At age 37, when most quarterbacks have long since retired, Peyton Manning is having one of his best years ever.
Despite the overwhelming consensus that his physical skills are declining, he’s still dissecting and dismantling defenses to an almost unprecedented degree.
Over the last few months teammates, opposing players, opposing coaches, and everyone else in the NFL world has tried to put his genius into words.
Most explanations for his greatness come back to three themes: He has mastered the mental side of the game, he’s an exceptionally accurate passer, and his work ethic makes him and everyone around him better
We collected quotes about Manning’s greatness from around the league. When taken together, they give you a full picture of what makes him so good.
Wes Welker, Broncos receiver, says his accuracy is next-level: “The balls are just so accurate and you come out of your break and the ball is just there. It’s almost like a long handoff sometimes.”
Montee Ball, Broncos running back, says he’s incredibly helpful to young players, even though he demands a lot out of them: “Well, first off, it was overwhelming at the beginning just because it’s a difficult offensive play book, just because it’s Peyton Manning. He keeps a lot of players on his toes by changing the plays and all that stuff. In our OTAs and that stuff. Every day at practice we would work on something. He would ask me, ‘What do you think you need help in?’ I would tell him I need help with this route or this play. Then we would work on it right after practice before we even go to our meetings.”
Bill Belichick, Patriots coach, says he has mastered how to audible, “Depending on how you’re playing him then he’s going to attack you based on what you’re doing. If you do certain things he’s going to do certain things. If you do other things he’s going to do other things. He’s going to run plays that are good plays against what you’re doing. Runs, passes, schemes, whatever.”
Frank Reich, Peyton’s QB coach in Indy, says he’s smarter than everyone else: “His mind is always going, he’s formulating a plan, synthesizing all this information that he is hearing, seeing, studying from other people. He’s listening, but he’s going to call the shots. There might not be another one like him, who does it like he does it.”
Adam Meadows, an offensive lineman who played with Peyton in Indy, says he’s obsessed with the game: “He lives, eats, breathes, smokes, snorts, chews football. He’s just a machine. That’s all he wants to do. I think he expects other people to approach it the way he does. It’s not always a good thing.”
Champ Bailey, Broncos cornerback, says even if you’re in perfect coverage, Peyton can beat you: “He’s going to put the ball where it needs to be, and that’s so frustrating (for defensive backs) because you can have good coverage,” Bailey said. “You saw that the other night, people were in tight coverage, but he puts that ball in there and he’s the best at it.”
Paraag Marathe, 49ers COO, says a small mental edge has a huge relative effect: “The quarterback position is such a difficult position to evaluate because it’s part physical talent and part cerebral talent,” says Paraag Marathe, chief operating officer of the San Francisco 49ers. “The standard deviation in physical skill set is so small at the NFL level. But, mentally, there’s a bigger gap.”
Rich Gannon, CBS analyst and former NFL QB, says he’s just on another level mentally: “He’s at the Ph.D. level. He anticipates ahead of time based on his film study and preparation during the week. He’s able to preview information in the huddle ahead of time. ‘Hey, guys, I’m anticipating pressure. Heads up for this.’ Then he can get up to the line of scrimmage and recognise the front, the down and distance, the coverage, where the pressure’s coming from, and change the protection.”
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