If you look at the cover image of Peyton Manning above, you will notice that on his left side of the Broncos jersey, there is a ‘C’ with four stars (three of them gold). That ‘C’ represents the fact that Peyton Manning is the captain of the Denver Broncos and the three gold stars represent the fact that he has been captaining for the past three years. Once Manning reaches his fifth year as a team captain, his crest will appear as the one Drew Brees has below where the ‘C’ is gold and his four stars are also gold colored. Then, no matter how long Manning plays as a captain for the Broncos, he will maintain that same crest.
The side note that no one really brings up — mostly because people have better things to do than sit around discussing the intricate details of the NFL’s captaincy crest — is that if Drew Brees, a “gold-C” captain of the New Orleans Saints, suddenly switches teams, he would lose his “gold-C” crest. He would again have to go through the five year process of becoming a “gold-C” captain with his new team. This little tidbit serves as a great, but stark, reminder about life in the NFL: past performances or accolades don’t guarantee future success in the league. In other words, it truly is a “what have you done for me lately?” world in the NFL. There’s a reason why the NFL is known as “Not For Long.” Nothing is handed to you and anyone is expendable, even future hall-of-famers like Manning.
What makes Peyton Manning’s story as a NFL QB so interesting is the fact that he had to undergo the woeful journey of becoming a “gold-C” captain twice in his seventeen year illustrious career. “In March of 2012, on the verge of his 36th birthday,” writes Mark Kiszla, author of “No Plan B,” [affiliate link] a biography of Manning’s first season with the Denver Broncos, “Manning joined more than 12 million Americans in the ranks of the unemployed. The Indianapolis Colts fired Peyton Freaking Manning? Are you kidding?” (Kiszla, 1).
For Peyton Manning, the unceremonial dismissal from the Colts created immense scarring and pain. What is even more astounding is the fact that the Colts essentially left Manning out to dry during a time when he needed their support the most. Contributing directly to the Colts’ decision to cut Manning in 2012 were the four medical procedures that were performed on Manning’s neck the past year (2011). As evident in the photograph below, the surgeries left Manning with a permanent scar that “emerges from under his helmet and darts towards his shoulder pads beneath the number 18 jersey” (Kiszla, 4).
The dismissal from the Colts impacted Manning harder than anyone else for obvious reasons.
“Nobody loves their job more than I do. Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. I still want to play. But there is no other team I wanted to play for [besides the Colts],” confessed Manning, who stubbornly — and perhaps naively — believed the Colts would find a way to keep him until 24 hours before fighting back tears as his release was announced with [Colts owner] Irsay at his side. “I guess, in life and in sports, we all know nothing lasts forever. Times change, circumstances change, and that’s the reality of playing in the NFL.”
- Kiszla, page 5
From the Indianapolis Speedway of Indy to the Roaring Rocky Mountains of Denver
Upon being cut, the perennial hall-of-fame quarterback immediately began garnering interest from other teams queuing to acquire his services. Sure, there remained massive doubt about whether Manning could even come back from his four neck surgeries. For instance, how would Manning react when a 300-lb defensive lineman laid a heavy sack on him during a game — would Manning’s neck hold up under that much force? But, more importantly, the neck surgery had also interfered with Manning’s nerves in the area, which meant that he had to re-learn how to throw a football.
So, when John Elway, a Broncos executive and a former two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Denver Broncos, signed Manning on a five-year $96 million deal, both Elway’s and Manning’s necks were on the line — both figuratively and literally. Elways “was all in, pushing the chips to the center of the table, gambling his reputation and the franchise’s future that Manning could play like an MVP again. It was Manning or bust” (Kiszla, 13).
What also didn’t help matters is that Manning was Elway’s solution to replacing God’s quarterback, Tim Tebow. After trading Tebow to the Jets, Elway was being scapegoated as a “liar — and worse four-letter words — by fans that felt betrayed” (Kiszla, 13). But, Elway kept showing full self-confidence in his decision to cut Tebow and sign Manning: “A great quarterback (like Manning) makes up for so many other voids on your football team, because you’ve got that guy who touches the ball on every snap. And, if you don’t have that guy, the weaknesses are more exposed” (Kiszla, 17).
Manning’s First Season With Denver
Manning’s first season with the Denver Broncos resulted in an MVP-esque performance in which the newly minted Broncos QB posted a stat line of 37 TDs, 11 INTs, and 4,659 passing yards. This performance translated to the Broncos attaining a 13–3 record and the #1 seed in the playoffs. However, it is in the playoffs that Manning and his high-riding Broncos squad hit their demise.
In the playoffs, since the Baltimore Ravens won their wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts (led by Manning’s replacement, Andrew Luck), the Ravens were primed for their divisional matchup against the Broncos. The Ravens also had another hall-of-famer on their team in linebacker Ray Lewis, who had announced that the 2012 season would be his last in the NFL. Winning the game for their fiery veteran leader and linebacker was of utmost importance for the Ravens, who were considered an underdog going into the game.
As had been the case so often in Indianapolis, Manning’s Broncos were upset in a 38–35 loss that ended in a dramatic 4th quarter and overtime. The loss marked the 11th post-season loss of Manning’s career. The failure also became the impetus for the questioning of Manning’s ability to perform under the pressure-filled situations of the NFL playoffs. In attempting to make sense of the loss, Kiszla writes, “Manning is pure genius during the regular season. In the playoffs, he thinks too much” (Kiszla, 154).
But, in the grand scheme of things, perspective is important. Having been under the stress of heartbreak and immense pain of being cut, Manning should actually be commended for leading his new Broncos team so successfully in the regular season. Not too many individuals can effectively compartmentalize their pain and anguish of a huge setback and focus relentlessly on the moment at hand. For that, I have to give Manning props.
However, Kiszla’s book ended after the Broncos’ fateful loss to the Ravens. So, as a reader, you don’t have a perspective on Kiszla’s views of what has happened to Manning and the Broncos in the past few seasons. In 2014, the Denver Broncos, led by Manning’s best regular season performance which won him the MVP award, went to the Super Bowl, where they were humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks in a 43–8 rout. Then, this season, the Broncos were the #2 seed and were handed a 24–13 demoralizing loss in their first playoffs game against Manning’s former team, the Colts.
So, the question remains. Is Peyton Manning just a great regular season QB or does he have it in him to win another Super Bowl (this time with the Broncos)? There’s no question that Manning is a first-ballot hall-of-famer; however, the fact that his playoff record stands at a disappointing 11 wins and 13 losses hurts his legacy. It gives Manning’s critics a solid foundation upon which to shred his legacy.
I found Mark Kiszla’s book very interesting in regards to its content. The stories he used about Manning’s insane preparation methods before games are really motivational and inspiring. They will definitely prompt me to examine how much care I put towards doing the things I love to do such as blogging, drawing, reading, and programming. Manning’s appreciation for the game of football is unparalleled and it serves as a high standard for me to aspire towards in my own career.
However, I didn’t find the book as engaging as I thought it would be. Again, this isn’t Kiszla’s fault entirely considering the fact that how I feel about the books I read is dependent on numerous factors.
But, there is one aspect of the book at which Kiszla fails at times even though he has total control over not failing.
Yup, the one thing they teach us all to do before submitting any written work. Now I won’t pretend as if my own blog posts don’t have any mistakes and are perfectly written. They’re not. To err is to be human. However, you shouldn’t be erring THREE times in the course of writing a published book! And, those are just the mistakes that I found reading this book without even intending to look for them. Who knows how many more mistakes could have been uncovered had I exercised closer attention to detail.
For instance, on page 151, Kiszla writes “Nasty as we wanna be, full or sarcasm and devoid of context, snark attacks hit and run after 140 characters.”
Mr. Kiszla, that should be written “full of sarcasm” NOT “full or sarcasm.”
It’s mistakes like these that appear throughout the book and simply sapped my enjoyment of Kiszla’s otherwise well-written book. I wouldn’t say anything about this if there had been just a mistake or two, but if you’re putting out a book and are an experienced journalist (as Kiszla is), you should be paying close attention than most other authors about rudimentary mistakes like these. If Kiszla’s not paying enough attention, then his editors and those around him should before he publishes his next book.
Writing is not an easy task. Writing a book is even tougher. But, although it’s not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, I would like to remind Mr. Kiszla of an age-old adage: “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
Kiszla, Mark. No Plan B: Peyton Manning’s Comeback with the Denver Broncos. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
This is the fourth post (out of 52 in total eventually) that is a part of my 2015 Book Reading Challenge.