Wednesday, March 9, 2016

J-Speaks: The Conclusion Of A Lifetime For A Game Changing Signal Caller

This past Monday afternoon, one of the greatest to ever play the quarterback position in the National Football League (NFL) said goodbye after 18 unforgettable seasons. In those 18 years, he not only changed the way signal callers at the professional level, but how they prepared and how much worked was necessary to put in to become one of the greatest in the game of professional football. He set records on the field; was a great ambassador for it off the field; brought personality to his endeavors in terms of commercials, but more than anything he respected the game at a level that earned the admiration of players, past and present, fans, the media and the teams of the two cities that he played for as well as other professional athletes. His retirement press conference was one for the ages where he covered the start of his football journey to its conclusion that saw him walk off with the ultimate prize.
No. 18 Peyton Manning, son of Olivia and NFL legendary QB Archie Manning, the second of three siblings Cooper and New York Football Giants signal caller Eli Manning is saying goodbye to a 18-year career in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos that saw him rewrite the record books and the rare feet of walking away a champion after leading the Broncos to their third Super Bowl in franchise history last February when the Broncos, behind their great defense won Super Bowl 50 21-10 over the NFC champion Carolina Panthers, improving his career playoff record to 14-13. Those 27 appearances in the postseason are the most by a starting in NFL history
“I revere football. I love the game,” Manning said in his retirement press conference at the Broncos Headquarters of UC Health Training Center in Inglewood, CO on Monday afternoon. “So you don’t have to wonder if I’ll miss it. Absolutely, absolutely I will.”
He became only just the second quarterback in NFL history to call it a career after winning a Super Bowl ring. The first was his boss in Broncos general manager John Elway, who signed him to the Broncos after he was cut by the Colts, who drafted Manning No. 1 overall back in 1998 out of the University of Tennessee. Not only did Manning led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory since Elway led them to back-to-back titles back in 1997 and 1998 seasons, but along the way he finished second to Elway in team history in completions (1,443); passing yards (17,112) and passing touchdowns (140). Manning finished first in completion percentage in Broncos history at 66.5 percent.
The career resume of Manning is one of the greatest in NFL history. The future first ballot Hall of Famer finished with the most wins by a QB in NFL history with 200, 186 of those coming in the regular, which tied Green Bay Packers great Brett Favre. Manning is the all-time leader in touchdown passes (539), passing yards (71,940) and 4,000-yard passing seasons (14). He won five Most Valuable Player Awards (2003-04, 2008-09, 2013), most in NFL history; was a 14-time Pro Bowl selection; 7-time First Team All-Pro selection and engineered 54 game-winning drives in his career. In his postseason career, Manning threw 40 touchdowns passes, which is 4th all-time and just 25 interceptions. In the 2013 season, Manning set the single-season record with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards.
Manning, who will turn 40 years old on Mar. 24 is the only quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl with two different head coaches in Broncos head man Gary Kubiak and Tony Dungy, when the Colts beat the NFC champion Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI in Miami back in 2007. He is also the only QB to reach Super Sunday under the guidance of four different head coaches. The aforementioned Dungy and Kubiak, current head man of the Detroit Lions Jim Caldwell and former Broncos head coach and current leader of the Chicago Bears John Fox.
“When you look at everything Peyton has accomplished as a player and person, it’s easy to see how fortunate we’ve been to have him on our team,” Elway said back on Sunday.
“Peyton was everything that we though he was and even more – not only for the football team, but in the community. There’s no question that his work ethic is what made him into one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.”
“We are forever grateful for Peyton’s unmatched contributions to the game and know that his success will continue in the next phase of his life,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement this past Monday.
The NFL journey for Manning began in Game 1 of the 1998 season against the Miami Dolphins with his first completion to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk and the first touchdown pass of his career went to a guy he would complete many passes in his Colts career to in future Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who will be inducted this August.
The opposing QB in that contest was Hall of Famer and Manning’s second favorite player after his aforementioned father Archie Dan Marino.
Later, Manning said he complete a pass to tight end Marcus Pollard down the middle of RCA Dome Field and he took a major hit after the throw.
“After I got up, I told myself, ‘I know I can play in this league,” Manning said.
The Colts went just 3-13 in Manning’s first season under center. One of the team’s the Colts faced that season was at the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore. It was the Colts first visit to the place they used to call home since they moved to the Midwest back in 1984. The Colts lost the game 38-31.
“We didn’t exactly get a warm reception that day. The fans were screaming at me and I kept thinking, ‘Hey. I was only eight years old then. Get off my back,” Manning said.
At the end of the game, Manning met and shook the hand of the late great Colts QB and a name synonymous with professional football in Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas and he told the young Manning to stay at it and that he was pulling for him to do well. Manning did stay with it, for 18 glorious years, which produced 45 fourth-quarter come from behind victories.
“I hope No. 19 is up there with his flat top and maybe his black high tops on and I hope he knows that I have stayed at it and maybe he’s even a little proud of me,” Manning said. “There’s just something about 18 years. Eighteen is a good number. Today I retire from pro football.”
Manning in his speech thanked the people from where his life journey began, New Orleans, LA, where his father played 12 of his 14 NFL seasons as the signal caller for the New Orleans Saints. He also had brief stints with the then Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings.
“New Orleans is my hometown and off course they support their own team, the Saints,” Manning said of the place where he group up and of the team who beat him and the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV 31-17 in Miami, FL. “But they also support their own and that city and state have backed me from the start.”
Nearly 19 years ago to the day, Manning announced that he was going to remain at the University of Tennessee for his senior season. He called it one of the smartest decision that he ever made and that he cherished his time in Knoxville, TN, in particular his last year.
Manning expressed to Volunteer nation of the very special role that the school played in the life of the future Hall of Famer.
He then thanked the Colts organization and every fan that rooted for him across the U.S.
“You can’t fathom how much I enjoyed my 14 years there or the warmth that my family feels for you,” Manning said. “I’d be wrong not to mention Jim Irsay [Colts owner], Bill Polian [former Colts GM and Team President from 1998-2011 and Hall of Famer]. Some great coaches, support staff and a host of wonderful Colts teammates, many of whom will be lifelong friends.”
When Manning was drafted No. 1 overall by the Colts 18 years ago, they started at the bottom of the barrel, but slowly but surely turn Indianapolis from a basketball and car racing town into as Manning said on Monday afternoon, “football evangelist.”
In that aforementioned rookie season of 1998, Manning set the rookie record with 28 interceptions, which still stands today. Manning said each year he pulls for a rookie to break that record from the likes of Andrew Luck of the Colts, the man that essentially replaced him four years back. Matthew Stafford, Eli and Cam Newton.
“I still kid Eli that that he’d would’ve broken it if he’d started all 16 games,” Manning said of his younger brother, who was also drafted No. 1 overall in 2004 out of Ole Miss by the San Diego Chargers, but was traded to the Giants.
Manning said that the team’s struggles in his rookie season were agonizing. His grandfather would call him weekly to ask when his favorite announcers in legendary play-by-play man for FOX Sports Pat Summerall and his partner in the booth John Madden would be broadcasting one of his grandson’s games.
Manning during one phone call said to the gentleman he calls “Papa” that the team is only 2-8 at that time and that the Colt’s next opponent was the 3-7 Cincinnati Bengals and that Madden and Summerall do not broadcast those kinds of games. Fast forward to Manning’s second season, where the Colts finished 13-3, the Colts hosted the Dallas Cowboys and the eventual Hall of Fame “Triplets” of quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wideout Michael Irvin and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders in Week 8 of the 1999 season.
Manning called to tell his grandfather the good news that Madden and Summerall would be broadcasting the game and Manning’s Papa said, “I can’t believe it.
Manning said that his grandfather was elated and proud and he led Colts to a 34-24 win that week, sending a signal that Colts had arrived.
It got better from there as the Colts made the playoffs in 11 of the next 12 seasons. The team won at least 12 games for seven consecutive seasons. One of those seasons of winning at least 12 games concluded with a victory in the aforementioned Super Bowl XLI back in 2006. Manning won Super Bowl MVP.
Fast forward five years, Manning had another neck surgery that cost him the 2011 season and the Colts finished 2-14. It was only just the second season in which the Colts did win at least 10 games.
With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft in their hands and a $28 million roster bonus due to Manning, the Colts made the tough decision to say goodbye to their great signal caller on Mar. 7, 2012 and they drafted Luck out of Stanford that April with that No. 1 overall pick.
Nearly two weeks later, Manning signed with the Broncos for five years and $96 million. Although the No. 18 was retired by the Broncos in honor of former Heisman Trophy winning, the late great Frank Tripucka, he gave Manning permission to where it.
In four years as the Broncos signal caller, Manning not only proved that he had plenty left in the tank as evidenced by the numbers mentioned earlier in his Broncos career, he helped them win the American Football Conference (AFC) West Division four straight seasons and was a part of their third Super Bowl victory in franchise history back as mentioned this past February.
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be and he will become what he should be. When I visited Denver four years ago, if John Elway had sat me down and said, ‘Peyton. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to win over 50 games. Win four straight division championships. Lose only three division games in four years and none would be on the road. We’ll beat the Patriots in two championship games. You’re going to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Another MVP. Your offense will set single-season passing records. You’ll break a couple of all-time records and we’ll go to a couple of Super Bowls. I think I would’ve taken that deal,” Manning said.
Most people in life, let alone pro sports get a second chance. Manning got that second chance from Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen, Chairman and CEO Joe Ellis and said that he was truly “grateful” for that second chance.
He also thanked his teammates as he said for what they did for, “this old quarterback.” 
He also thanked the head coaches that he had in his career in Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, John Fox and Kubiak that not only made Manning one of the greatest at his craft, but even a better human being.  
Manning also gave thanks to the representation that he has had for nearly 20 years in Tom Condon who he said represented him with class at every step and will always be a great friend.
While his football families in Indianapolis and Denver have been an important part of Manning’s success, he made sure to express his thanks and gratitude to his true family. His aforementioned parents Olivia and Archie, his aforementioned brothers Cooper and Eli and his wife of 15 years Ashley and their five-year-old twins, son Marshal Williams and daughter Mosley Thompson.
Manning told the story that a week before Super Bowl 50, Mosley asked her father that if this is the last game. Manning replied that this is the last game of the season.
Mosley said to her father, “I sure want you to win that trophy.”
Manning replied, “I do to Mosley. And that’s what were gonna try to do.”
Manning’s daughter then asked if this is the last game ever?
Manning said that is when he shook his head in amazement because he was thinking that ESPN’s NFL Insider’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter had gotten to his five-year-old daughter to cultivate a news source. It got a rise out of the reporters.
When any pro athlete retires, the question that comes up more than anything else is what will they miss about the sport they played or a great one like Manning dominated?
He said that what he will miss about the game that he “revered,” a steak dinner at St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis after a win. Battles with some of the greatest defensive players that ever played the game who will be in the Hall of Fame safety John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Rodney Harrison, Rod Woodson and Ed Reed; linebackers Ray Lewis, London Fletcher, Tedy Bruschi and the late great Junior Seau.
Many of those players and many others, including his teammates took to twitter to express their feelings about Manning’s retirement.
Former Bears future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher @BUrlacher54 said, “Congrats Peyton it was an honor to play against you. Enjoy the next chapter of your life #goat #sbchamp #manning
Two time NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Texans’ defensive lineman @JJ Watt said, “It was an honor and a privilege Peyton,” #FarewellSheriff.
Former Broncos tight end, who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars Julius Thomas @Julius_Thomas said, “Too much respect for my guy!”  
Manning said he will also miss the mind games against some of the greatest defensive coaches like Jeff Fisher, Rex and Rob Ryan, Bill Belichick, Monty Kiffin, Wade Phillips, the Broncos current Defensive Coordinator; Ron Rivera, Dick LeBeau, Dom Capers, Marvin Lewis and the late Jim Johnson.
Phillips @sonofbum said, “Wonderful tributes to Peyton—as they should be—the amazing thing is that some of his records will never be broken.”
Broncos’ safety T.J. Ward @BossWard43 said, “Congrats to P. Manning on your retirement. It has been an honor to play with you the past two seasons. #GOAT #PMONEY.
Manning said he will miss figuring out blitz schemes with his longtime center with the Colts Jeff Saturday; perfecting a fake handoff with his running back in his time with the Colts Edgerrin James; how Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas telling told him that he loved him and thanking him for coming to Denver after every touchdown he threw to him; putting in a play with offensive coordinators Tom Moore with the Colts and Adam Gase, the new head coach of the Dolphins that ends in a touchdown on game day; picking out game balls with the equipment guys; talking football with the broadcast crews before the game and recapping the game with his dad; checking to see if the Giants won and calling Eli when both reach their team’s respective buses and the handshake with rival signal caller Tom Brady of the Pats’ who he lost six of 17 all-time meetings including the postseason and the plane rides home after a win with 53 teammates standing in the isles celebrating during the whole flight.
“I will miss playing in front of so many great fans, both at home and on the road and I’ll even miss the Patriot fans in Foxboro [MA],” Manning said. “And they should miss me because they got a lot of wins off of me.”
The feeling was mutual from Brady, who on his Facebook page this past Monday said, “Congratulations Peyton, on an incredible career. You changed the game forever and made everyone around you better. It’s been an honor.”
Pats’ head coach Bill Belichick, in a statement about Manning said, “For 18 years, we battled fiercely, but regardless of each game’s outcome, I always walked off the field with the utmost appreciation for the highest level of competition in which those games were prepared for and played. I can honestly say that I never ‘enjoyed’ our meetings, but the respect I have for Peyton Manning as a competitor was, and will likely remain second to none.”
He may not have had the greatest arm in the game. He may not have been the fastest guy at the quarterback position. He might not have been the most talented quarterback in the game. Three things are set in stone about Peyton Manning. He was one of the hardest working signal callers to ever play the game. He had one of the greatest minds, which made him unstoppable at times and he was one of the most prepared players in the game. On top of that he had a love for football and he had a great respect for it. It showed in the victories and it really came through in some difficult defeats.
Manning has had more early playoff exits, meaning losses in the Wild Card or Divisional playoff round when his team has had a First-Round Bye with nine. Despite winning two Super Bowls in his soon to be Hall of Fame career, Manning's 13 postseason losses are the most of any Super Bowl winning signal caller.
In 12 career contest against Brady and the Patriots in the regular season, Manning and the Colts and Broncos played eight of those contest in Foxboro where Manning went just 2-6, but he is just one of three quarterbacks to win multiple times against Brady and Belichick in Foxboro, MA.
With the playoffs being the ultimate judge of a QB's success and failure, Manning's teams have faced Brady and Belichick on five occasions and he is 3-2 against them in those contest and in four matchups in the AFC Championship Game, Manning has won three of the four chances against arguably the greatest quarterback/head coach combination in NFL history with an appearance in the Super Bowl on the line.
It is hard to fathom that one of the greatest to ever play the position has been judged on what he has not done than what he has. Peyton Manning has accomplished a lot in his career. He put one team on the NFL map and got another back to the promise land.
Besides being well respected by the players he played and coaches he played with and against, Manning also gained a level of respect from those in the media both print and broadcast that covered him during his 18-year career.
NFL on CBS color analyst and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants Phil Simms said on this past Monday’s edition of “Time to Schein,” with Adam Schein on CBS Sports Network about Manning is, “He is the greatest player I’ve ever dealt with in production meetings. It’s every time… We sat in there and if we had questions, he would sit there and answer them.”
ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, who led the Ravens to a 34-7 win against the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV back on Jan. 28, 2001 said on Twitter @TDESPN, “Peyton, you changed the way the position is played and taught. Your influence & legacy extend much further than you accolades. Thank you.”
“When he talked about football being a relationship business, he could not had said it better and I so appreciate he went there with it,” Saturday, also a NFL analyst for ESPN and who was a part of the Super Bowl XLI title team with the Colts said back on Monday afternoon.
“It was an honor, really. To hear that from the one opponent that I respect more than all others that I played up against,” Bruschi, now an NFL analyst for ESPN said on the Monday after addition of “NFL Live.”
“I can honestly say this about Peyton Manning that the biggest compliment that I can give him guys is that he made me a better player because knowing what type of quarterback he was. Knowing everything that he put into it and watching that film and the complexity and the intellectual challenge that I knew it was going to be, it made all of us that played against him a better player. NFL football offensively, but also defensively I think got better because of who he was as a player.”  
He was a great professional athlete that was relatable from the fact that he could be in commercials for companies like Nationwide, Papa John’s Pizza, DirecTV to hosting “Saturday Night Live,” on NBC and he might be the only guy that can call a play that represents the name of a town Omaha, NE and it becomes a part of popular culture forever. It made him one of the most respected professional athletes to ever play.  
While he may no longer be playing football, he will always be a part of the game, especially at his Passing Academy that he founded back in 1996 that takes place at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA.
Peyton Manning was a once in a lifetime football player and pro athlete that was the easiest to route for, respect and love from no matter if you were a diehard football fan or just a casual fan. He made your viewing experience whether it was watching him perform on the small screen or in person at the stadium one you will never forget and he will miss very much.
“I fought a good fight. I finished my football race and after 18 years it’s time. God Bless all of you and God Bless football,” Manning said at the conclusion of his press conference.    
Information, statistics and quotations courtesy of 3/7/16  Newsday article, “Peyton Leaves On Top,” by Bob Glauber; 3/7/16 2:30 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “NFL Live” with Trey Wingo, Ryan Clark, Tedy Bruschi and Herm Edwards;  report from Denver, CO from Bob Holtzman, Bill Polian and Jeff Saturday; 3/7/16 6 p.m. edition of “Time to Schein,” with Adam Schein on CBS Sports Network;;;;;;   

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