Peyton Manning made another smart audible on Monday. The old quarterback finally hung ’em up at 39 years old and not a second too soon.
Now what do we make of his legacy? In 18 seasons, Manning threw for a zillion yards and touchdowns, not to mention sold a lot of pizzas. But there were two of him, and they couldn’t be much more different. There was the regular-season Manning, a first-ballot Hall of Famer beyond a doubt. There also was the postseason Manning who was just another above-average quarterback — 14-13 record, 87.4 rate. He guided his team to one Super Bowl title, and it was painful, even kind of sad to hear him almost apologize for the second in Santa Clara a few weeks ago.
An all-timer? For sure. But Greatest Of All Time as some insist? Puh-leeeze.
Like a lot of things about Manning over the years, his legend was the result of impeccable timing as much as anything. He was lucky to spend 13 seasons in a dome with good Indianapolis Colts teams in a rather lame division. If he left an imprint on the game, it was his ability to think it through tireless pregame preparation and utter disregard for head coaches and offensive coordinators. There is no statistic to confirm this, but Mr. Omaha! almost certainly called the highest percentage of plays of any quarterback in football history. He would have it no other way.
Now the so-called Sheriff rides off into the sunset, not in a blaze of glory but with a posse on his trail.
For two decades, at a time when marquee QBs were in short supply around the league, Manning almost could do no wrong. He was the son of a famous quarterback, a hard-working family man whom the league and most media wanted to succeed in the worst way. Now that image has taken a hit amid recent charges of sexual harassment in college and delivery of human growth to his home not long ago. If Manning were still in his prime, it’s quite possible that his career would be on a different path now.
After a tearful farewell, Manning said little about his actions off the field except to restate his innocence. He offered no regrets, no apologies. Then again, Manning was able to avoid pressure throughout his career, and for that, a lot of people were to blame.
FUHGEDDABOUDIT: According to the league standings, the Warriors really did lose by 17 points to the team formerly known as the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Consider it to be their parting gift to Kobe Bryant, because other than the fact that it was the greatest upset in NBA regular-season history, the embarrassment amounted to a blip on the 82-game schedule at least for now.
The runner-up San Antonio Spurs had a clunker of their own in Indiana on Monday night, and after the Warriors made short work of the Orlando Magic at Oracle Arena, their lead was 3½ games again. They’ll play 14 of their final 20 games at home, where they haven’t lost in more than 14 months. That was a few hundred Kardashian selfies ago. The Spurs almost certainly will have to beat the Champs in the final three matchups to have any chance to overtake them. Unless Stephen Curry or Draymond Green is taken hostage, that ain’t happenin’.
As Curry nailed it, “We’re still in control of that conversation, but we want to keep looking ahead, not looking behind us. [The Spurs] are playing well. We don’t need any help down the stretch. We’re in control of our own pace. We’ve allowed ourselves the room to drop one here or there, but we’ve got to turn it back on.”
FOLLOW THE LEADER: If the Warriors heed Bryant’s advice, the blowout loss could be what they need at this late date. Afterward the soon-to-be-retired Lakers great reminded Green that it’s OK to be prickly at times in the role of team leader.
“He’s the one that has to keep his finger on the nerve with this team, because it can get lax, it can get comfortable, and I think he’s the one that’s going to have to create that conflict, that tension in the locker room,” said Bryant, as perceptive as ever. “Because if they don’t have that, then in the playoffs, then they are going to be in trouble. He’s got to give them that conflict.”
Now the onus is on Green to put his foot on the pedal, not in his mouth.
JUST SAY NO: There’s growing talk that the 49ers are interested in free agent quarterback Robert Griffin 2.5 — he’s been downsized from RG3 — and the Faithful should hope it’s a Hail Mary pass and nothing more.
The myth is that Griffin makes an ideal fit for new coach Chip Kelly and his zone read offense. Wrongo. Like Colin Kaepernick, Griffin has a strong arm and athletic skills, but he doesn’t care for a scheme that requires him to survey the entire field. Kelly wants a passer who’s effective in the short game. That’s not Griffin, who like Kaepernick comes up short in fundamentals, accuracy and pocket presence.
Griffin is a considerable health risk at this stage, what with torn PCL and ACL injuries and at least one concussion on his record. Put the guy behind a sieve-like offensive line, and he’ll be back on a gurney in no time.
YOUR TURN: “Don’t think the Warriors will catch the 1995-96 (Chicago) Bulls. The win record isn’t that big of a deal to them. LeBron (James) is going a little goofy in Cleveland, maybe taking the heat off the other Cavaliers players. But the (San Antonio) Spurs versus Warriors will be the best playoff series, and who ever wins that should beat anyone out of the East.” — Gary Anderson, Columbus, Ohio
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