Manning Answers Critics, Ousts Brady One Final Time

IMG_2947.JPGGreat comeback stories often make for tremendous screenplay. Rarely do we get to witness such stories outside of a movie theater. But this season, Peyton Manning has provided a story that even Hollywood couldn’t script. When sports history is asked to recall its greatest comeback stories, Peyton Manning’s 2015 season will be sitting at the top.

With one last chance to separate himself from his generational rival, Manning delivered. Manning outplayed his longtime nemesis en route to his 4th Super Bowl appearance of his storied career. Manning moved to 3-1 all-time against Brady in AFC Championship games. It seems poetic that Manning’s final run would include a concluding win against his arch-nemesis on the biggest possible stage. Manning and Brady shared an extended embrace at the end of the game, both realizing the finality of one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports.

Now, Manning has a chance to end his career in a way that another famous Broncos player had before him. Ironically, Manning had a run in the 3rd quarter of the game that had echoed flashbacks to John Elway’s run against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.The Broncos’ win is a chance for Elway to keep a promise he made to Manning when he signed in 2012. That promise was if he signed with the Broncos, Elway would do everything in his power “to make sure he finishes his career the way I finished mine.” But to truly appreciate this moment, we have to look at the events leading up to it for Peyton Manning.

Begin with how many had already written Manning off heading into the season after the previous year’s playoff loss to the Colts. Then add the Planter Fasciitis injury and the four interceptions that lead to his benching against Kansas City. Then, add the HGH allegations from the now disbanded Al-Jazzera America news network. Summarize it by making it appear Manning’s run is completely over with his backup playing adequately enough in his absence to deter thoughts of his return. Manning overcame all of this to reclaim his starting job before the playoffs.

Manning’s father, Archie, spoke fondly of this moment: “I’m just so happy he’s getting to play again,” Archie said. “Being hurt is the worst side of football, but just to play again, gosh, and to help them into the No. 1 seed and then to win two playoff games. … I didn’t know if he’d play again. He fought this thing a long time, and the good Lord looked down on him. … This is a special day”

For Manning, it’s vindication. It’s hard to imagine that a player of his magnitude would need it at this point in his career. But in the face of mounting critics in his tremendous comeback story, Peyton Manning showed the world that he still has enough magic left to deliver one final run.


Manning Gets One Final Duel With Brady


(Photo: Rafa Alvarez)

Manning vs. Brady XVII. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady jiving for the right to go to Super Bowl 50. Two legends. One final time. History had appeared to rob fans of one final bout between these two.Manning was entering the clutches of Father Time with injuries mounting. After reclaiming his starting job, Manning’s team was down in the fourth quarter of their first playoff game. Yet, again he fought through to come back. If there is one lesson sports has taught us, its that when someone faces doubt and adversity, grit and character are revealed. Manning’s comeback thus far is a testament to his.

It seems that nearly every playoff game Manning has played in recent years is career defining. This one appears to afford him the opportunity to finally separate himself from his biggest generational rival. If Manning wins, he moves to 3-2 all-time against Brady in the postseason. Those 3 wins would also have come in the AFC Championship game. If the script writers are wanting to give Manning his final due, it’s only fitting one of his final scenes features a bout with Brady. Ironically, one of his worst statistical seasons has blossomed into one that has him one game way from the Super Bowl. Manning and the Broncos likely will be underdogs at home against the Patriots next week. But for Manning, it’s just part of the script.

In Ryan Grigson-Chuck Pagano Feud, Pagano Wins


(Photo: Michael Conroy, AP)

In the reported feud between Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson, Pagano came away the victor Monday night. The embattled Indianapolis coach had answered questions about his job since the Colts lost their opening game this season but remained constant in his desire to coach the Colts. Many expected that Pagano would be let go and that owner Jim Irsay would make a big splash for his next head coach after a trainwreck 8-8 season. Ryan Grigson was expected to remain the GM through the forthcoming hiring process. But Monday evening, the tide appeared to shift in Pagano’s favor after hours in a meeting between Irsay and himself. That night, Irsay announced that Pagano would be staying with the Colts in a joint press conference with Pagano and Grigson.

It’s worthwhile to note Grigson’s demeanor during the conference. He had the look of a guy that absolutely did not want to be there. Contrast that with the look of Chuck Pagano and it’s not hard to figure out what happened. Pagano won. The entire feud has had the feel of watching two kids fight in school but become best friends once they got to the principal’s office. It’ll never be definitively known but it’s a safe bet that Pagano voiced Grigson’s numerous oversteps to Irsay. Irsay in all likelihood sided with Pagano and took some of Grigson’s authority away. Grigson’s frustration with this may have manifest itself in his body language at the press conference. Sympathetic fans of Pagano poured out their thoughts via social media and started the hashtag “chuckstay” that clearly got the attention of the Colts themselves:

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Interestingly, there wasn’t one for Ryan Grigson.

Time will tell if Irsay made the right choice in sticking with both men that are now tied to the hip.It’ll be interesting to see if Irsay can continue to mediate a clearly shaky relationship between the two.Irsay has shown that he favors stability and continuity which has helped propel the Colts to being one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. The Colts still have holes to fill on their roster while the AFC South is proving to no longer be a cakewalk. But for now, Chuck Pagano gets to enjoy another victory. One that allowed him to keep his job.

For Peyton Manning, There’s One Final Act


(Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

For many NFL players, the storybook ending often remains just that. A story. The league is unmerciful in moving forward while watching its legends fade into the abyss of retirement. For Peyton Manning, it appeared that his story was coming to a disheartening end. Amidst HGH allegations, injuries and a subsequent benching, many thought this was the last of Manning. You could feel the rage dripping from his words in his Sunday morning interview with Lisa Salters. His 39 year old body was failing him. His team had moved on from him. It appeared to be an unceremonious end for the one the league’s most prolific players. But then, the writers flipped the script. The Broncos offense couldn’t get out of its own way to the tune of five turnovers against the Chargers. With so much on the line, a sputtering Broncos offense turned back to the legend that had given all his body could this season.

To the roar of the the Denver crowd, Manning returned and seized the moment.The offense breathed new life with Manning at the helm. The Broncos scored 20 second half points en route to locking up the AFC’s number one seed. A season that’s seen Manning battle through the most adversity in his 18 year career seemed to karmically give him a final moment when a cloud of uncertainty loomed.

Now, an apparently rejuvenated Manning enters the postseason with the Broncos as the number one seed with the league’s number one defense behind him.The world wondered if they had seen the last of Peyton Manning. Sunday afternoon in Denver, they got their answer. Cue the final act.

Five Potential Colts Head Coach Candidates

As Chuck Pagano is set to coach his final game as Indianapolis’s head coach, questions are already swirling on whom the next coach will be. With Ryan Grigson expected to be retained through at least the search process, the Colts find themselves in a rather peculiar position. Nevertheless, the following will list some of the Colts head coaching options:

Adam Gase: 


(Photo: Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports)

Gase finds himself as a hot commodity in coaching circles. Two seasons after helping Peyton Manning achieve the greatest statistical season a quarterback has ever had in 2013, Gase became the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. Under Gase this season, Jay Cutler saw his interception ratio go down while his passer rating soared to a career high. The Colts offense struggled for a majority of the season both with and without Luck in the lineup. Gase would inevitably help the Colts offense improve after posting some of its worst statistical finishes since 2011. However, Gase’s lack of experience could be a deterrent. Many also believe that the Colts need more help defensively and that an offensive-minded head coach wouldn’t lend to that cause.

Rob Chudzinski: 



Chudzinski will likely be interviewed for the Colts vacancy given his in-house credentials. Chudzinski took over play-calling from Pep Hamilton midway through the season and saw limited success despite not using his own offensive system. Chudzinski’s previous experience as head coach of the Browns plays in his favor and his work with Cam Newton as a rookie in 2011 bodes well for him. Ryan Grigson and Jim Irsay may be inclined to start completely over with the coaching staff and given Chudzinski’s ties to Pagano, this could eliminate him from being an option.

Sean Payton: 


(Photo: ESPN)

Despite Drew Brees and Payton himself stating their commitment to New Orleans, rumors continue to circulate on where the Super Bowl-winning head coach will be next season. Since trades are technically not allowed, a coach would have to consent to move as the draft choice compensation package and have his deal negotiated with the new team. Some are expecting that this package would look similar to the Jon Gruden/Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade that saw four draft picks and eight million dollars in cash go to the Raiders in exchange for Gruden. Payton’s offensive pedigree could help turn Andrew Luck into the MVP-caliber player many expect him to be. His experience in winning a Super Bowl makes him one of the best candidates in this regard as well. However, given the Colts already thin-talent base on the defensive side of the ball, giving up a king’s ransom for Payton could set the Colts back a number of seasons moving forward.

Hue Jackson:


(Photo: Associated Press)

The former Oakland Raiders head coach and current Bengals offensive coordinator is another name being thrown into the potential head coach’s hat. Andy Dalton took a giant leap forward this season under Jackson, posting a career best passer rating and a career low in interceptions. Jackson’s impressive ability to get the most out of his players would seem to work well with an Indianapolis team that has loads of talent offensively. However there are a few caveats to Jackson’s potential. Many think he desires to have more of a say in personnel choices given his trade for Carson Palmer during his time with Oakland. This would not mesh well with Ryan Grigson, whom was reportedly already at odds with Chuck Pagano over personnel choices. Some have also questioned Jackson’s success this season as a result of having talented players in AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Mohammad Sanu.

Josh McDaniels:


(Photo: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Like Adam Gase,  Josh McDaniels represents the up and coming generation of offensive coordinators that have seen a level of success. Unfortunately for McDaniels, his time as a head coach saw him be run out of Denver before returning to New England. Like a number of New England coaches, McDaniels struggled outside of Bill Bellichek’s nest. Mcdaniels has seen success as a coordinator however. Tom Brady is in the midst of another successful season with McDaniels at the helm. McDaniels has also shown the vital characteristic to be able to adapt his offense week to week based on whom the team is playing. The Colts and Andrew Luck could benefit from this style of offensive game planning after the same vertical passing attack of 2014 seemed to be thwarted in 2015.While McDaniels failure as head coach may be a deterrent, it could also be seen as a growth opportunity for one of the NFL’s bright, young minds.