While the recent news regarding Peyton Manning’s status heading into this season is alarming, the notion that the Colts quarterback might miss any time as a result still seems a little silly at this point.
This is Peyton Manning we’re talking about after all, a guy who’s started every single game of his entire 13-year career (227 and counting), and who already overcame a very similar situation in 2008 and wound up winning a record-tying third NFL MVP Award in the process.
Hasn’t this guy earned himself the benefit of a doubt?
Even if the injury really is serious enough to sideline Manning, until we hear it from the quarterback’s own lips in his own southern drawl, no one has any reason to expect him not to be there in Houston come September 11.
In fact, Manning has actually given us every reason to expect the very opposite.
Peyton Manning’s illustrious career has been defined by routine, you see, and chief among the items on his weekly itinerary is simply showing up. Manning’s brutally repetitive schedule definitely doesn’t end there, not by a long shot, but were it not for the quarterback’s presumed perfect attendance, the rest doesn’t really matter.
Luckily for Colts fans, Manning hasn’t had a sick day for over a decade, however, so the rest does indeed matter, and it’s mainly with respect to that very routine that the star’s legacy has so far been carved.
Most great quarterbacks are remembered for how they play the game, Peyton is best known for how he studies it. While the Pacman Joneses of the world are out shooting up night clubs and fathering unwanted children, Peyton is holed up in some Bat Cave somewhere poring through reels of game film, or so we’re led to believe. That’s what gives him his advantage, his aura, not that he’s necessarily a better athlete than his competition, but that he’s better prepared. Elway was the tough guy. Montana was the cool guy. Favre will probably go down as the fun one.
Love him or hate him, but he’s the nerd. It’s not a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact, but it does make him unique among his peers, and it also makes his laughably predictable antics all the more amusing.
Here’s a small sample of what you can usually expect from #18 week in and week out, rain, snow, or shine, and what you should still be expecting to see from the quarterback this season until he tells you otherwise.
Peyton Manning’s game day starts about 90 minutes before kickoff, when he takes the field for one last passing drill with his favorite receiver (or two) before game time. They loosen up, run through all the standard routes, shake some pre-game jitters, and transition themselves into game mode. It’s a fun, casual encounter, it’s one of Manning’s signature career habits, and as any outside observer could tell you, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While the routine has garnered the quarterback plenty of praise over the years, however, it’s really just the icing on the oversized novelty cake that is Manning’s pre-game preparation process, the majority of which takes place over the entire preceding week or, in some cases, even earlier than that.
Peyton personally inspected all 54 game balls the Colts took to Super Bowl XLI, for example, and after beating the New York Jets in the ’09 AFC Championship Game, football’s most scholarly superstar said he was “mentally tired” from “grinding” about Rex Ryan’s defense for eight consecutive days.
To what extent Manning channels his inner Poindexter for just any old regular season game no one really knows, but it’s safe to assume the amount is sufficient, and it’s safe to assume that when Sunday does finally roll around this guy is going to be ready.
From the moment he takes the field onward, you can rest assured Peyton Manning is thinking about one thing and one thing only: scoring touchdowns.
Granted, within that context the quarterback is also processing a plethora of other information too, dissecting defenses, anticipating receiver routes, and so on, but as focused as he might seem on any specific task, they’re all really just footnotes to a much larger vision in Manning’s painfully monotonous mind: a never-ending pursuit of points.
It starts right away, and you don’t even need to know that Manning leads all active players and trails only Brett Favre in total first-quarter touchdown passes to understand just how serious he takes this challenge, either. Just watch the guy play one series of one game and see for yourself. Watch how many shots he takes down the field. See how devastated he gets after throwing an errant pass, or when a receiver drops a ball he should’ve caught. Watch him pout like a preschooler when his
dad coach won’t let him go for it on fourth down.
And then, when all’s said and done, see how many points the maniac winds up producing.
(Spoiler: it’s probably going to be a lot).
Defenses may strive to keep Peyton Manning off the field, but they’d be out of their minds to think they can keep him off the air too.
Because at this point, that’s just a lost cause.
Manning is the easily the most marketable NFL player of the last decade and on any given Sunday you’re just as likely to catch him tossing the old pigskin around as you are hearing him pitch you some new product or service. You name it, Peyton’s probably sold it, from cell phones to credit cards and everything in between, and if it weren’t for that pesky little career of his as a world-renown professional athlete, this guy’s place in the salesmen Hall of Fame would probably be just as secured as it already has been in Canton for years now.
That’s not to say Manning’s ads are more effective than anybody else’s (or that they’re even effective at all, for that matter), but when you consider the sheer volume of them and the varied line of products in his repertoire, it’s pretty easy to see the Colts quarterback will be lighting up your TV screen every Sunday, whether Indy happens to be playing or not.
Perhaps Manning’s greatest strength is the coaching presence he brings directly onto the field, and perhaps the clearest example of this presence is when he catches an opposing defense violating one of the thousand obscure little rules he appears to have memorized.
And it happens almost every single time Peyton Manning plays.
Like when he baits the defense into jumping offsides, or notices them with too many players on the field and hurries the offense to the line for a quick snap. Including the Colts’ Playoff game against the Jets, Manning accomplished the former feat 18 times last season, the latter five, and went only three games all year without achieving either.
Or how about when Peyton took advantage of the quarterback slide rule nobody knew existed in a game against the Texans last year and stole himself a couple of absolutely free yards in the process?
There’s a new example every week in the Peyton Manning show, and by nature that means there’s usually a new victim every week too. Like when Manning burned former Colts cornerback Jason David for three long touchdown passes against the New Orleans Saints back in 2007. David may not have been violating any rule at the time, but by leaving a receiver like Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne an opening to score, he definitely was doing something he shouldn’t have.
People will probably be arguing about where Peyton ranks among the game’s best quarterbacks for the next hundred years or so, but there are definitely a few titles the guy already has in the bag. Peyton Manning is clearly the most fidgety quarterback of all time, for example. He’s also currently a lock for “first quarterback you’d hire to babysit your kids” too, and given his family history and well-documented upbringing, no QB has ever been preordained for greatness quite the way number 18 was.
Finally, above all else is the title he’s personified since day one and continues to reinforce week after week, one that no one could ever take away from him even if his entire career was a total failure: most animated.
As long as he was hovering above Jeff Saturday’s butt at the time, Peyton Manning could probably direct a full-size symphony orchestra if he wanted to. All you’d have to do is hand him a baton. Because this guy just cannot stand still at the line of scrimmage for the life of him, and whenever he gets there his arms start reflexively flailing out in all directions and his mouth starts barking out orders like a Tourette’s patient screaming involuntary obscenities. It’s quite the scene.
The Colts have even acknowledged that some of the commotion really is just an act, in fact, and if you had to pick just one single image to represent the quarterback’s career, at this point there’s no question it would have to be him, frantically running around behind his offensive line, calling out random code words that seem to make no sense and pointing his finger at every uniform in sight.
Dance around like a crazy ranting lunatic and let the play clock run down to the very last second?
The most common criticism of Peyton Manning is regarding his post-season record, which, although certainly not too shabby in its own right (9-10 with two Super Bowl appearances, one championship, and one Super Bowl MVP Award), just doesn’t seem befitting for a quarterback with Manning’s regular season credentials.
Peyton Manning has owned the regular season since 2003, period. He’s gone 99-29 during that span, winning 77 percent of his games, and if you exclude from that total the eight meaningless late-season games he barely played in because he’d already won so many games they didn’t even matter anymore, his success rate jumps to 80 percent, down this year from a mind-boggling high of 86 percent between ’03 and ’09.
Is that kind of regular season dominance alone enough to crown Manning the game’s greatest quarterback? Of course it isn’t.
But it sure ought to be enough to convince anyone watching that if Manning is behind center, chances are the dude is probably going to walk away with another W to his credit.
Count on it.
If the asinine rumors about Brett Favre coming to Indianapolis somehow materialize, the Colts might just have to start playing at a middle school instead of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Because between the way Favre plays and the way Peyton Manning talks, it’d be awfully hard to follow this team and not think you’re watching a pack of 12-year-olds trapped in grown men’s bodies. (You’re sure not helping things either, Austin Collie).
Peyton Manning has two post-game speeches, that’s it, and in either case his delivery is just as eloquent now as it would have been had you stopped the enthusiastic quarterback after a Pop Warner game some 20 years ago.
Peyton the Winner is on top of the world, and whether he just finished demoralizing some overmatched defense that had no business playing him to begin with or leading a historic last-minute drive to win the Super Bowl makes no difference, his post-game comments are going to be the same no matter what: congratulate the opponent on a good game, unsuccessfully try concealing your ear-to-ear grin, shrug like your performance wasn’t anything special and, finally, deflect as much credit as possible from yourself to your teammates, whether they really deserve it or not.
Peyton the Loser is a different story altogether, and if it weren’t for all the sweaty, pissed off professional athletes mulling around behind him at the time, you’d swear this guy just had his childhood puppy murdered before his very eyes. “Aw shucks” is just the start, followed by anger, acceptance and any other stage of grief you can think of, a desperate expression of the need to improve before next week and then, sometimes, you might even catch the poor tike in a childish little blame-game before tuckering himself completely out. Yeah, it’s one sad state of affairs whenever Peyton’s loss column expands, and if you happen to be around the quarterback when it happens, you better have your Prozac handy because the situation can become a serious downer awfully quick.
Then again, just like pretty much everything else in Peyton Manning’s career, at least you know what you’re getting.