Peyton Manning and The Death of Hero Ball

Resolved: You do not need a monster arm to be a quarterback in the NFL.

Peyton Manning has been proving for years that to be successful at the highest level of football, in the most popular game in the land, you can trade a cannon of an arm for a lightning-quick mind and a dedicated attitude. That’s why the wailing, sky-is-falling bologna coming from many in the media — looking at you, John Clayton — about his “problems throwing to his right” (fun fact: Peyton’s first touchdown pass and the long gainer to Lance Ball against San Francisco were both throws to Manning’s right; in all, he threw seven passes to his right on the day, and each one was a completion. The lesson, as always: John Clayton is a moron, not a professor), worries about his neck surgeries (despite the fact that the area is now stronger than it was).

Want to worry about the Broncos’ chances? Your best bet is to worry about their depth on defense and their ability along the offensive line. Because the worst case scenario isn’t Peyton’s head falling off and rolling around on the ground after a big hit. It’s someone crashing through the line and landing the naughty way on his knee.

We’ve seen all manner of quarterback come and go through the years, but the fact remains that the best ones, the ones remember as the greatest ever, rightly or wrongly, rarely have the cannon arm of a guy like Jay Cutler. Yeah, the guy can throw it through a brick building, but does anyone think he’s going to go down as one of the best ever? Doubtful.

The best guys, the ones who go into the Hall of Fame and become living legends are the ones who beat you with their minds, beat you with their moxie, and beat you by taking what you give. To wit:

Peyton Manning
Eli Manning
Tom Brady
John Elway
Joe Montana
Troy Aikman
Johnny Unitas

On that list, the younger Manning and Elway are the only ones with a cannon for an arm; the rest were dink-and-dunk, take-what-the-defense-gives types who could find a way to beat you if you took the football and replaced it with a cleated shoe. And Elway didn’t win a title until he learned how to use the touch pass and got into an offensive situation that better served a cerebral quarterback. Sure, all those guys can throw it deep, but it’s a lot more timing and knowledge of what will be there than it is pure power.

The lesson here is that hero ball is (nearly) dead. Hero ball: the idea that you need a guy who can shoot the lights out and drop bombs from anywhere to anywhere. Think Jeff George. Think JaMarcus Russell.

Want to win in today’s NFL? Use your brain, be more prepared, and know your offense better than the other guys know their defense.

That’s the recipe for success this season in Denver.


  1. I can’t believe we live in a world where Eli Manning is in a list with Montana and Unitas.

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