Eagles-Colts Preview: Theories On Peyton Manning's Strange Pre-Snap Routine

Matt Goldberg@@tipofgoldbergCorrespondent INovember 6, 2010

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts directs the offense as center Jeff Saturday #63 prepares to snap the ball against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Colts defeated the Broncos 27-13.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images


The Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) host the Indianapolis Colts (5-2) in an intriguing interconference showdown, prompting several questions for NFL fans.

Can the Eagles finally defeat all-everything quarterback Peyton Manning? Manning boasts a career 3-0 mark versus the team in green, compiling a sick passer rating and seven touchdowns versus one interception in the process.

Can Manning and company, on a short week after their Monday Night Football victory over the Texans, beat the Eagles—who never lose a regular season game after a bye week?

Conventional wisdom says that you can’t beat coach Andy Reid when he has two weeks to game plan. This is very curious to Eagles fans who have seen Reid in seasons past fail to provide adequate wide receivers, fullbacks and kickoff returners when he had months and sometimes years to prepare.

Can Manning continue to win with all the injuries to his skill position players?  Manning received a lot of praise for beating the Texans without ultra-reliable tight end Dallas Clark, receiver Austin Collie (may miss tomorrow as well) and running back Joseph Addai.

Manning played well, but sportscasters acted as if Peyton cured cancer in the process of winning that division game a little short-handed. Last I checked, he still had, and has, that stalwart veteran O-line, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon (he’s really good by the way) and Anthony Gonzalez to throw to.

But the real question, sports fans, is: What exactly does Peyton Manning do during that elaborate pre-snap ritual of his? You know the picture. No. 18 summons his troops to the line of scrimmage without a huddle, for what looks like a hurry-up offense. While the 40-second clock (or 25-second clock, if you prefer) stands still, Manning barks, gives arcane pigskin sign-language signals and auditions for Dancing with the Stars for about three minutes.

I can almost hear ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski gushing about Peyton Manning and his ritual.

The 6’5” Peyton Manning, a five-star general in shoulder pads, commands his soldiers to the line. The most cerebral player in football history—a man worthy of both a Heisman Trophy and the Nobel Peace Prize while at the University of Tennessee—surveys the opposition army for any hint of a weakness to exploit.  All week long, Manning has studied game film, called the Colts practices and individually worked one-on-one with every player on the roster for five hours after each practice. In a fraction of a second, he looks off the safeties, intimidates blitzing linebackers and exhorts his troops to greatness while making the perfect...

Yo Jaws, I get it.  The man does his homework and he’s darn good at what he does. I’m not Manning’s biggest fan but I agree that he is among other things, a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, arguably the best regular season quarterback in history, and a most effective product pitchman and face of the NFL.

By the same token, great though he may be, of his contemporaries, give me Tom Brady and the Drew Brees of the last few campaigns. And in the playoffs, give me a whole lot of other quarterbacks. I also can’t quite shake off the knowledge that as monumental as he was at Tennessee, the Volunteers won their only modern NCAA championship the year after Peyton left. With Tee Martin under center. Yes, Tee Martin—but I digress.

So what of the pre-snap routine?

I don’t know exactly what he does, as this is one of life’s unsolved mysteries, along with the following: 

What exactly is said between pitchers, catchers, managers and whatever infielders attend those mound summit talks?

Why did Coca-Cola put out New Coke? Who told Pauly Shore he had talent?

My working theory on Manning (you’re on your own on those other three) is that Manning is trash-talking to his teammates and the opposition, albeit in a gentlemanly southern drawl. He’s channeling his inner Kevin Garnett, if you will, even if it’s mixed with just a little sheriff Andy Taylor.

Manning comes to the line and reminds the official not to start the play for another two minutes. While frantically waving like a tourist trying to flag a rush-hour cab in Manhattan, the following monologue may be heard tomorrow:

Hey, Philly, you done be playing against Peyton Freakin’ Manning, son of Archie, brother of Cooper and Eli...well, no one really likes Eli. I’m gonna beat down your slow butts with Austin Collie…how you like them apples…oh, crap, he’s out again. Okay, while you’re double-teaming Reggie, I got me a player in Pierre Garcon. That means Stone Boy in French, ya know. And I’m gonna stone you boys up and down the field. Pierre, you are in the lineup today, right?

Stew Bradley, you’re so slow, I can avoid your blitzes and go all Mike Vick on your ponderously slow butt. You look like a canc—ah, nevermind, that’s beneath my dignity to say, I humbly do apologize. Start the play clock, refs.  Reggie, do a down-and-in at about the 33. Ten-hut-hut-hut…

I’m still trying to validate that Stew Bradley line, but I hope this gives you some special insight into tomorrow’s game.

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