find coaches and
owners willing to change. In 2012, “modified overtime” became the rule for all games (it was a
postseason-only rule the previous two seasons), with each team getting at least one offensive
possession if the first possession didn’t end in a touchdown or safety.
The process to change overtime took four years. McKay was not surprised. Young told him long ago: Be
patient. Listen. Don’t be afraid of change, but don’t force anyone to adopt your way of thinking. Let
things marinate if you have to.
There’s no better example of letting things marinate than the extra-point debate. It took nine years of
Competition Committee jousting to change it.
***
It was in 2006 that committee member Mike Brown, the Bengals’ owner, suggested the league do away
with the automatic PAT and simply make a touchdown worth seven points. Brown, normally in the rightwing corner, did have a bit of his father’s (Paul Brown) imagination. But rules changes take 24 yes votes
from the league’s 32 owners to pass, and there was nothing close to that for several years after Brown’s
idea surfaced.
But with NFL kickers as accurate as Army Ranger sharpshooters, the move toward a PAT change began
to gain momentum. For the last two or three years, Goodell has pushed it. The committee thought there
was a chance in 2014, when the argument was advanced that, over the previous three seasons, one PAT
was missed every 44 games. In the league meeting that year, owners, meeting with the Competition
Committee, were asked, “Does anyone here think the extra point is a competitive play?” Not a single
owner or owner’s representative said it was. That was a turning point.
This year, though, the Competition Committee came to the league meetings in Arizona thinking it
couldn’t advance a proposal to get 24 votes. That’s when Goodell, on the Sunday night before the
meetings began, told the eight members of the committee, in effect: We’ve talked about this for years.
You know we can’t have a play that’s strictly ceremonial. You’ve got to figure out the best alternative to
make the play mean something.
McKay knew that pushing the extra point back 13 yards wouldn’t be revolutionary. Kickers made 95% of
their field-goal tries from 32- and 33-yards out over the past two seasons. He also knew owners and
coaches wouldn’t stand for the dissolution of the extra point. And by pushing it back to where it would
be a real challenge—say, line of scrimmage at the 27-yard line—the football establishment would have
rebelled and no rule change would have had a chance.
So, quietly, McKay pushed for a one-year trial. He knew that would soften the issue for those who
weren’t in favor of changing anything about the scoring system. But he also knew that it would make it
possible in 2016 (or 2017, after another one-year passage in 2016) to push the line back another five
yards. Or 10. The reality is, the league would like to see two years of data before making another change
in where the PAT is kicked from. But if the PAT succeeds at a 98% rate in 2015 with no major increase in
two-point tries, it’s not impossible that the line could get pushed back in 2016 (with the approval of 24
teams, of course).
That’s the key. Years of experience have taught McKay that fine-turning the PAT a little bit at a time is
what is needed.
What’s interesting about the resolution of this case, which could well have been controversial, is that it
was not controversial. When the measure came up for debate at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco
in May, it was discussed for about a half hour. Owners knew they’d make a change going into the
meeting. They just didn’t know how big a change they’d make. The Eagles wanted the two-point play to
be snapped from the one-yard line instead of the two-; that was a non-starter because of the risk of
injury to quarterbacks getting whacked by big linebackers on sneaks. The Patriots wanted to make it a
permanent rule, with no chance for defensive points to be scored on failed PAT or two-point tries. But
the owners liked the idea of the excitement of the defensive return (similar to the college rule) for
points, and liked the two-point try to be from two yards out.
The reason there was little debate is that the Competition Committee didn’t try to shove the rule down
the league’s throat. Goodell favored it and was forceful about it, but let the committee do its job. That’s
the way a democratic process should work, McKay knows, with some marination.
Two final points that McKay knew would be attractive to fans, and to some teams:
• There’s something good about more strategy in the game. Once foul weather comes into play in some
stadiums, and the wind is howling or the snow is coming down, coaches are going to have some
decisions to make. Let’s say it’s Week 17 at Lambeau Field, Jan. 2. A 23-mph wind blows across the field,
and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has to make a call after a fourth-quarter touchdown brings his team to
within 28-20. Send Blair Walsh out to try a 33-yard PAT through the wind? Or spread the field with four
wides and Adrian Peterson set behind Teddy Bridgewater and go for two? Now the coach has a decision
to make—and there’s more intrigue in the game.
• Rosters could have some intrigue too. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is likely to have the moderately
athletic Joe Flacco and a statue, Matt Schaub, as his quarterbacks. Tom Coughlin could keep two pocket
passers, Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib. Would the Ravens or Giants be tempted to keep a third
quarterback and 53rd man on the roster to be either the permanent or occasional two-point-conversion
pilot? Will any team do that? I asked one coach who hates the new rule—he doesn’t like to have
another decision to make, particularly one that might cost him a game—and he said that as much as he
doesn’t want this rule to impact his roster, he’d consider keeping a mobile third quarterback if his first
two were not movement players.
So Rich McKay and his committee have given coaches, GMs and fans something to think about, and he
did it by changing a rule that many of us never thought would change. That’s why he cracked our top 10.
10. Rich McKay, Co-Chairman, NFL Competition Committee
It had been more than a century since there was a major alteration to football’s scoring system. So when
Rich McKay and the Competition Committee convinced the owners to change the extra point, it was no
small feat. Nor was it an easy process. FULL STORY
***
9. Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Last year, Peyton Manning had a terrific regular season that was overshadowed by an ugly playoff exit.
Also, the U.S. government collected taxes in mid-April, no mail was delivered on Labor Day and
Thanksgiving took place on the fourth Thursday in November. Business as usual.
It’s from this that Manning is often described as “the greatest regular season quarterback of all time.”
This, of course, is a subtly brutal backhanded compliment—like the person you’re in love with telling you
what an amazing friend you are.
As much as Manning hates the backhandedness—and he does hate it—in a way, it’s a testament to the
level of respect people have for him. We regard Drew Brees as a future Hall of Famer without caring that
he’s only been to one Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers also has only one Super Bowl ring. So does Brett Favre.
And Kurt Warner. And Joe Namath. And Steve Young (as a starter).
The closer it’s scrutinized, the more ridiculous the disparagements of winning “only one Super Bowl”
becomes. Deep down, we know Super Bowls aren’t the end-all, be-all. (Need proof? How many
arguments have you heard for Eli being the best quarterback in the Manning family?) But for some
reason, any postseason that ultimately ends in a loss is chalked up as a Manning choke job, even though
the postseason ends in a loss for all but one quarterback every year. And some HOF and future HOF
quarterbacks have had years when they didn’t even reach the postseason. (Hey, there’s an idea for
Manning. After all, a QB can’t choke if he has nothing to chew on.)
Last year’s loss to the Colts was the latest postseason “choke.” Manning played poorly that afternoon.
So did his receivers, who suddenly forgot how to separate from man coverage. And so did his offensive
linemen, who incurred a handful of costly brain farts. But instead of examining that, it’s easier to
examine Manning’s age—38 at the time—and decree that Father Time has him on the ropes.
Fortunately, John Elway, current Broncos GM and another quarterback who, until the last two years of
his career, lived under the unfair burden of near-impossible postseason standards, didn’t hit the panic
button in regards to Manning. Obviously, Elway felt the Broncos underachieved in 2014. Otherwise he
wouldn’t have fired the coaching staff and hired new head man Gary Kubiak, who is expected to
eventually overhaul the offensive scheme. But Elway never considered dumping Manning. He did
convince the 18-year vet to defer $4 million of his $19 million salary into incentives based on playoff
victories. But for a mega millionaire QB, this was like spotting the club a twenty.
As Super Bowl chances go, the ’15 Broncos appear to be the least equipped of Manning’s four Broncos
clubs. The defense is loaded, sure, but the offense has been decimated by free agency (TE Julius
Thomas, G Orlando Franklin) and, already, injuries (LT Ryan Clady’s ACL). And it remains to be seen what
kind of adjustments will need to take place in Kubiak’s system.
Typically, older quarterbacks hate system adjustments. A big reason Brett Favre kept playing was he
kept finding coaches who ran a familiar West Coast offense that he hardly had to study or practice.
But study and practice comprise the coals of Manning’s fire. He has already said he’s “stimulated” by the
changes under Kubiak. That’s not a surprise, but to Broncos fans, it must be at least a little bit of a relief.
The only chance Denver’s decimated offense has is if Manning is at or around his usual level.
This alone justifies Manning’s position on our list. An entire NFL franchise hangs in his balance. Take
Manning off the Broncos and you have a .500 caliber team hoping to finagle a Wild-Card spot. With
Manning they remain heavy favorites in the AFC West.
Manning can’t do it alone, of course. (If he could, there’d be no postseason failures to debate.) This
season, he will rely on a running game and sound defense more than ever. But this speaks to how the
Broncos are built, not how Manning himself is built.
Granted, at 39, Manning’s arm strength is not what it was. And because of that, there might be two or
three throws each game he can no longer attempt. But we’re talking about an element—arm strength—
that has always been a mere sliver of Manning’s skill set. The bulk of his game—accuracy, passing
anticipation, reading defenses—still remains. These elements might even be stronger than ever, given
the amendments Manning has had to make because of the declining arm strength.
And so the usual burden of expectation still hangs over Manning: Super Bowl title or bust. Quarterbacks
leading far less talented teams have hoisted a Lombardi Trophy before. And certainly far less talented
quarterbacks than Manning have. This, of course, is the Manning haters’ Exhibit A. Illogical as it may be,
it’s part of the perception. And perception truly is reality when it comes to a man’s legacy (for what is a
legacy besides collective perceptions?). This season, a playoff exit for Manning, regardless of what
round, will add to the haters’ Exhibit A. Another Super Bowl title, on the other hand, would vanish it
altogether.
—Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit)
***
8. Stan Kroenke, Owner, St. Louis Rams
Ross D. Franklin/APOn the last Sunday of May, a few minutes after 6 a.m., an explosion of dynamite
pierced the thick smog and rumbled throughout Inglewood. The Hollywood Park grandstands, the last
remnants of an iconic track, crumbled. Horse racing fans across the country mourned, reminiscing on
the glamorous past. Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew raced there; stars like Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor
and Alfred Hitchcock used to mingle among the masses. All lasting evidence had vanished, now rubble in
a mostly deserted parking lot.
And yet, 75 people lined the fence to watch. Many of them clapped. They took cell phone videos and
cheered, as if they were at a rock show. “As sad as it was for some,” says Tom Bateman, who drove up
from Anaheim for the occasion, “it was a great day for us. It was the first real evidence that football is
finally returning to Los Angeles.”
Bateman, director of Bring Back the Rams, a fan club in Southern California, is right: St. Louis Rams
owner Stan Kroenke has plans to build a futuristic, 80,000-seat stadium here, and bring his team back to
the city the NFL abandoned 20 years ago. On a clean lot, construction can now begin.
Though the Chargers and Raiders have eyed a joint stadium in Carson (presumably as leverage to secure
new deals in their respective cities) it is Kroenke who commands the most realistic opportunity for the
NFL’s return to the City of Angels. The Rams have not reached an agreement with St. Louis officials to
make improvements to the outdated Edward Jones Dome, and the team has an opt-out clause if no deal
is made. Kroenke, a billionaire and real estate mogul, bought 60-acres of land in Inglewood and
partnered with the neighboring developer to secure nearly 300 acres of prime stadium-building space.
Kroenke has the means, the blueprint and most importantly, the momentum as owners convene for a
special meeting in Chicago on Aug. 11 to discuss if a team (or teams) can relocate. Discussions at the
session should dictate the plan going forward, as the Rams can officially apply for relocation in the
coming months.
Rumors and fleeting attempts to bring an NFL team back to Los Angeles have waxed and waned over the
last two decades. Under Kroenke’s watch, there is now concrete proof that something tangible is in the
works.
—Emily Kaplan (@EmilyMKaplan)
***
7. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
Jeff Haynes for Sports IllustratedMy first contact with Aaron Rodgers was 10 years ago when I called to
rescue him from perhaps the longest wait of his life… but first I had to make him wait a bit longer. After
he sat for more than five hours, waiting for his name to be called in the 2005 NFL draft (one in which
many projected he would be the top pick), he answered the call I was placing for his agent.
In the Packers War Room that day, we watched all our first-round graded players get taken except for
one: Rodgers. About two minutes into being “on the clock” (the time was 15 minutes then) general
manager Ted Thompson looked over at me and said to get Mike Sullivan—Aaron’s agent and someone I
knew well (he’s now the team negotiator for the Broncos)—on the phone and tell him we might be
taking Aaron. (We had to allow for the phone to ring with an offer we couldn’t refuse.) I dialed the
number that I had for Mike and, before the first ring was complete, I heard a terse “Hello!” that didn’t
sound like Mike.
“Mike?” I asked.
“No, this is Aaron.”
I felt terrible, but could not yet tell him.
“Aaron, it’s Andrew Brandt from the Green Bay Packers. Can I talk to Mike?”
I then watched on television as Aaron handed the phone to Mike, beginning an excruciating (more for
Aaron and Mike) 10-minute wait until Ted gave me the go-ahead to tell Mike that we were, indeed,
picking Aaron despite having the most durable quarterback in NFL history, Brett Favre, on our team.
I will never forget our first minicamp practice after Aaron was drafted. After nimbly handling play-action,
he moved effortlessly to his right and … vroom, threw a 50-yard rope to Donald Driver, hitting him in
stride. I locked eyes with Ted and saw as expressive a look as his stoic presence would allow, Yup, we’re
set.
Aaron immediately became a favorite of many of us in the front office. On the field, his arm strength,
mobility and ability to read defenses were evident throughout practices and offseason work. With Brett
spending the vast majority of offseasons in Mississippi, Aaron would basically run the offense from
March through July. We also saw natural leadership skills and an innate ability not to take things too
seriously, a California cool, which would serve him well later during his transition to the starting job in
2008.
Now approaching the 2015 season, he may be the most important player on any team. The Packers are
certainly a well-constructed team, but Aaron’s (healthy) presence makes them Super Bowl contenders.
Indeed, as excruciating a loss last year’s NFC Championship was, one can only wonder whether the
Seahawks could have managed that epic comeback were Rodgers not compromised with an injured calf
muscle. While that is something we will never know, it is beyond debate that a healthy Rodgers puts a
talented Packers team among the few legitimate NFL championship contenders.
—Andrew Brandt (@ADBrandt)
***
6. Jerry Jones, Owner, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Gutierrez/APThe Cowboys wanted to sign La’el Collins, so Jerry Jones did what only Jerry Jones can
do. He invited the LSU offensive tackle—the first-round talent who had gone undrafted because of a link
to a double homicide investigation (he was cleared after the draft)—to his iron-gated, gilded Texas
mansion. They served shrimp, steak and the oil magnate’s very best sales pitch. The next day, Jones was
introducing Collins at a press conference at Valley Ranch, tearing up as he recounted something the
rookie’s mother had told him at dinner the night before.
Yes, he’s still got it.
Jones is perennially one of the NFL’s most fascinating figures. In part because he owns America’s Team;
in larger part because he does business with the subtlety of that spaceship of a stadium he built outside
Dallas. But it has been 20 years since the Cowboys won a championship, and there have been some
signs in recent years that Jerry has been held back from being Jerry. One notable example: His son,
Stephen Jones, talked him out of drafting Johnny Manziel with the 16th pick of the 2014 NFL draft. They
instead chose offensive lineman Zack Martin, who earned All-Pro honors as a rookie.
This offseason, though, the Cowboys have reshaped their roster with their stereotypical boldness. They
made the controversial move to bring in Greg Hardy, the talented pass rusher who was issued a 10game suspension after an alleged incident of domestic violence involving his ex-girlfriend last year. They
went after Collins and took a draft-day chance other teams wouldn’t when they selected Nebraska pass
rusher Randy Gregory, a top-10 talent who slid to the second round. Last year’s gamble on Rolando
McClain paid off, but the linebacker (now on his third or fourth chance) just received a four-game
suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Not to mention, they let running back
DeMarco Murray go in free agency, and star receiver Dez Bryant is reportedly considering holding out
during the regular season if he doesn’t get a long-term contract.
Like most things with the Cowboys, this can only go one of two ways: All the gambles pay off and, just
like the ’90s Cowboys, the payoff is huge; or, another tumultuous year in Jerry World.
—Jenny Vrentas (@JennyVrentas)
In rare interview, Tom Condon, super agent for Peyton
and Eli Manning, gives exclusive look into his world
By Ralph Vacciano
New York Daily News
June 27, 2015
Tom Condon was about to go to the biggest meeting of his life, and he couldn’t find his pants.
He was sure he picked them up from the dry cleaner before he left for New Orleans on that weekend in
1997. But as Condon was getting ready to meet with Archie Manning, who had just begun screening
agents for his superstar son Peyton, all he saw under his dress shirt and jacket was an empty hanger.
Condon was Archie’s shortlist, along with some of the biggest names in the business — agents such as
Leigh Steinberg and Marvin Demoff, who at the time seemed to have a monopoly on the NFL’s top
quarterbacks and stars.
Condon had a plan to win the Mannings over. But first, he needed to find pants.
“I was supposed to meet him at 9 or 10 o’clock,” Condon recalls in a recent rare and exclusive interview
with the Daily News. “So I end up running around that morning, trying to find some dress pants
somewhere. Of course, nothing was open.”
“We had gotten a suite at a hotel for a couple of days and Tom was going to be the first one we met
with,” Archie Manning adds. “And he knocked on the door and he was standing there and he had on a
pinstripe suit coat, shirt, tie . . . and blue jeans.”
Condon had already represented a couple of first-round quarterbacks, but he knew a “generational
player” such as Peyton Manning would do things for his career that the likes of Todd Marinovich and
Heath Shuler never could.
“He changed the landscape for me,” Condon says. “I knew after that everything would be different.”
If only he could get beyond the curious and amused look on Archie’s face when he opened the door that
morning and saw the man he was considering entrusting his son’s future wearing jeans.
***
Nearly a quarter century earlier, long before Peyton or Eli Manning was born, Condon was a relatively
anonymous offensive lineman, a 10th-round pick out of Boston College, drafted by the Kansas City
Chiefs in 1974. In a business where no one but the owners got rich at the time, he never imagined that
someday he would become one of the most powerful agents in sports.
The Chiefs offered Condon a $14,000 non-guaranteed salary and a $2,000 signing bonus as a rookie — a
deal they assumed he would take without a fuss. So imagine their surprise when Condon told Hall of
Fame-bound coach, Hank Stram, “Thanks, but no.”
“(Stram) told me ‘We’ve never had a 10th-round draft choice make this football team,’” Condon
recalled. “He said ‘I just offered you $2,000 for a summer job.’”
Even Condon’s father — a lawyer from Ansonia, Conn., whom Condon said “did everything, divorces,
murders, real estate closings” — thought he was crazy. But Condon had a $30,000 offer from the Boston
Bulls of the brand new — and soon-to-be short-lived — World Football League, so he told Stram he
planned to take the WFL’s money. He would have too, had Stram not stopped him in his tracks and said
“How much is it going to take?”
“I wasn’t prepared for it,” Condon said. “I didn’t have any idea. So I just said, ‘Well, $10,000 for the
signing bonus.’ He said ‘How much for the salary?’ I said ‘18’ and he said ‘Done.’
“Then I said ‘I meant 20.’”
He settled for the $18,000 in the first of what would be many years of tough, but inevitably fair
negotiations during his startling rise to the top of his profession. These days, Condon, in his partnership
with Creative Artists Agency, oversees a star-studded list of NFL clients that includes seven starting
quarterbacks — including both Manning brothers — and defensive stars such as Carolina linebacker
Luke Kuechly and Houston defensive end J.J. Watt. He had 25 players make the Pro Bowl in 2015. And in
a league with a restrictive salary cap, where only the best get big guarantees, he has negotiated 49
contracts with at least $30 million in guaranteed money — 11 that had guarantees of $50 million or
more.
That includes the five-year, $96 million contract he got for Peyton Manning in 2012, when he was
coming back from a series of neck surgeries, and a five-year, $103.75 million deal for Atlanta
quarterback Matt Ryan months after he won his first (and still only) playoff game. Soon he’s expected to
begin negotiations on a new deal for Eli Manning, which could be the second $100 million contract he
gets from the Giants in his career.
As Condon, 62, breezed through Manhattan for an overnight stop on a five-city spring football tour
earlier this month, he sat at a hotel restaurant for a two-hour interview — not easy for a man who for
nearly 30 years has somehow avoided making a spectacle of himself in a business filled with wannabe
Jerry Maguires. Condon has amassed a personal fortune, but isn’t flashy. He’s a star in his business, but
shuns the spotlight.
At one point during the interview, he even poked his head up from his salad, looked at his 28-year-old
son, Tom Jr. — the heir to his agent empire — and asks, “Am I sounding like a horrible braggart here
son?”
Bragging isn’t his style. Condon works for the biggest, glitziest agency in the business, yet he chose a
spartan building in Nashville over their sparkling Hollywood office. Even when he goes to see his clients’
games he mostly avoids the luxury boxes or sideline passes and buys his own ticket and sits in the
stands.
Because to Condon, his clients are the stars. His job is to quietly protect them. And if that sounds like a
familiar job description, it’s because it’s one he learned for years playing along the offensive line.
***
Condon toughed out a 12-year career in the NFL, mostly with the Chiefs, before a torn hamstring ended
his career in 1985. Years earlier he began going to law school in his offseasons. He eventually became his
team’s player rep, although not just because he was a lawyer. “It was always a tough guy on the team
who was the player rep,” Condon said, “because in those days, literally, the player rep’s main
responsibility was to go from player to player and have them write a check.”
He was eventually elected to the NFL Players Association’s executive board, which allowed him to
become close to the late Gene Upshaw, then the union’s president. And in 1982, he got a huge lesson in
the business of football when that position put him inside the negotiations during that year’s players’
strike.
“Although unpleasant circumstances,” Condon said, “nevertheless pretty darn good experience.”
That experience was a huge help when he jumped into the agent business, first with Baltimore-based
agent Tony Agnone, and later with former teammate Kendall Kremer. Kremer owned “Fuzzy’s,” — after
his nickname and what Condon called “the most popular sports bar in America” — where Condon held
Chiefs team meetings “because that was the only place I could be assured the fellas would show up.”
And when he was recruiting players in his early agent years, he’d swing by Fuzzy’s where Kremer would
wow prospective clients with “bar tricks and jokes.”
So at time when he was trying to stay on his financial feet after a series of bad investments, Condon
convinced Kremer to join him in the agent business. Then together they came up with an idea that
revolutionized the NFL.
“We were trying to figure out ‘How do we differentiate ourselves? We don’t have a big facility. We can’t
hire a huge staff,’” Condon recalls. “But we’d go to the combine and none of the kids knew how to do
any of the drills. So without exaggeration, in the beginning, Fuzz and I were in the halls the night before
the combine doing the short shuttle with the kids — not just our guys, anybody that was around.
“Then we realized ‘If they were going to have a Pro Day and individual workouts, then shouldn’t they
prepare for it?”
Nowadays, of course, there are combine training programs all over the country. But it was that idea that
landed him with the powerhouse firm IMG. He also tried to convince IMG to invest money in marketing
his players — another revolutionary idea at the time. “But they said ‘We can’t make any money on
that,’” Condon says. “I said ‘Yeah we can.’ They said ‘They have helmets on. You can’t see their face, so
nobody knows who they are.’
“What we didn’t know was that when we started getting the quarterbacks, they did start making a lot of
money. It was a completely different deal.”
The quarterbacks changed everything. His first was Marinovich, the infamous “Robo QB” whose father
had been grooming him to be an NFL QB from a very young age. The Marinoviches were sold on the idea
of preparation, and Condon even hired veteran NFL receivers to work with Todd before his Pro Day. “He
had a fantastic Pro Day,” Condon says. “And afterwards he runs up into the stands and wishes Al Davis a
Happy Birthday.”
Davis’ Raiders drafted Marinovich 24th overall in 1991.
Things kept building from there. Condon’s success with Marinovich helped him land Shuler, the
Tennessee quarterback drafted third overall by Washington in 1994. As more of his clients were drafted
higher than expected, other top-tier clients followed. And while other agents were writing books or
making TV appearances, Condon was letting his track record speak for itself.
“Let’s face it, if you bring 100 agents into the room and ask them all ‘Are they trustworthy guys? Are
they the best?’ you get 100 same answers,” Condon says. “So I’d say things like ‘Other people have
trusted me in the past. Judge the results for yourself.’”
***
That strategy made for an easy sales pitch to Eli Manning in 2004, but luring Peyton wasn’t as simple.
Once Condon explained his inappropriate attire to Archie (“He talked his way out of that one,” Archie
says), he knew he still needed something to separate himself from the rest of the star-studded agent
pack. So at that first meeting, Condon leaned on his knowledge of the draft process — and how to
manipulate it.
At the time, Peyton was a junior, still wrestling with whether he should return for his senior year at
Tennessee or declare for the ‘97 draft and likely get picked first overall by the Jets. But Condon
presented him with another option. Since Peyton had already graduated, he was eligible for the
supplemental draft. That not only bought him extra time to make his agonizing decision, it also could’ve
put him in position to better dictate where in the NFL he’d play.
“That was really beneficial to Peyton — and (Condon) wasn’t Peyton’s agent at the time,” Archie recalls.
“No one else told me that. Tom just volunteered that to me.”
Eventually, Peyton returned for his senior season, after which he hired Condon and was then drafted
first overall in 1998 by the Indianapolis Colts. That put Condon on the Mt. Rushmore of NFL agents,
where he was six years later when he helped Eli engineer the draft-day power play that led to his trade
to New York.
Along the way, his client list grew, and the bigger he got, the pickier he could be. He now focuses on
quarterbacks, receivers, tackles, cornerbacks and pass rushers — the most important (and most highlypaid) players in an increasingly pass-happy league. He prefers “great-character, intelligent, stand-up
guys” too, though he’s not afraid to take “some guys (like Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant) who
might have a reputation that sometimes I think isn’t well-deserved.”
His client list helped him forge a new partnership with CAA when he left IMG in 2006. And that led to a
CAA partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, which helped lure clients like Giants receiver Victor Cruz. Those
alliances also opened doors to movie premieres, concerts, the video game industry and many more
things that keep his clients happy. Because, Condon says, the one thing that has never changed in his
business is that “players are attracted to getting free stuff. It doesn’t make any difference how much
money they have, if there’s some free stuff, they want it.”
Meanwhile, what Condon wants most is to do his job quietly and in relative anonymity, to “work hard,
do your best and compete well enough that you have a chance to come out on top and reward their
trust.”
He laughs when told he sounds just like an offensive lineman, the opposite of the modern image of an
agent. As Condon sees it, he’s just doing the grunt work for the men behind him — and it’s fine if they
get most of the credit, too.
“Let’s face it,” Condon said. “You’re a lot better negotiator if you’ve got a really good player.”
Peyton Manning sends birthday gift to family of young
fan killed by drunk driver
By Nicki Jhabvala
DenverPost com
June 25, 2015
Peyton Manning has a long history of quietly interacting with his fans, sending letters or autographed
memorabilia to strangers who have for years rooted for him from the stands or from the comfort of
their couch.
The latest kind gesture by the Broncos’ quarterback: a birthday gift to the family of one of his fans in
Indiana who was killed earlier this year by a drunk driver.
Logan Brown, 15, was killed in March after a collision with another man whose blood-alcohol content
was four times the legal limit. Brown’s grandmother, Gayle Ricketts, penned a letter to Manning to
share Logan’s story and to tell Manning how much her grandson followed him and how big of a role
Manning played in his life.
On Tuesday, which would have been Logan’s 16th birthday, Manning mailed a handwritten letter and a
signed photo of himself with the Denver Broncos’ logo and the message “In memory of Logan Allen
Brown,” according to a report by 14 News in Evansville, Ind..
Logan’s father, Charles, said the gift from Manning has been inspirational.
“To take the time to send something back to a situation in Evansville, Indiana, that he probably doesn’t
know anything about,” he said. “It’s important to see that they’re humans and for these other kids to
see you never forget where you come from.”
This isn’t the first kind gesture by Manning.
Late last year Manning had sent a signed Colts jersey and handwritten letter to a woman in Indiana who
lost her husband before their first child was born. The woman named her son Peyton, because the
husband was devoted Manning fan from his days with the Colts.
And in January, he sent a personal note and autographed jersey to the man whose wife and children
were killed in a Maryland plane crash.
Teen killed by drunk driver receives birthday gift from
Peyton Manning
By Natalie Russell
WFIE News
June 24, 2015
Tuesday would have been Logan Brown's 16th birthday.
The family received a gift that Logan would have considered-a gift of a lifetime.
Peyton Manning sent the family a handwritten letter and an autographed picture. Manning was one of
Logan's favorite football players.
His grandma, Gayle Ricketts, decided she would write a letter directly to Peyton sharing Logan's story.
Logan was killed in March at the hands of a drunk driver.
"As a grandmother I felt like I should let Peyton know this young man idolized him and what he meant in
his life," Ricketts said.
It was a birthday surprise the family didn't expect.
"It blew me away,” Ricketts told us. “I called Charles when the letter came. I didn't even open it. I called
Charles to come over. I said the Broncos answered me.”
Peyton sent an autographed picture and a hand written letter. He told the family he was honored Logan
was such a big fan.
"When he was little we took him to a football game,” Ricketts said. “That's when he first really liked
Peyton and then when Peyton moved to the Broncos, he kind of deserted the Colts.”
Logan stayed a loyal fan of Peyton's. The family planned to take Logan to a Broncos game, but that day
never came.
Logan's dad, Charles, says this gesture from Peyton is more than just a birthday gift, it's inspirational.
"To take the time to send something back to a situation in Evansville, Indiana that he probably doesn't
know anything about,” Brown said. “It's important to see that they're humans and for these other kids
to see you never forget where you come from.”
Family members say this gift is one gift he really would have cherished.
"And I know Logan is up there looking down. He's smiling. I think he will be happy," Ricketts said.
Peyton Manning awards scholarships to select students
By Ben Swanson
DenverBroncos.com
June 22, 2015
Peyton Manning's Scholarship Endowment granted scholarship packages to four incoming University of
Tennessee first-year students on Monday.
"We are grateful for the opportunities we have had to give the gift of an education to deserving UT
students every year through the scholarship program," Manning told UTSports.com. "It means a great
deal to us to give young people an edge in maximizing their potential. This scholarship program and its
recipients have developed into a family, and witnessing the growth and successes of these students
academically, personally, and ultimately as professionals in the workforce has made this one of our most
rewarding endeavors."
Manning made a $3 million leadership contribution to Tennessee to the scholarship endowment and the
school's football program back in April. The scholarship program began in 1998 and provides a four-year
scholarship to first-year students exemplifying academic achievement, leaderhsip and community
service and participating in the honors program at Tennessee.
Manning, along with Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek and Provost Susan Martin, met with the four students
and their families for a ceremony commemorating their achievements.
Paige: Manning far from finished at age 39
By Woody Paige
DenverPost.com
June 13, 2015
Will Peyton Manning become the first two-time recipient of the NFL's comeback player of the year
award, and MVP for a sixth season?
Will Peyton go to his fourth Super Bowl and win his second?
Will this be the last roundup for the all-in Broncos quarterback?
Too old?
National media skeptics, local naysayers and even scores of doubting Thomases (Julius Thomas and
Demaryius Thomas?) don't believe in the Manning Mystique, Magic and Miracle Show anymore.
Has-been?
Peyton no longer is considered the first-, second-, fourth- or sixth-best quarterback in professional
football.
One ranking places Manning at ninth; another dropped him to seventh; and NFL.com has Peyton at
eighth, just above two other quarterbacks in the division — Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. Alex Smith in
the same area? Don't tell me Derek Carr is seventh.
Washed up?
Manning no longer is a fantasy player's dream or an opposing linebacker's nightmare, they say. He can't
do it at 39. Nobody's won the ultimate game at that age. Of course, Brett Favre, the man Manning is
chasing for most quarterback victories and passing yardage, came within a breath of getting to the Super
Bowl when he was 40, and his (then) Minnesota Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints, who won the
Super Bowl over a much younger Manning.
Injury and insult?
Pessimistic people point to the last eight games and claim Manning's skills had diminished. The Broncos
were 5-2 in their last seven regular-season games, and Manning was playing the first round with a totally
revamped offense that was changed on the run and for the run. He was playing the final four (including
the playoff loss to Indianapolis) with a damaged quadriceps muscle. He had problems planting his right
foot on passes, and was hobbled on his weakened leg (which is why he didn't run in the open field in the
playoff game).
And the performance by Manning against the Colts was as grim as his effort in the Super Bowl loss to
Seattle.
Finished?
Manning owns an 18-1 record against the Raiders, the Chiefs and the Chargers (including one playoff
victory). He has prevailed in more than three-quarters of his games with the Broncos. They have won
12,13 and 15 games.
Yes, but 2-3 in the postseason?
But what if Tim Tebow, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler or Jay Cutler had been the quarterback the
past three seasons? Do the cynics really want to return to those inglorious days?
Will he be able to adjust?
Manning can't play in Gary Kubiak's system, it is declared.
Despite what he says facetiously, Manning could have played in the Delaware Blue Hen winged-T, or the
Oklahoma wisbone triple option, and he certainly can adjust to Kubiak's updated version of the West
Coast offense. In 2005, for instance, Manning threw a career-low 453 times (completing 305) and took a
majority of his snaps under center as running back Edgerrin James rushed for 1,560 yards.
It's very possible that Manning will complete more than 70 percent of his pass attempts in 2015.
At the end of his career, when he was past 35, John Elway was under center and contained, because of
the presence of Terrell Davis. The Broncos won consecutive Super Bowls (and should have won another
in the 1996 season).
Peyton is healthy and wealthy, and he's "committed" to adjust and modify, bend and amend. He came
back because of the way last season ended, and how he feels this season could flourish with a special
defense, new coaches and a fresh attitude. He still loves to practice and play.
Manning looks better and stronger than he has in years, says his former college coach, David Cutcliffe,
and his former wide receiver, Brandon Stokley. At the Broncos' OTAs, Manning looks closer to 29 than
39 with his new body structure.
It is well to remember that Peyton will be teamed with his fifth starting center in four years. He was
paired in Indianapolis with Jeff Saturday for all but six games in 12 seasons. Manning will be on his third
offensive coordinator in Denver.
Yet Peyton Manning perseveres and prospers. His competition for a second time for comeback player
could be Adrian Peterson. His rival for MVP could be Aaron Rodgers.
Over?
Old Man Manning could win a Super Bowl this season.
Peyton Manning 32nd among world’s highest-paid
athletes in 2015, per Forbes
By Nicki Jhabvala
DenverPost.com
June 11, 2015
Peyton Manning’s $4 million pay cut this season is no small loss, but it looks like he’ll be OK.
The Broncos’ quarterback and 17-year NFL veteran ranked 32nd on Forbes’ 2015 list of the world’s
highest-paid athletes, having reeled in $15 million in salary/bonuses plus $12 million in endorsements
(the most of any NFL player on the list) from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015.
Manning’s earnings this year were similar to last year’s, when he brought in $27.1 million, including an
NFL-leading $12 million from endorsements. But his ranking in 2015 dropped six spots from No. 26.
The 39-year-old, who prefers the term “seasoned veteran” over “old,” is the eighth-oldest athlete and
the fifth NFL player on the list. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger was the highest-paid NFL player, making
$48.9 million in salary and endorsements combined. Miami’s Ndamukong Suh ($38.6 million), Arizona’s
Carson Palmer ($29 million) and Houston’s J.J. Watt ($27.9 million) rounded out the top four NFL
players.
Not surprisingly, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was, again, far and away the highest-paid athlete on the list,
hauling in $300 million and crushing the previous record of $125 million, earned by Tiger Woods in 2008.
Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather’s opponent in last month’s $600 million megafight, was No. 2 with $160
million. Cristiano Ronaldo ($79.6 million), Lionel Messi ($73.8 million) and Roger Federer ($67 million)
rounded out the top five.
Forbes’ 2015 list of the world’s 100 richest athletes
Peyton Manning says he is 'stimulated' in learning the
Broncos' new offense
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
June 10, 2015
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a lot of things this offseason, but bored in his job is not
one of them.
Manning, in his fourth season with the Broncos since signing in 2012, is set to play for his third different
play-caller in Denver. Mike McCoy, now San Diego Chargers coach, called plays for the Broncos in 2012,
current Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase called plays in 2013 and 2014 and Broncos
coach Gary Kubiak said he expects to call plays in the coming season.
So, this offseason has also meant Manning's third different scheme on offense and that has kept him
engaged in his 18th NFL season.
"I've talked to a number of players that have told me … certain players have told me that they thought
that they may have stopped playing just because they got bored with the monotony of maybe whether
it was the offense or the same meetings or whatnot," Manning said. "Physically, they felt pretty good.
They just got bored and they got frustrated, and they said, ‘I want to go do something else.' So I think
everybody likes continuity and some consistency in what you're doing, but I will say at age 36 when I got
here, now 39, that I have been stimulated by the changes, which I do think keeps you engaged and
energetic and focused in meetings. I can tell you one thing I am not, I am not bored in the least bit."
Manning has already been asked, and answered, a pile of questions of how he will fit in the new offense,
if he is ready to play in a scheme that figures to run the ball more than it did last season. The Broncos
were 12th in the NFL in carries last season (27.7 per game) and tied for 20th in yards per carry (4.0).
Asked Wednesday to describe what it will all eventually look like, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison
said:
"I think trying to make the defense cover the entire field -- run and pass -- that's the big issue, that's the
big key that we're trying to get done. The emphasis is, ‘Hey, let's make them defend everything.' And
whatever they don't defend that's what we'll take advantage of. So, basically that's in a nutshell what
we're trying to do and whatever we get good at, that's what we'll do. That's the benefit of having really
good players. They understand what their strengths and weaknesses are."
Manning said when he arrived in Denver in '12 it gave him a boost to return from neck surgery that cost
him the 2011 season. He said the move "rejuvenated" him after having played his entire career to that
point with the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning said Wednesday he believes the arrival of Kubiak and his staff can so the same as he is learning
an offense that will look different than any other scheme he has played in.
"I'm stimulated," Manning said. "I'm studying and I feel like I'm engaged and trying to learn something
new from Gary Kubiak. I'm learning something new from Rick Dennison. I'm learning a little something
from (tight end) Owen Daniels. Any time someone has a question of me, I'm glad to answer that about a
route with Owen or (TE/FB) James Casey. That part has been, that's been the truth. I think changes -instead of being stymied by any type of change, you can be stimulated by them. That's been true for me
and I think that's been a real positive, to tell you the truth."
Peyton Manning is 'pretty amazing' even at 39, David
Cutcliffe says
By Nicki Jhabvala
DenverPost.com
June 8, 2015
David Cutcliffe no longer is surprised by what he sees from Peyton Manning each year. He has seen the
quarterback since he was a teenager at Tennessee. He has seen him at his worst and seen him at his
best. And he has seen him at every stage in between.
So in April, when Manning showed up at Duke for his annual workout with Broncos teammates, Cutcliffe
wasn't shocked by what he saw. Astounded may be the more appropriate word.
"I'm amazed at times," said Cutcliffe, Duke's coach and a former Tennessee offensive coordinator.
"We're doing this in an indoor facility with nobody watching and I watch his focus, his intensity, the
absolute desire for every rep to be as good as it can be — that hunger is pretty amazing at this stage.
But that's what successful people do."
In March, months after straining his right quadriceps and losing to his former team in a divisional playoff
game, Manning decided to return for his 18th NFL season, making him the oldest starting quarterback in
the league at age 39.
The number inevitably raised questions, especially as he's being asked to adapt to Gary Kubiak's stretchrun, zone-blocking offense.
The number is and always has been a nonissue from Cutcliffe's perspective. This is Peyton Manning.
"I think that's what has separated him — Peyton Manning's consistency," Cutcliffe said. "People count
Super Bowls. Mine, as a coach, what we want is an athlete in which you know what you're going to get
every week. And he has defied odds. If you go look at the body of work, it's amazing that anybody could
maintain that."
Like anyone else who saw Manning late in the 2014 season, Cutcliffe knew something was up. Manning
no longer looked like Manning. He was still putting up respectable passing numbers, but he wasn't
playing at the level he trained his audience to expect.
"I reserved judgment, because I don't ask him sensitive questions about injuries or stuff," Cutcliffe said.
"We had a couple private conversations early about just that. I just listened, which I think is about all
that guy needs."
Manning arrived at Duke without any lingering effects of the quad injury. His mobility was as good as it
has ever been. And, of course, his intensity never wavered. The 24-13 playoff loss to the Colts in January
left a bitter taste in the mouths of most in the Broncos' locker room, including Manning.
"He believes in it, and we certainly do, that in life as well as football, nothing stays the same — whether
it's a relationship or anything else. You're either getting better or you're getting worse," Cutcliffe said.
"I thought he looked really healthy. We had talked about nutrition, about sleep, about recovery. He's
really so, so smart. So brilliant and so disciplined. But there's another level, always. I thought he looked
really fit. I thought his core was great. I watched him train inside, and he looks good and he's strong
where he needs to be strong, and he didn't show anything at all from the quad. And we talked a lot
about flexibility."
Playing on a strained quad, and never disclosing just how bad it really is, is something "really good
football players do," Cutcliffe said. Relearning how to throw a football after four neck surgeries and
returning to set a handful of passing records is reserved for only the elite.
Maybe only Manning.
In 2012, when Manning worked with Cutcliffe to regain his strength and technique, former Rockies first
baseman Todd Helton joined them for, what he thought, would be a light workout at Duke. Helton, who
played quarterback ahead of Manning at Tennessee for a short time and who has remained a close
friend of his, was the first person Manning threw a pass to after his surgeries. He was one of the few to
witness Manning at his lowest point on the field.
But as Manning slowly rehabilitated his arm, the rest of his body showed few signs of fatigue.
"We did timed sprinting and running four times, and pushed it — pushed it to the max," Cutcliffe
recalled. "I was glad I wasn't doing it. Todd stayed with us for a week. He would do the running that we
were doing, and he would call for a TV timeout.
"He's Peyton Manning. Even after such a significant injury that kept him out a year, he has never been
out of shape. Ever. His conditioning level is beyond what people think."
In April, Manning brought his iPad with him to Duke and started to prepare for playing in Kubiak's
offense, taking more snaps under center and become comfortable with the new rhythm and timing. It's
not an offense that's completely new to him; the one he ran in Indianapolis with offensive coordinator
Jim Mora had similar parts.
Things will change for Manning this year. New scheme. New teammates. New coaches. But one thing
will remain constant.
"I think everybody who coaches Peyton finds out quickly," Cutcliffe said. "I know most of them pretty
well. Those guys just immediately call me and go: 'Good gosh. It's amazing.' I've gotten that reaction
every time."
Peyton Manning's kids' foundation donates $10,000 to
Colorado Springs cause
By Debbie Kelley
Colorado Springs Gazette
June 7, 2015
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s PeyBack Foundation has awarded Pikes Peak Community
College a $10,000 grant for PPCC Kids College, a summer program for at-risk middle school students to
explore possible careers.
The grant enables PPCC to offer scholarships to qualifying applicants from Teller, Elbert and El Paso
counties.
Kids College was developed in 2013 to serve low-income, minority students, as well as those from
military families. Students going into seventh, eighth and ninth grades get an opportunity to explore
career and technical programs, while getting a feel for the college experience and seeing community
college as an attainable option.
This year’s participants will explore 3D Printing, Culinary Arts, Fire Science, Zoo Keeping, Robotics, Music
and Graphic Arts at PPCC. Instructors, assisted by PPCC college and high school students, teach half-day
and full-day sessions. Weeklong sessions take place July 13, 20 and 27.
More than 700 organizations applied for the grant, and PPCC Kids College was one of just a few funded.
For more information on Kids College or to apply for a scholarship, go to ppcc.edu/kidscollege.
Manning established the PeyBack Foundation in 1999 to promote the success of disadvantaged youth by
assisting programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for at-risk children. The PeyBack
Foundation has provided more than $10 million through its grants and programs since its inception to
Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Broncos' Peyton Manning: I love being coached
By Jeff Legwold
ESPN.com
June 2, 2015
Accidents do happen, life is proof of that.
They just don’t happen all that often when Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning talks. At least
when he talks in a cameras-recorders-notebooks setting about football.
The narrative swirling around Manning since he suffered a thigh injury in December and the Broncos
were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs last January, since he had another 39th birthday and
the Broncos hired Gary Kubiak as the team’s coach, is that Manning is used to doing things one way and
Kubiak’s version of the West Coast offense doesn’t fit him.
So, every time Manning has spoken publicly this offseason he has taken direct aim at those two items,
even before officially deciding to return for his 18th NFL season.
On Jan. 30, after receiving the Bart Starr Award, he offered: "If I choose to come back, I feel pretty
comfortable -- aside maybe from Tubby Raymond's Delaware Wing T offense -- I feel pretty comfortable
playing in any offense, I really do."
On April 28, days before the draft he said: "I like to think I’m pretty versatile, believe it or not. I feel like I
can execute whatever plays the coach calls. I feel the different offenses I’ve been in that I’ve executed
the plays that the coordinator has called. I feel like I can do that."
On the notion of resistance to learning a new offense, he said: "I like being out there. I like working. I like
learning. I’ve always enjoyed that part of it. I’m looking forward to learning coach Kubiak’s philosophies
and trying to do my part as a quarterback. I’m looking forward to the process."
Last week, as the Broncos opened Phase 3 of their offseason program -- the first time 11-on-11 drills,
with offense vs. defense is allowed in offseason -- Manning reaffirmed his stance.
"I feel that whatever they ask me to do, I can do," Manning said on May 27 and added later; "I love
being coached. I get angry when I’m not coached. I ask a lot of questions and certainly appreciate any
insight and feedback. I think if you ever stop listening to coaching or stop asking questions, you probably
need to be doing something else. This is the kind of time for it."
On working through a new playbook, Manning said: "I certainly ask a lot of questions and I’m always
learning ... you always have to be learning and asking a lot of questions. I ask a lot of questions of
(offensive coordinator Rick Dennison) and coach Kubiak, and am trying to learn from them. This is the
time to ask questions. They kind of encourage that. Ask questions, and if you don’t ask, that’s kind of on
you. That’s your mistake. I try to ask a lot."
What does it mean? That remains to be seen when games are played. But those around the Broncos say
Kubiak, a former NFL quarterback who has coached Steve Young and John Elway, knows the heartbeat
of the game’s alpha position. And many who have worked with Kubiak and Dennison, including former
Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, have consistently said they will find the common ground between
what they want and what works for Manning.
Former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, now the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears,
was asked what Manning wants most from a coach and Gase quickly replied "answers."
Dennison echoed those thoughts this past week.
"He’s a funny guy, we have a good time," Dennison said. "But he’s very smart. He keeps you on task and
on your toes. He asks you a lot of questions, which is great ... All good players that I’ve ever been around
-- great players -- loved to be coached. They all work hard and they loved to be coached, and he’s no
exception. He likes it when you give him feedback. He loves it when you ask him a question and you
challenge him and then he comes back and challenges."
Ultimately the comfort level of all involved, and the points on the scoreboard, will be determined by
whatever balance Manning and the coaches find in the staff’s desire to run the ball more -- better and
with game-changing purpose -- and Manning’s desire to have rhythm in the passing the game.
Last season, especially after the Broncos tried to run more after their November loss in St. Louis when
they had 10 rushing attempts, that rhythm was lacking at times and Manning wore a look of frustration
because of it.
But summer is coming and, right now, Manning and the Broncos’ offensive decision-makers feel good
about where things are headed.
"Look, I’ve said all along, we’re going to do what Peyton is comfortable with, what works best for us and
what we believe in," Kubiak said. "We'd be stupid not to do that, to do what works. He’s one of the best
ever to play, he can do so many things, I have no doubt we’ll put together something that works."
David Letterman appeared in awe of Peyton Manning
By Mike Klis
9 News Sports
May 21, 2015
In Broncos Country, Peyton Manning is simply its star quarterback.
To the nation, Manning is arguably the No. 1 superstar in all of sports.
Manning was part of a 10-celebrity lineup that presented the final Top 10 list on the final Late Show with
David Letterman on Wednesday night. Manning delivered the No. 3 punch line to the topic, "Top 10
Things I've Always Wanted to Say to Dave."
The 10 celebrities in order:
10. Alec Baldwin
9. Barbara Walters
8. Steve Martin
7. Jerry Seinfeld
6. Jim Carrey
5. Chris Rock
4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She had the best line, I thought, especially with Seinfeld standing nearby. Said
Louis-Dreyfus: "Thanks for letting me take part in another HUGELY disappointing series finale."
3. Manning. He was dressed in a Bronco blue suit and orange tie. He said: "Dave, you are to comedy to
what I am … to comedy."
2. Tina Fey
1. Bill Murray
Manning's line wasn't the funniest but he delivered it well. Afterwards, Letterman gushed more about
Manning's presence than any of the other nine celebrities. He hugged the other nine, but only shook
Manning's hand, as if the quarterback was too regal for a casual embrace. (Letterman grew up in
Indianapolis and became a huge Manning fan during his quarterback term with the Colts.)
We all might take Manning's celebrity for granted around here because we see his good passes and his
bad, his victories and his defeats. Three years in, there have been far more good passes and wins (40)
than bad passes and losses (13).
He's more than that. When Saturday Night Live held its enormous 40th anniversary show in February,
only two sports figures participated – Manning and former New York Yankees great Derek Jeter.
Manning may be Denver's quarterback to Broncos fans. But even at 39, he rivals basketball's LeBron
James as the biggest superstar in sports.
A Top 10 Moment for Peyton Manning
By Peyton Manning
MMQB.com
May 21, 2015
I’ve been a part of some pretty special things and have had some great moments in my life. But for so
many reasons, standing in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Wednesday night and being part of the 6,028th
and final Late Show with David Letterman, well, it’s something I’ll never, ever forget.
I love David Letterman. Always have. I consider myself a Letterman guy, because I’ve never done any
other late-night show but his. I’ve been a big fan of comedy my whole life, and when I watch him, I’ve
just always felt that he hits the right note—all the time. He sure has been a big part of my life.
So to be asked to be a part of the final Top 10 List, and to do it with Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Barbara
Walters, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Bill Murray—what an
incredible honor. I’m standing in that line, getting ready to do the segment, and I look around at these
people and think, Am I a stand-in for Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks? Am I here only because they couldn’t
make it?
The Top 10 List was, “Things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave.” I was number three, and the writers
wrote me a good line.
I said, “Dave, you are to comedy what I am … to comedy.”
After that, I slipped into the back of the theater to watch the rest of the show. Being a high school and
college player for eight years, then an NFL player for 18 years, I really appreciated Dave spending the
time to thank all the people who worked on the show behind the scenes. The writers, all the people on
the set, the makeup people, everybody. It’s just like in the NFL, where your equipment guys and your
trainers and so many people are crucial to your success.
Standing there watching the end, it just felt like I was watching a part of history, something really
important.
It’s funny, but my favorite memory of Dave—and what I think says so much about him as a person—
didn’t come from one of my appearances on the show. (I was on four times as a guest, and then again
on Wednesday’s finale.) It came soon after I signed with the Broncos—actually, on the day before the
draft in 2012, when the Colts were sitting there with the first pick.
That day, I was working out at the Broncos’ facility, trying to get used to my new world and learn
Denver’s offense. I got word that Dave was trying to reach me, and so I get on the phone with him. He
explains that they’re going to have Andrew Luck on the show, and what they want to do is present him
with his new Colts jersey, like they’d be the ones telling him he was a Colt.
He said to me, “I don’t want to do it if it makes you uncomfortable at all.”
I said, “Dave, it doesn’t matter what I think. You do what you feel is best for the show.”
Really, I didn’t care. Whatever Dave wanted to do was fine, but he said, “That’s it! We’re not doing it.
Forget it. It’s done.”
That meant so much to me. I didn’t give him an answer. It wasn’t my place to say anything. But the fact
that he made that call, I can tell you this: If that were any other show, they sure wouldn’t have called to
ask what I thought.
Being on Letterman, you always wanted to bring something to the table. The first time I went on, it was
two days before the Heisman presentation during my senior year at Tennessee. That’s 1997. I was in
New York and got asked, and it was a thrill. I was on with Courteney Cox and Shania Twain. My brother,
Cooper, who is one of the funniest people I know, helped me prepare for the show. They do these preinterviews, talking to you before you go on the air about stuff you could talk about during the interview.
They were curious about my decision to stay for my final season of eligibility at Tennessee. So I talked to
Cooper, and he came up with a good line for me. Sure enough, Dave asked me about it, and I said,
“Dave, it’s just like when you stayed for your senior year at Ball State.”
After I cracked another joke, Dave said, “This kid’s got writers!”
I got asked to do the show again in 2006, when we threw footballs into the windows of moving yellow
cabs on the street outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. And I got asked again in 2007 after we won the Super
Bowl. Then, last spring, I went to New York to see Derek Jeter play one last time, and I went on with
Dave once more. I wrote him a letter. I told him, “Thanks for entertaining me and my family and my
parents for so long.” He wrote back and signed it, “Your friend, Dave.” That’ll be a lifetime keepsake.
I think one of the big reasons I was asked to be on the Late Show finale was because of our Indianapolis
connection. Dave has an appreciation for anyone who has done things to help his hometown. During my
appearance on the show last year, it really meant a lot that he thanked me for some of the things that I
had done as a Hoosier over the years, on and off the field.
When we finished the Top 10 list on Wednesday, Dave thanked the 10 of us for coming. I just thought,
I’m the one who should be thanking him, for all the years of great TV and great comedy. We just
shouldn’t let this moment pass without being thankful for everything we’ve seen from him over the
years. I’m really going to miss him—and the show.
Even though he won’t be doing the “Late Show” anymore, I’ll always be a Letterman guy.