Peyton’s Role, Cam’s Press Conference and Elway’s Tough Decisions
SAN FRANCISCO — Putting Super Bowl 50, and a few other football matters, to bed in the wake of a meh but historically significant NFL championship game:
Do not put an asterisk on this game for Peyton Manning. I’ve already heard the rumblings about how Peyton Manning didn’t do much of anything to help the Broncos win, so this won’t change his legacy, blah, blah, blah. Manning (13-23, 141 yards, no touchdowns, one interception) has two Super Bowl wins. Period. If John Elway doesn’t get an asterisk for his first Super Bowl win (12-22, 123 yards, no TDs, one pick), and Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t get one for his first (9-21, 123 yards, no TDs, two picks)—and I can go on with other C (or D) performances—then zip it about Manning being a bystander while the defense won this one. He was a bystander, mostly. But that’s a fact of life. Sometimes in football games, the quarterback is just there and others win the game. It’s OK. The same rules for some must be the same rules for all.
I can’t get too fired up about Cam Newton and his pouty press conference. Should he have cooperated slightly? Yes. Is he the face of the franchise? Yes. If I were Ron Rivera and minicamp came around, would I have word with him about it? Yes. For a franchise quarterback, the press conference—fair or unfair—has a little bit of meaning. Bernie Kosar used to call it the fifth quarter, where he could shape the discussion in the public and the media for the coming day or days. It’s the kind of thing, in this First Take culture, that we must debate a lot, I suppose. But I look at it this way: Newton got pissy. I don’t really care. I doubt his teammates care. And it doesn’t matter very much.
Von Miller is not the only player who made a lot of money Sunday. Malik Jackson, the defensive lineman John Elway has not been able to get signed long-term, is going to be a top-three player on the free-agent market. His interior-line strength, his ability to beat good blockers with strength or quickness, and his nose for the ball is going to make him good money on the market. Denver can’t pay everyone. Jackson will be a target.
• VON MILLER REACHES THE TOP: He hit bottom two years ago, with a suspension and an injury. After a Super Bowl 50 MVP performance, he’s solidified his status as a franchise player. Next up: a massive payday.
Cleveland is probably a smart spot for Jared Goff at No. 2 overall, but keep an eye on the Browns for Brock Osweiler. I threw it out there Monday, but just know the Broncos have smart intelligentsia alongside Elway. They hear things. They feel things. And you never know whether Hue Jackson (or whomever has control in the new Cleveland brain trust) would rather use the No. 2 pick on a lock player at a different position and spend some Jimmy Haslam dough to steal Osweiler. We’ll see.
John Elway won’t get emotional about Peyton Manning. Elway is a trained pro. He was as a quarterback. He is as a team manager. He made it clear to me when we spoke for a story last week that he wants to give Manning his space and be respectful and let him make a smart decision in due time. But he also said to me: “This is a decision we have to make too.” And with so many drags on his cap now and knowing he’s got to set aside $20-million-ish for Von Miller and try to put a deal together for Jackson and the quarterback he wants to sign for the future, Brock Osweiler, it’s not realistic to set aside money for Manning, who turns 40 in six weeks.
San Francisco/San Jose/Santa Clara/Stanford did a really good job, as far as my Super Bowl experience went. Face it: Part of every Super Bowl experience is the weather. And holy cow, was the weather great during Super Bowl week … and I don’t just mean the 73-degree pristine Super Bowl Sunday. But this area is wonderful, and deserving of a spot in the regular Super Bowl rotation. No one ever has a bad time here. Jed York and the 49ers set up the stadium great on gameday, and the city (mostly) sparkled. Just one example of what makes this city great: a place like the Black Hammer Brewery, where The MMQB had a Tweetup with some fans last Friday. Warm place, great people, a bar dog (Growler) and young people with imagination creating new technology and ways of doing things.
Give CBS credit for this. Last Wednesday, at his final production meeting of the year (and likely his career), Peyton Manning spent 45 minutes at the Broncos’ hotel with the CBS TV crew, led by producer Lance Barrow. The production meeting is an off-the-record interview session between TV crew and player—or TV crew and coach—in which the crew might ask for some very private tips on things so they can figure out story lines for the upcoming game, or maybe be in position to tell a camera person to focus on a particularly player or coach if they see a certain formation of personnel grouping. Anyway, I have always heard that Manning is the best at telling the insider anecdotes that you might hear on a telecast. In other words, Manning respects the broadcasters enough that he tries to help them do their jobs. So, back to last Wednesday in Santa Clara. When his meeting was winding down, Barrow’s crew—Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, and those behind the cameras and in the truck, 15 or so in all—all stood and gave Manning an ovation. Now that’s a nice touch.
I have some advice for Mike Carey, but mostly I wish people would lay off him. His percentage fell again on Sunday when he said the Jerricho Cotchery incompletion should be changed to a completion. Now, give him credit. He has sometimes been absolute with his call, and a second later the ref on the field disagrees. In this case, he said, “If I was in the booth, I’d reverse this to a catch.” Good wording. But here’s the way I looked at the call and the job: If there is a 5 percent chance you’re wrong, and that ball does some funny things on and off camera in and around the grasp of Cotchery, you should say there’s not enough clear and indisputable evidence to overturn. We are getting way, way too far afield when plays look very much like they are different than how they were called. That’s not a high-enough standard.
One more thing on replay. I think it should be handled fully, with all decisions made, in New York’s officiating command center. Then there’s the best chance for uniformity in calls.
Hall of Fame notes. I told tales of Eddie DeBartolo, Tony Dungy and Terrell Davis in Monday’s column. On other questions that have surfaced since (keeping in mind that we can’t discuss specifics of what’s said in the voting room): Terrell Owens, I believe, will eventually get into Canton, but it could take some time. His numbers are indisputable, as are the stories of how disruptive he was as a player. If we’re going to credit Michael Irvin for his leadership and influence on the locker room (which was highly positive) and how that was a factor in the Cowboys’ greatness, then we can and should consider the impact of Owens’ locker room factor … Morten Andersen has a very good case, being the top scorer in NFL history. But I believe (and can’t swear; it’s simply a gut feeling) that the mentally is that there has to be a spur to get a kicker or punter in—a spur like great clutch kicking. Andersen had tremendous longevity, obviously, and it’s certainly not his fault that he doesn’t have a snow-bowl playoff kick or a slew of Super Bowl-influencing kicks like Adam Vinatieri does. But cutting the modern-era candidate list from 15 to 5 is arduous. If a kicker’s going to make it, there may have to be a strong playoff and/or Super Bowl history there as well … Marvin Harrison over T.O.? I have always voted for Harrison. I think he’s the most precise route-runner with extremely sure hands. I thought they were two of the best candidates this year, but I am one of 46 … And Dungy over other coaches. All I can say is this: Dungy has had a huge influence as a leader among African-American coaches, and a beacon for so many. And those of you who ridicule his selection, despite the fact that he’s the only coach to lead his team to the playoffs 10 years in a row, I believe that no matter who the quarterback is, a coach is an important element. And if he wins consistently and is playing in January every year, he’s got to get credit for it.