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Peyton Manning

February 9, 2010

In case you don’t realize it already, I’m a Peyton Manning fan.  I HATED him when he was in college.  Alright.  I didn’t hate him, but I didn’t like him one bit.  He was good, and he wore that gawd-awful orange color for that school in Knoxville.  Every time Tennessee played Kentucky, I hoped he’d stub his toe and would be unable to play.  (I never wish serious injury on anybody.)  I saw absolutely nothing good in him until I was a sophomore at Hanover.  I was a Bengals fan.  I had been for years, and I still am.  Living in Indiana though, I gained an appreciation for the Indianapolis Colts, despite the fact that they still struggled at that time, and Purdue University, because they are also not fond of Indiana University.  Over time I realized that in addition to being talented, Peyton Manning was actually a pretty decent guy and funny to boot.

Sunday night, the Colts lost the Super Bowl.  The New Orleans Saints put 31 points on the board.  Drew Brees threw for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns, and now he’s going to Disney World.  Peyton Manning threw for 333 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  The interception was returned for a touchdown that put the game out of reach for Indianapolis.  Now I’m starting to see comments again that Manning is a choke artist, that he isn’t a clutch player and that he really isn’t that great a quarterback.  My response to that is, “Have you actually watched him play?”

Manning is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league.  He consistently drops passes in places that only his receivers can catch them.  Every quarterback will throw an occasional interception, but Peyton throws many fewer than the league average per pass attempt and they are usually due to a blown route or a tipped ball.  Manning is an expert at reading defenses and adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage.  He has picked apart defenses all season.  A team doesn’t stay undefeated until the last two weeks of the season – until after the starting quarterback is pulled from the game – unless the entire team, including the quarterback, plays well.  As far as being a clutch player, Manning led his team to 13 scores in the final two minutes of a half this season.  Eight of those scores were passes for touchdowns.  He has shown that he is a master of the clock and excels in a no-huddle offense.  When it comes to his ability to play, his stats speak for themselves.

Just as it takes a team to win a game, it takes a team to lose a game.  The special teams gave up an onside kick to start the second half.  The Colts defense gave up 24 points.  Reggie Wayne had an off night with a couple of drops and a couple blown routes, including on the pass that was intercepted.  There is plenty of blame to go around for the Colts loss of the Super Bowl.  Pinning it all on Manning is simply unfair.

There are also people ripping into Manning for his sportsmanship.  After the game, he left the field and went back into the locker room instead of congratulating the Saints.  In the post-game interview, a reporter asked Peyton about that.  His response was, “It’s time for the Saints to celebrate.  It’s their field.”  If you looked at your television after the clock his double zeros, you’d have noticed the field was a mass of celebrating Saints.  Super Bowl champions gear was being handed out.  The stage was being set up for the award ceremony.  Reporters were trying to interview New Orleans players.  It really was time for a celebration, not a congratulations from the losing team.  Unlike in the NHL playoffs, there is no line formed for players to shake hands after the game.  It’s a complete mob.  In fact to further deflate the “bad sportsman” argument against Manning, Peyton called Drew Brees that night, after things had settled down a bit, to congratulate him.  Manning and Brees have a relationship that stretches back to when Peyton would call Brees at Purdue to offer advice and encouragement to the college quarterback.  Drew Brees is even quoted as saying, “Peyton’s a class guy,” after the game.  These arguments against Manning just don’t seem to hold water.

I understand that there are plenty of people who will not like Peyton Manning, and that’s fine.  It’s similar to not liking the Red Wings or Lebron James.  Either it’s an opposing team/player that can completely dismantle your team or you want to root for an underdog to come out ahead.  Just be honest and cheer against Manning for that reason, like I did when he wore orange, instead of trying to attack his playing ability or personality because in this case, those arguments just don’t hold up.