Peyton Manning has won the NFL MVP award a record four times after being selected first overall in the 1998 draft. Leading up to that draft, the big decision was between Manning or Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. I admit I was a Leaf guy. Both quarterbacks had size and great arms. Manning had made Tennessee an annual SEC title contender and Leaf had just taken the Cougars to the Rose Bowl. Fast forward a decade or so and Manning is touting himself as a “6’5″, 230 pound, quarterback with a laser rocket arm” in one of his many tongue-in-cheek commercials. If only I would’ve known way back in ’98…
I was watching a movie recently that reminded me of the 2011 Colts season. In last year’s “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise gives Cameron Diaz a quick lecture, while gesturing with his hands about her chances of survival if she sticks with him or if she goes on her own. With his hand raised high, he says “You’re here with me,” before dropping it way down, “Without me? Here.” “With me (hand goes up), without me (hand way down).” To me, that’s this Colts team in a nutshell. With Peyton, they’re up here. Without him, way down here, regardless of whether the guy under center has Collins or Painter on the back of his jersey. (Ed note: You can see the speech here at the 1:15 mark.)
Whether it’s pitching credit cards or televisions, we laugh at Peyton’s ability to make fun of himself and his fame. We love all that mumbo jumbo, hocus pocus stuff he does at the line of scrimmage, flailing his arms. If you listen to the announcers, it’s like he calls all his own plays and his coaches just grin and give a thumbs up from the sideline. While that’s certainly not true and maybe he gets a little TOO much love, think about it: do you wanna be with Peyton or without Peyton?
I don’t have a vote for the NFL MVP award, but if I did, I’d seriously consider casting my ballot for old #18 and making him the first five-time winner. By the strict definition of Most Valuable Player, haven’t the first six weeks of this season proven that Peyton’s that guy? So now I have a question for you: are you with me?
– James Lofton
James Lofton is the analyst for Sunday Night Football on Westwood One. He’ll be alongside Dave Sims this weekend at the Superdome when the New Orleans Saints host
Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM Eastern.