Peyton Manning is widely considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. His career was highlighted by his ability to extend plays with audibles, and his accuracy on deep throws. These traits made him an ideal candidate for the new wave of quarterbacking that has taken over the league since he retired.
Peyton Manning, the NFL’s most prolific passer of all time, retired in 2016. This article discusses how his retirement changed quarterbacking forever.
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIA — The 17-year-old record-breaking play looked like it was drawn out by kids in the mud. However, it cemented Peyton Manning’s status as the NFL’s best quarterback at the line of scrimmage.
Manning privately instructed receiver Brandon Stokley that if the Chargers gave him a particular look at the line of scrimmage before the snap, he would give him the “smash symbol” — a universal call in the NFL that indicates the slot receiver runs a corner route and the outside receiver runs a hitch route.
The Chargers gave Manning the look as he scanned the line. He went left, opened one hand, balled up the other, and began hammering it, as though he intended Stokley and Reggie Wayne, who was lined up out wide, to run the “smash” play. Stokley returned Manning’s stare, nodding his head in accord.
The short hitch was run by Wayne, but Stokley did something unexpected that none of the other nine offensive players on the field saw coming.
On Manning’s 49th touchdown throw of the season, he surpassed the single-season record most touchdowns in a season, established in 2004, by breaking to the middle on a route where he was open by nearly 10 yards.
“It was a hook, line, and sinker for the Chargers,” Stokley said. “That exemplified Peyton’s advanced thinking. Nothing had been addressed prior to the play being written in the dirt. At the line of scrimmage, Peyton was the pioneer of pushing the game to the next level. He established the standard, and you can see a lot of quarterbacks in the league doing the same thing at the line of scrimmage. Peyton is in charge of 99.9% of the time “”F that,” she says.
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Manning leads the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, which will be inaugurated on Sunday, with 71,940 yards passing, 539 touchdown passes, and two Super Bowl wins (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). His speech will almost certainly be as meticulous as his game preparation during his 17-year playing career. Don’t be shocked if Manning mentions “Omaha, Omaha” or “Apple, Apple” during his address to make the audience chuckle about some of his most famous audible calls.
And, as amusing as some of Manning’s calls at the line of scrimmage were, the quarterback’s phraseology was an art, if not a science.
Because the mythical boxer Rocky Balboa was left-handed, “Balboa, Balboa” indicated the play would move to the left.
As Manning studied the defense, “Ice cream, ice cream” indicated to be patient since there was nothing there.
“Every defense who thought they had Peyton figured out soon found out they didn’t,” Stokley said. “Because teams could utilize the TV copy to pick up what he was saying, the phrases would frequently vary week to week. He’d use the same phrase several times, but the play would be different each time. Everything was done meticulously.”
“Peyton Manning revolutionized the way quarterbacks played in every sport. Because he had complete control of the line of scrimmage, “Bill Polian, the former general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, agreed. Bill Waugh/AP Photo
Many quarterbacks now, like as Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, are adept at reading defenses and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, as Manning was.
“Peyton Manning revolutionized the way quarterbacks played in every sport. Because he had complete control of the line of scrimmage, “Bill Polian, the former general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted Manning first overall in 1998, agreed. “So, today, you see students doing it in high school, and they’re doing it in college as well. In the NFL, it’s used to tremendous effect. And that is his legacy: his ability to dominate the game via a pre-snap look, play selection, and post-snap execution with just game-plan assistance from the coaches was a huge stride forward for the position.”
Manning’s ability to dissect defenses on a regular basis wasn’t due to his ability to simply observe the defensive formation, take the snap, and throw the ball.
Intellect. The desire to play football. It didn’t hurt that Manning’s father, Archie, was a former NFL player.
Polian spotted it months before the Colts chose Manning with the first overall selection over Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf.
Manning carried a yellow legal pad into his meeting with the Colts at the 1998 combine. The notebook wasn’t just for show; it included a list of questions for Polian and his team.
The roles were switched around. Manning wanted to make sure that the Colts were the kind of team he wanted to be a part of.
“He asked a number of questions about the offense, about the team, about the offensive philosophy, and then all of a sudden — you know, you only get 20 minutes in that interview, and they blow a horn when it’s over — and the horn blew, and we looked at each other, and man, we didn’t get any questions in, he asked them all,” Polian explained. “… He walked out, and we said, ‘Holy mackerel, he interviewed us, not the other way around.’”
Those who coached or played with Manning throughout his career frequently use the term “demanding” to describe him.
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Manning was working hard, so he expected others to do the same. It didn’t matter whether it was the team’s last roster member, the coaching staff, the ball boys, or even the janitor.
Former Indianapolis Colts center and current ESPN commentator Jeff Saturday stated, “He changed the culture of an organization.” “He was a coach on the field and in the building in his position as the quarterback, for example. I mean, truly, really being a part of the club and challenging at every level, whether it was management, coaching staff, or other players, the way he handled himself in the offseasons. To me, they were the traits that set him apart.”
“It wasn’t aggressive, it wasn’t rude,” former Colts offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said, “but you simply came prepared to meetings. You didn’t go into a meeting unprepared and just thinking, ‘Hey, I’ll wing it, I didn’t have a chance to prepare.’
“You had best be prepared, have all of your facts straight, and deliver it properly.”
Peyton Manning would compulsively watch game film to ensure that he was completely prepared to dominate the game through pre-snap action. Getty Images/Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated
Manning’s game preparation did not begin the week before or two weeks before the opponent was to be faced. In most cases, teams would have 4-6 games of their opponent in the system to study. Manning, being the perfectionist, wasn’t happy with just those two games. He often asked that ten games be provided for analysis.
But there’s a snag.
To aid in the preparation process, Manning would break through five of those games himself. He’d then meet with his position coach or offensive coordinator to discuss the defensive patterns he saw. Manning wanted to make sure he was prepared for whatever defensive look he may get.
Former Colts coach Jim Caldwell described him as “very odd.” “There has never been anybody in the history of the game who worked as hard as he did. Nobody. I’ve known a lot of hard workers, coaches, and athletes over the years, but none of them compare to him.”
Rex Ryan, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and current coach of the New York Jets, can’t recall how many hours of sleep he missed preparing his defenses to play Manning.
Ryan genuinely believed there was a moment when he had Manning figured out. Ryan, then the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, told linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed in the days leading up to the 2006 playoff game against the Colts that if they could keep Manning and his offense out of the end zone, they would win.
The Ravens did not allow a score and Manning was intercepted twice. They did not, however, win the game. Manning drove the Colts deep enough into Baltimore territory to score five field goals from Adam Vinatieri to win the game.
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So, despite Ryan’s endless hours of little sleep, spending overnight at the facility, and devising tactics that he believed would work, Manning discovered just enough methods to decode what the Ravens — and many other defenders — were doing.
“He kicked my ass so many times,” Ryan said. “It seemed impossible to believe. I used to think I was the f—-ing greatest, so I looked at myself that way. I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about. And he’d constantly kick my ass… what’s hilarious is, if you remove Peyton Manning and Tom Brady out of the equation, my overall record would be insane. It would be great if I could make a record. But it was surreal to be confronted by those two animals.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay often compared Manning’s offense to a Star Wars-style attack. In nine of Manning’s 13 seasons with the Colts, the team finished in the top five in the league in yards and points per game. Manning’s Broncos, who he joined in 2012 and stayed with for the rest of his career, accomplished it in three of his four seasons with the team.
“You want a pilot like that if you’re in a rainstorm and you’re on an aircraft,” Irsay added. “You want a commander like him if you’re over fighting in a war or whatever.” This man, after all, understood what he was doing. It showed, and I believe he influenced many young quarterbacks in the same way Tiger Woods influenced so many young golfers.
“They were watching Peyton, and they had never seen anything exactly like that before. Nobody can compare to what he did at the line of scrimmage and how obvious it was. That is why there will only be one Peyton Manning in the next 100 years.”
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