PFT– Cardinals coach Bruce Arians knows how to coach quarterbacks. He wrote the book on it. Literally.
The Quarterback Whisperer, officially released next Tuesday, has plenty of interesting stories from Arians’ lifetime in football, as both a quarterback and a coach of quarterbacks.
Here’s one that justifies a blurb of its own. Arians, serving as the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis early in Peyton Manning’s career, showed a willingness few have to be blunt and candid with Peyton.
During a 1999 game against the Patriots, the Colts trailed badly. “Midway through the fourth quarter of the game, with the outcome already decided, Peyton was so frustrated that he asked for mercy,” Arians writes. “He wanted to be pulled from the game.”
Arians refused, in a colorful way.
‘”F–k no, get back in there,’ I told him,” Arians explains. “‘We’ll go no-huddle and maybe you’ll learn something. You can never ask to come out. You’re our leader. Act like it.’”`
Arians then describes what happened next as a “sight to behold,” with Manning leading a late drive that ended in a touchdown pass. Arians saw the drive give Manning a “shot of confidence.”
So I actually went back into the old NFL archives to see what game Bruce Arian’s was referring to and while I was expecting to conclude that Peyton Manning was a sissy for wanting to exit a game because he was getting his teeth kicked in, I actually found something a little more interesting.
In the 1999 game Arian is referring to the Colts were actually up 28-14 heading into the 4th quarter with the Patriots mounting an unanswered 17 point comeback to win the game. So I’m not entirely sure where this narrative of Peyton wanting to quit with the game’s outcome already being decided is coming from. Manning also did not throw a late touchdown pass in that game, as the Colts did not score in the second half. Rather he actually threw a game ending interception that sealed a win for the Patriots.
Arians’ is likely thinking of Manning’s’ rookie year where he lost to the Patriots 29-6 as this is the only true blowout I can find in that time period and Manning did in fact throw meaningless touchdown pass late in the 4th Quarter with his team down 29-0.
Based on this information it is far more likely that Manning actually wanted to quit while getting his doors blown off in just the second game of his career after being drafted #1 overall, which as you can probably surmise, is a really bad look.
While I’m not calling Arians an outright liar, I have a sneaky suspicion Arians’ fudged the details of this story to shed his quarterback in a more favorable light while also still being able to use the story for his book. This is how the excerpt from Pro football Talk continues-
“Before the rematch later that year, with the pre-Belichick Patriots having beaten Manning three straight times, Arians noticed before the game that Manning “had a frowning, contorted face” and that “he looked like he really needed to go to the bathroom.” Arians continued to sense that Manning was uptight about facing New England again, so Arians said to him, “‘Peyton, your footwork is all messed up. . . . What’s wrong with you, man?’”
Arians says that Manning’s footwork actually was fine, but in the process of focusing on working on his footwork after Arians called him out, Manning’s anxiety disappeared. The Colts won the game.”
The excerpts in bold are in fact true, with the 29-6 blowout loss in 1998 marking the first of the three straight losses that Manning suffered at the hands of the Patriots. However, Arians is painting the false narrative that Manning than overcame these three loses and bounced back to beat the Patriots after wanting to quit in a supposed blowout that never occurred in their previous match up during the 1999 season.
This is a far more favorable story than Manning wanting to throw in the towel in his second career game after going down 29-0, throwing 3 INT’, and then proceeding to lose to the Patriots two more times in a row.
Again, maybe Arians is simply miss-remembering the facts, or maybe he’s just trying to tell a good story without throwing his former QB totally under the bus. Either way, the internet exists and with that comes every game, stat, and box score that you ever think of.
Though wherever the truth lies, this again shows the difference between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Brady could have both of his arms ripped off and would still try to convince the Patriots training staff that it was nothing but a flesh wound and insist that he remain in the game. He’d probably suggest to Josh McDaniels that this would be the perfect time to try that no handed screen pass that they had been working on in practice.