Even in defeat Peyton Manning proved he's the man to lead the
In eight years of high school and college football, Peyton
Manning played on teams that lost a total of 11 games. On
Sunday, in the 12th game of his rookie NFL season, Manning and
the Colts lost their 10th. "It's eating me up," Manning said
softly after a 38-31 defeat to the Ravens. "They all hurt, but I
don't think I've had one like this."
Nor had Manning put up numbers as a pro like the ones he did
against Baltimore: 27 completions in 42 attempts for 357 yards,
three touchdowns and one interception. Indianapolis led 17-3
after 13 minutes and was on top 31-21 entering the fourth
quarter, before poor defense and special teams play cost the
Colts the game.
Still, there was no mistaking the progress Manning has made in
three months. On about two dozen occasions against the Ravens,
he called two plays in the huddle and then signaled which one
would be run after he saw the defensive set at the line of
scrimmage. He completed 10 of 13 passes on third down (eight for
first down), often going right at cornerback Rod Woodson, the
best player in the Baltimore secondary. Above all, Manning, at
22, has already established himself as a leader.
While fellow rookie Ryan Leaf sits on the bench behind Craig
Whelihan in San Diego after repeated failures on the field and a
series of missteps off it, about the worst thing Manning has done
is throw a league-high 23 interceptions (partly the result of
uncorking a league-leading 449 passes). His behavior has been
exemplary, particularly for a player who can't escape the public
"I've never seen him angry," says Colts backup quarterback Doug
Nussmeier, Manning's best friend on the team. "I've never seen
him say no to anyone. We're out one night and a guy comes up to
the table and says, 'Hey, Peyton, if I go up the street to
Wal-Mart and get a couple of your jerseys, would you sign 'em
for me?' He said yes, and the guy came back with two jerseys.
Peyton signed 'em."
Manning may look like a student council president in his pressed
gray slacks, navy blazer and shiny brown loafers, but he's
doesn't want to be thought of that way. "I grew up in New
Orleans as Archie Manning's son," he says. "I learned how to
handle myself, how to keep my emotions in check. Now everybody
is begging for me to do something, to lose my cool. That'd be
news. I won't do it. I think I'm a tough quarterback. I just
don't advertise it like some other quarterbacks do. But I know
how to chew a guy's ass out if it needs to be done."
Against a Ravens team that entered the game 4-7, Manning played
like a seasoned veteran. On third-and-five at the Ravens' 45
with a little more than two minutes left in the first half, he
rolled right with safety Ralph Staten and linebacker Peter
Boulware nipping at his heels. Just before the two defenders
leaped at him, Manning rifled a pass to tight end Ken Dilger for
an eight-yard gain. "That's kind of a feel thing," Manning said.
"Dad always said if you can't feel that pressure and make a
play, you can't be a pro quarterback." Six plays later, on
third-and-10, Manning threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to wideout
With 1:13 left in the game Manning was driving the Colts to a
potential tying touchdown, having moved them 58 yards to the
Baltimore 24. He threw to an open Marshall Faulk, but the ball
ricocheted off the running back's chest and into Staten's hands.
"He's got good poise, great poise for a rookie," Woodson said
afterward. "Sometimes he gets a little impatient, but take your
hat off to him. He's not making a lot of mistakes."
Colts president Bill Polian, who put his butt on the line when
he drafted Manning over Leaf, was the last person to leave his
club's locker room. "When you see an effort like that go
unrewarded," Polian said, "it breaks your heart."
It shouldn't. Manning looks like the real deal, a franchise
leader for years to come, and that's the hardest thing to come by.
Kubiak Could Be Back in Denver
Approaching an off-season in which as many as 10 of the league's
31 teams could be shopping for a coach, the market is shaping up
as a strange one. The Packers' Mike Holmgren will likely sit
atop the most-wanted list; one Green Bay insider says there's a
95% chance Holmgren will leave for a general manager or
coach-G.M. job. Then there's former 49ers coach George Seifert,
who is expected to get back into coaching after a milquetoast
performance this year as a CBS studio analyst. Before the season
Tyrone Willingham of Stanford, Gary Barnett of Northwestern and
Nick Saban of Michigan State were among the college names most
often mentioned as possibly moving to the pros, but none had
better than .500 years.
Among NFL assistant coaches, Broncos offensive coordinator Gary
Kubiak is the leader of the pack. He has a low-key personality,
but he's sure to get an endorsement from Denver coach Mike
Shanahan, who says Kubiak is as prepared to be a head coach as
any assistant he has had. However, there's no guarantee Kubiak
would accept a head position. Shanahan failed in one-plus
seasons as coach of the Raiders in the late '80s, and, as his
disciple, Kubiak knows how hopeless the wrong situation--in
Philadelphia, for example--can be. Plus, he'd rather stay put
than move to a top job someplace where his wife and three sons
wouldn't be happy. "I make decisions about where I'll work and
where I'll live based on what my family wants," Kubiak says.
Niners Front Office Goes Soft
An indication of how passive the 49ers' front office has become
occurred when the team didn't get a draft pick as compensation
for allowing vice president Dwight Clark to bolt before the end
of the season and become the Browns' VP and director of football
operations. When Carmen Policy was club president--the position
he now holds in Cleveland--the San Francisco brass took a harder
stance.... Tyrone Davis is emerging as a bigger threat at tight
end than fellow Packer Mark Chmura. In his last three games
Davis has caught seven passes for 141 yards and four scores....
Sign of the times in St. Louis: Long snapper Jeff Robinson is
tied for the club lead in touchdown catches, with one, and Greg
Hill, who hasn't played since breaking his right leg in Week 3,
leads the team with 240 rushing yards.... Add this to the legend
of John Elway: He took 10 painkilling injections before playing
with torn rib cartilage on Nov. 22 against the Raiders.
The End Zone
Rhodes Can't Catch a Break
Nicholas Perillo, an inmate at the Gander Hill Correctional
Institute in Wilmington, Del., recently testified against fellow
inmate Thomas Capano, who is on trial for murder. When Perillo
appeared on the witness stand last week, Jack O'Donnell,
Capano's attorney, suggested Perillo had struck a deal to get
out of prison early in exchange for his testimony, saying,
"Well, if you were giving information about the defensive line
of the Philadelphia Eagles, do you think prosecutors would have
cut you a deal?"
"No," Perillo said. "But I would say, 'Get rid of Ray Rhodes.'"
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Manning threw for 357 yards, but the decisions he made at the line were even more impressive. [Peyton Manning set to pass football while being pursued by Rob Burnett]
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN GAPS III/AP [Ken Griffey Jr. swinging bat]
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Ken Norton Jr. running with football]
1. Upon Further Review Referee Phil Luckett blew the overtime
coin flip in the Thanksgiving game between the Steelers and the
Lions. Back judge Bob Lawing made a highly questionable pass
interference call on a last-play Hail Mary in the Patriots-Bills
game, stealing a win from Buffalo. Instant replay couldn't have
been used to overturn the penalty because it was a judgment
call, but a review of the tape might have reversed the previous
play, a sideline catch by wideout Shawn Jefferson (he appeared
to be out of bounds) that kept the winning drive alive. As for
the coin flip, here's hoping that that embarrassment will spur
the NFL to do what should have been done when sudden death was
implemented in 1974: Give each team an overtime possession.
2. Break Up the Jets Curtis Martin ties a club record with his
seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season. Vinny Testaverde has
a ho-hum 16-for-21, 255-yard, two-touchdown day. The Jets roll to
a 48-21 win over the Panthers, giving them the inside track to
the AFC East title.
3. Not So Coy In his first start Koy Detmer was an exciting
alternative to the other quarterbacks the Eagles have used this
year. However, Detmer would be wise to nix cocky gestures like
the one he directed toward the Packers' sideline on Sunday after
throwing a touchdown pass that gave Philly a 13-10 lead, the
team's first since Nov. 8. Green Bay responded with a touchdown
drive of its own en route to a 24-16 win. "Watching him do
that," said Eagles coach Ray Rhodes, "I was going ballistic."
When it comes to players' salaries, Major League Baseball and
the NFL are in different leagues. In 1998 the salaries of 39
baseball players were higher than the salary cap figure for the
Packers' Brett Favre, the NFL's three-time MVP, whose cap number
in '98 is $5.6 million. Here are some comparisons.
PLAYER 1998 SALARY
John Wetteland, Rangers $5,800,000
Bubby Brister, Broncos $325,000
TOP STARTING PITCHERS
Roger Clemens, Blue Jays $8,600,000
Randall Cunningham, Vikings $855,000
Barry Bonds, OF, S.F. $8,900,000
Jessie Armstead, LB, N.Y. $1,300,000
Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Mariners $8,200,000
Ken Norton Jr., LB, 49ers $2,100,000
Mark Wohlers, Braves $4,100,000
Gus Frerotte, Redskins $2,700,000
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
Bobby Jones, P, Mets $3,100,000
Robert Jones, LB, Dolphins $376,000
Ugueth Urbina, P, Expos $565,000
Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, WR, Dolphins $243,000
ALL CREATURES ARE EQUAL ...
Tim Salmon, OF, Angels $5,000,000
Eric Swann, DT, Cardinals $5,000,000
THE GREAT DIVIDE
Gary Sheffield, OF, Dodgers $14,900,000
Randy Moss, WR, Vikings $935,000