There are a number of reasons why professional sports stars are paid as well as they are.
Some are obvious, things like being rewarded for the revenue they generate as well as the realization that very few people on the planet can duplicate what they do. And then there are the less obvious parts of the job description.
For instance, you and I are generally not expected to teach our eventual replacements. On occasion, it may work out that way in the real world, but it’s certainly not a systemic part of any job. In the NFL, veterans are not only expected to mentor young players, they are asked to do it with the full knowledge that the up and comer might replace them and threaten the big paycheck.
Our basic instinct as human beings is survival and whether it’s on the battlefield, the board room or the gridiron, when forced into a corner people are going to take care of what matters most, the reflection that looks back at them in the mirror every morning.
Peyton Manning’s actions this week are proof positive of that.
Manning’s entire NFL career has been defined by his leadership skills as one of the greatest quarterbacks who have ever played the game. A maestro at the line of scrimmage, Manning’s strength has always been the ability to survey things at the point of attack and get his team into the right play for that particular situation.
Now, as an aging, banged-up signal caller who looks like a shell of his former self, a bitter Manning has reportedly balked at helping backup Brock Osweiler prepare for the Chicago Bears this weekend.
Manning, who is sidelined with a plantar fascia injury in his left foot, has taken his ball and gone home, according to NFL Media. The former five-time MVP and future Hall of Famer has stayed away from the coaching staff and his team this week and will not travel to the Windy City, ostensibly to work on his rehab.
Manning “hasn’t attended any practices or meetings this week and hasn’t had a single conversation about Sunday’s game plan with Brock Osweiler,” according to James Palmer.
Considering the Bears are now coached by former Broncos coach John Fox and Manning’s good friend and ex-Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase is now running that side of the ball in Chicago, that’s not a good look for Manning because the veteran obviously understands both and he should have plenty of intelligence to pass on to Osweiler and the Denver defense.
If Palmer’s report is accurate, Manning’s actions are nothing short of self-centered and selfish, even bordering on narcissistic.
“I’m not a coach for one thing,” Manning said. “And as I shared with (Osweiler), he’s probably going to have a lot of coaches this week, some that aren’t coaches either, that are going to be offering him tips or advice. So I told him that I am here for him as a resource if he needs me, but I’m not going to be one of those extra voices in his ear.”
While Manning is now the NFL’s all-time leading passer, Osweiler has never started an NFL game in four pro seasons and attempted just 54 passes with nearly half of them coming last week when Gary Kubiak finally pulled the plug on Manning, leaning on the injury to do it.
If Manning is actually threatened by that, perhaps he is really close to the end as many have speculated.
A start with nine touchdown passes versus 17 interceptions in today’s NFL environment where passing the football is far easier is certainly cause for concern. But when you factor in the guy with those numbers has thrown for 71,871 yards in this league and 539 TDs, Manning shouldn’t be concerned about the shadow of Osweiler.
Unless he knows it’s over.
The rest of us can only speculate whether Manning has something left in the tank if healthy. The man himself knows exactly what he is capable of and Manning is sure acting his gauge is on empty.
“He wants to go and wants to do everything that he can for his football team,” Kubiak claimed. “I knew that (he wouldn’t be happy). I expected that. We spent a good hour together up there. I know that, but I tried to express to him my concern for getting him back to himself and feeling better. I think he understands the position that I’m in and I sure as hell understand the type of person that he is and the player he is.”
Manning’s actions however, speak far louder with Kubiak’s words.
By not helping the backup for what is still a 7-2 team with significant playoff aspirations, Manning is erasing his reputation by acting like a petulant child.
If Peyton really does “want to go and do everything he can” for the Broncos, it’s in the very limited circumstances in which he and he alone is the starting quarterback.
It took Manning two decades to build that reputation and five days to destroy it.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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