Nobody likes to be told what to do. From the very beginning, we come out of the womb literally kicking and screaming about what we want. Give me FOOD! Give me SLEEP! Gimme, gimme, gimme!! As we get older the Gimmes change, and more often than not, the one thing we want more and more and more of is…
Well yeah, money. That’s always helpful.
But the one thing we want more of that we really don’t have any control over is time. When time catches up to you, it’s something that no amount of money can buy you more of. Maybe you can make a few attempts to slow time down – staying fit, eating well, getting to the doc, maybe even a little nip or tuck if you’re so inclined – but time will inevitably continue its arduous march. And it will drag you along with it, either kicking and screaming or gracefully accepting whatever path you’re being led down.
How often have we seen the kicking and screaming overrule dignified aplomb though when it comes to the legends and heroes or our favorite sports and teams? Pride certainly comes before the fall, but far too often it goes unmentioned that pride also hangs around for the entire descent like a straggling party guest refusing to order that Uber before they pass out on your couch with their shoes on. And so we come to our old friend Peyton Manning.
|courtesy: CBS Sports|
Manning is to our generation what Johnny Unitas was 50 years ago: The living, breathing embodiment of a quarterback. The fact that time is catching up to Manning and finally slowing him down is painful to watch. It’s also ironic on multiple levels, as Manning, more than any other passer of his generation, changed what the quarterback was allowed to do at the line of scrimmage and harkened back to Unitas’s day, when a QB called all of his own plays.
Manning’s success in adjusting to what he saw, making calls at the line, and calling a game from under/behind the center has given a new generation of quarterbacks the freedom to go out and adjust on the fly. Sometimes it doesn’t work: See Andy Dalton audibling out of a 3rd-and-2 handoff last night that would have left the Arizona Cardinals with about 30 less seconds to attempt their game-winning field goal drive. Instead, he chose to throw to A.J. Green. The pass was broken up, the clock stopped, and Carson Palmer, despite having no timeouts, had plenty of time to fire a few beebees to Larry Fitzgerald and get his team into field goal range.
Sometimes it DOES work, though. And when it does, it’s football poetry in motion at the highest level of the game. When Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger gets his team in a no-huddle, and then spends 5-6 minutes probing his way downfield with the kind of calls that can only come from a player on the field possessing the ability to scan a defense, identify its weakness, and attack it in a pinpoint manner, you see the importance of Peyton Manning to the modern era of the NFL.
Without Peyton, there are no QBs acting as their own de facto Offensive Coordinator in the 2-minute drill. Without Peyton, we’re left with a generation of overgrown college kids covering the ear holes on their helmets as six guys on the sideline signal in the same play while a Grad Assistant holds up a placard with Jerry Springer’s face, the letter Q, a map of Brunei, and an eye test chart on it.
Perhaps most impressively, Peyton Manning wasn’t just a quarterbacking savant who changed the way games are called. He became a guy that people genuinely LIKED. From goofy SNL sketches to Papa John’s to that damn Nationwide jingle, he became America’s quarterback in an era where there have been so many very talented yet very unlikable guys at the position (um, no Philip, I’m not looking at you), you ultimately won’t remember him for only winning one championship. You’ll remember him for changing the game.
Unless he tries to outrun time. In which case, Manning will go down as another Unitas-in-San Diego, Namath-in-L.A., shell of his former self providing a tarnished footnote on an otherwise illustrious career.
As it stands, Manning’s time in Denver has been much more Joe Montana-in-Kansas City than the other two aforementioned greats. However, the writing is on the wall, whether Brock Osweiler is the kid with the crayon or not: Peyton Manning’s all out of time.