Colts' Manning Shows Us Why He's No Tom Brady:
Scott Soshnick is a Bloomberg News columnist.
Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- On the narrow confines of the playing field, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has mastered the art of the audible.
That's the football term for when a quarterback steps behind the center, surveys the defensive alignment, and has the smarts to change the play without input from the coaching staff.
Manning could have used some of that poise after his team's 21-18 loss playoff to the Pittsburgh Steelers two days ago.
Instead, the record-setting quarterback committed one of the ultimate team-sport sins: He assigned blame to someone other than himself. He pointed fingers. If athletic no-no's were inscribed on stone tablets, ``Thou Shalt Not Blast Your Teammates Publicly'' would be high on the list of commandments.
Reporters queried Manning about the Steelers' defensive blitzkrieg, which produced five sacks, countless knockdowns and a number of uncharacteristically wobbly tosses from the former National Football League Most Valuable Player.
``I'm trying to be a good teammate here,'' Manning told the assembled media horde.
At that moment ears perked up, pens steadied, tape recorders rolled.
Here was Manning, the son of an NFL quarterback, a straight-A student of the game, the consummate team player, making a conscious decision to depart from his clichÃ© comfort zone.
``Let's just say we had some problems in protection,'' said Manning, whose postseason record stands at 3-6. ``I'll give Pittsburgh credit for their blitzes and their rush, but we did have some problems.''
`We,' Not Me
Translation: I couldn't do my job because the offensive linemen didn't do theirs. Not smart. Manning would have been wise to let the assembled pundits point out the deficiencies of his teammates.
Let's compare Manning's post-game autopsy with that of his New England Patriots counterpart, Tom Brady, who is perhaps the best on- and off-field leader in sports.
Like Manning, Brady had just suffered a crushing defeat -- 27-13 to the Denver Broncos -- a drubbing that halted the Patriots' pursuit of their third consecutive Super Bowl championship.
Brady spoke in terms of ``we'' and not me. Brady, who threw a costly interception, never singled anyone out for blame or praise. He could have said something about the usually reliable Adam Vinatieri missing a field goal or Troy Brown's muffing a fourth-quarter punt. But he knew better.
``It's disappointing when you look back at the game and you realize how many points we just laid up on a silver platter,'' Brady said. There's that ``we'' word again.
United We Stand
Brady recognizes that his success is directly related to the effectiveness of his linemen, a beer-belly bunch committed to knocking the bejesus out of the opponent so that the model- dating quarterback doesn't get pulverized.
Brady is so appreciative of his 300-pound life preservers that he even told Visa International Inc. he would only participate in a credit-card commercial if the company included his offensive line. Visa agreed, giving the usually overlooked linemen speaking parts in an ad that played off their roles as Brady's protectors.
Manning, by contrast, appears in an NFL promotion all alone, mocking the fans' obsession with superstar athletes like quarterbacks.
Learn From Junior
Manning might also learn from his younger brother, Eli, whose New York Giants were shellacked by the Carolina Panthers in their Jan. 8 playoff game. In that 23-0 drubbing, Eli Manning threw for just 113 yards while tossing three interceptions. He was also sacked four times.
``I didn't play well. I didn't make enough plays. I made too many mistakes for us to win,'' Eli Manning said.
The Giants' offensive line didn't play well, either. Neither did running back Tiki Barber. Eli Manning, a second-year pro, already knows what his big brother should have learned long ago -- that frustration is no excuse for loose lips.
Rare is the athlete who can publicly disparage a teammate without some sort of retribution. One who comes to mind is former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, who frequently chastised teammates for not elevating their performances.
``It depends on who the guys are,'' said New York Knicks coach Larry Brown, a Hall of Fame member who trumpets a play- the-right-way mantra. ``I've heard Michael do it. Because everybody knew he tried to do everything the right way all the time I think they could handle it.''
Until Peyton Manning has a championship ring, let alone six like Jordan, perhaps he should save the audible for the field. Facing incensed teammates in the locker room is a lot worse than staring down a Steelers' blitz on the field.
To contact the writer of this column:
Scott Soshnick in New York at email@example.com
Last Updated: January 17, 2006 00:08 EST