How well is Peyton Manning playing? He can take a second-year D-III wide receiver and a 25-year-old, blonde-haired Mormon rookie against the best defense in the NFL, and turn those players into Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. In the AFC championship game, no less. Think about that for a moment, we're not talking about a great quarterback surrounded by unbelievable talent. We're talking about a quarterback performance the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time ... if ever.
Right now, Peyton Manning is playing quarterback better than anyone has ever played the position in the history of the game. And all over the country wide receivers for the 28 teams who entered Sunday already eliminated from playoff contention sat in front of their television screens and cursed their misfortune over not being drafted by the Colts. "Damn," they all thought, "I'd be in the Pro Bowl if I got to play for Peyton Manning."
Hell, you or I might be in the Pro Bowl if we got to play with Peyton Manning. He's so good, that everyone around him becomes cloaked in his aura of greatness. Here are 15 other things that jumped out at me from the televised AFC championship game.
Because only the power of the beard can explain how a rookie quarterback can win two playoff games with only one go-to pass play, the one-step slant.
How in the world did no one jump this in three playoff games? It's Sanchez's only consistent throw, his go-to play call on third and anything.
Granted Sanchez has a laser of an arm -- if Marcia Brady had gotten hit by a Sanchez football pass her nose would have exited the back of her head -- but you still have to jump this at some point, right?
2. Peyton Manning gets sacked like you or I shop for lingerie near Valentine's Day.
Namely, he knows he's not supposed to be there and he just takes a dive and avoids punishment as best he can.
You know what I'm talking about, right? You have about four minutes to be in a lingerie shop by yourself without looking like a complete idiot. Otherwise you turn into the creepy old guy making jokes with the sales associates about what they would look like in the lingerie.
So you make a beeline to one thing that you saw in the window, it's probably pink and made of silk, rapidly assess the size and then get the hell out of there.
Manning does the same thing in the pocket. When his internal clock expires and there's a defender near him, he takes a dive.
3. Pierre Garçon is the most successful man with a cedille on his name in the history of football.
Prior to Garçon being drafted, I can picture NFL execs looking at the list of draft eligible players and having this conversation with their scout.
Exec: "Hell, what's that squiggly thing? Is he French?"
Scout: "Yeah, his last name is French for boy, but he ..."
Scout: "Yes, but ..."
Exec: "Where did he play in college?"
Scout: "A Division III school ..."
Also, if you've ever doubted the quality of high school football in Florida, it's that a guy like Garçon could be overlooked. Remember that Chris Johnson, a fellow Floridian, only had three scholarship offers: East Carolina, UConn, and Eastern Kentucky. Well, Garcon was even more overlooked. He ended up playing at Norwich University in Vermont.
Think about that for a moment, a six-foot receiver with 4.4 speed would be hard to ignore in most states because this combination is a pretty rare commodity in high school football. But there are so many kids who fit that bill in Florida that a bunch of guys get overlooked.
The wonder on Garçon isn't that he set an AFC championship game record for receiving yards, it's that if he doesn't love football so much that he's playing at a 2,000-person military school in Vermont, this game never happens.
4. Does Colts head coach Jim Caldwell speak during games?
Because I swear every time the camera cuts to him, he looks incredibly morose, like he's listening to Muddy Waters on his headset.
Has there ever been a head coach who showed less emotion and spoke less while he was on the sideline? Keep a running tally in your head during the Super Bowl of the number of times he's shown on camera and the number of times he's not speaking when he's shown.
If you want to get wasted beyond belief, make this your Super Bowl drinking game: If Jim Caldwell is shown on television and isn't speaking, then drink for 10 seconds.
You'll be drunk by the end of the first quarter.
5. How many games would you or I have won as the head coach of the Colts this season?
Only two requirements: A. you are of average intelligence and B. you can get along with people at your job.
I think you or I get 10 wins.
My rationale: Manning and Tom Moore determine just about everything the offense does in a given week. All you'd have to do is get out of their way. Coming into the season, the only real question was how Larry Coyer would do with the defense, and he came in with great experience under Tony Dungy and as his own coordinator with the Denver Broncos. So you could piddle around over on the defensive side of the ball, but basically you could stay out of that way too.
Basically, you'd just have to be egoless and of average intelligence and you or I would have had this team in the playoffs as well.
And 10 games might be an understatement.
6. After he makes a big play, I keep expecting to see Braylon Edwards on the sideline sending hate texts to LeBron James.
I'm starting to think Edwards is a mad genius and punched the little man in LeBron's entourage just to get out of Cleveland. Think about this for a minute, has anyone ever emerged in better shape after punching someone outside a nightclub?
Following the incident, Edwards is traded in early October from a team headed nowhere to a playoff team, gets to leave Cleveland for New York City, and will get a lucrative extension after this offseason because he's played well in limited passing opportunities.
All while trading Brady Quinn for Mark Sanchez.
If LeBron ends up joining the Knicks, Edwards is going to punch LeBron's little man again and end up Secretary of State under Obama.
And now that I've said that, you're not going to be able to forget it, either. Imagine if he started wearing those old-school spectacles on the sidelines, he'd be a dead ringer. At least a fat ringer, anyway.
This offseason Ryan needs to go to a Washington Nationals game and stand-in for Roosevelt in the President races.
8. What are the odds Peyton Manning knows the Jets' defense better than many Jets defenders?
During his pre-snap reads you halfway expect Manning to start gesturing to the Jets defensive end, "Your spacing's off. You're faking the blitz and dropping into a zone coverage in this defense. From that angle you're not going to get your proper depth."
As is, you can actually hear Manning calling out the numbers of Jets defenders and making sure his offensive linemen have them picked up for the blitz. If you're the blitzing player, how crushing is this?
9. How amazing was the fake option, pass play with Brad Smith?
I'm convinced it's the play call of the playoffs. In fact, credit to the Jets, both of the big plays they dialed up worked, the Braylon Edwards double move, and this play.
It looked just like Nebraska in the late '90s. So much so that I'm convinced that somewhere Eric Crouch was watching this game and thought, "See, I could have played quarterback in the NFL. I knew it."
10. Stat of the year: In eight out of 18 games this season, the Colts have scored a touchdown in the final two minutes of the half.
Think about how hard this is to accomplish.
First, you have to have possession in the final two minutes of the half. Second, you have to manage the clock such that your possession has time to end in a touchdown. Third, you have to drive the field and, you know, score a touchdown, one of the most difficult things to manage in all of sports.
Yet after his score at the end of the half that made it a 17-13 game, Peyton Manning has done it in almost half the games he's played this season. Just more evidence, if you needed any, that Manning is playing at a higher level than any quarterback ever has.
But even that wasn't enough.
Want a higher degree of difficulty in the AFC championship game?
Okay, you have to complete every pass to the same receiver for all 80 yards. And that receiver has to be a rookie Mormon wide receiver.
What odds could you have gotten on this in 2008, four million to 1?
11. Did Garçon get his second foot down on the touchdown catch that put the Colts up 20-17?
I don't think he did.
Yet, somehow the Jets missed the challenge on this. And even more shockingly, none of the guys at CBS noted the missed challenge either.
Unbelievable this hasn't been talked about more.
12. If I had a crack research crew, I'd have them examine this hypothesis: No quarterback's touchdown passes from inside the red zone end more often with the receiver not being touched than Peyton Manning's.
Since I don't have a crack research staff, we'll just agree that I'm correct in this assertion.
Why is this worth mentioning?
Because Manning's ability to create space for his receivers in the tightly packed end zone is a sign of football mastery that gets no credit. Scoring touchdowns in the NFL's red zone is one of the most difficult things for any team, yet Manning consistently finds wide-open receivers.
13. How many receivers in the NFL could be Austin Collie or Pierre Garçon ?
Granted the receivers both played good games, work hard and have talent. On the other hand, Manning calls their routes and has schooled them in the Colts' offense through constant repetition.
So I ask you, how many other wide receivers that were drafted in the past two years, could have been in these guys positions if the Colts had taken them instead?
At least 50 or so, right?
Putting it another way, Manning has been in the NFL now for 12 complete seasons. How many receivers have left the Colts and gone on to perform better for another quarterback?
Not a single one.
And this isn't just an NFL phenomenon, Manning's top two receivers with the University of Tennessee were Marcus Nash and Joey Kent.
Marcus Nash was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos. In four NFL seasons, before being booted from the league, he had four career catches.
As for Joey Kent, after being drafted 46th overall, in the mid-second round by the Tennessee Titans, Kent also played four NFL seasons. He had 13 career catches.
There have been millions of dollars spent on the wide receivers that Peyton Manning has made look better than they actually are.
Maybe that's why Marvin Harrison never talked to anyone; he realized he'd fallen into the best situation in NFL history and didn't want to jinx anything ... until he allegedly shot someone in Philadelphia.
14. Manning is so dominant, Chris Rock needs to update his Pat Riley joke.
Remember the bit Chris Rock used to do about NBA head coach Pat Riley needing to be the black leader because no man had taken more black people to the promised land?
Well, the updated black leader in this joke has to be Peyton Manning.
Because after Super Bowl XXXXIV, two of the three black coaches to win the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell (Mike Tomlin being the third), will both have coached Peyton Manning quarterbacked teams.
Yep, Peyton Manning has led them to the promised land.
15. Put it this way, if Manning went back to college and played quarterback, and a good wide receiver from college intramurals had a month to work with him, do you have any doubt that Manning could get that receiver 100 yards in a college game?
David Halberstam, in his book about Michael Jordan, said that Jordan was better at basketball than anyone else was better at anything they did.
Peyton Manning is getting awfully close to that level. In fact, I think he's already there.
How good is Manning?
He makes playing the most difficult position in the history of sports look easy.
And in two weeks, when Manning wins his second Super Bowl, there will no longer be any debate: Peyton Manning will be the greatest quarterback in the history of football.