FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
NBC SPORTS CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT: CRIS COLLINSWORTH, TONY DUNGY & RODNEY HARRISON PREVIEW BRONCOS-COLTS ON ” SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL”
October 15, 2013
Dan Masonson: Thank you. Good afternoon and welcome to today’s conference call to look ahead to this week’s Sunday Night Football game — Denver Broncos visiting the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning making his return to Indianapolis.
We’re pleased to be joined by Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth and Football Night in America analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison. We’ll kick it off with Tony Dungy who coached Peyton Manning for 7 years in Indianapolis and combined for us an 85-27 regular-season record — the second best winning percentage ever for coach- QB tandem in the Super Bowl era.
Tony Dungy: Well thank you very much and it’s obviously going to be exciting to see Peyton come back to Indianapolis to play. I don’t think I would have anticipated this.
I never thought I would see him in a different uniform and certainly wouldn’t think he would be coming back playing maybe the best football of his career — undefeated and putting up such gaudy numbers.
But it’s going to be an emotional night, a fun night and a night where we’re going to see great quarterbacking I think on both sides of the field. And something I’m really looking forward to watching.
Cris Collinsworth: I think first of all it’s going to be a great night. I live in the Midwest — I live in Cincinnati a couple of hours away from Indianapolis so it was a great honor really to get to watch the Colts and Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy all those years.
They sort of changed the way offensive football was played. It’s now played at the line of scrimmage. The quarterback gets the last look and the last chance to audible and to sort of develop that system was great fun for me to get a chance to watch. And I think for the fans of Indianapolis this is what they wanted.
They wanted a chance to pay tribute to Peyton Manning and all he’s done for Indianapolis. I thought Al Michaels made a great point last week saying that really that stadium may not have even been built not for all the people that Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy – the guys put in the bleachers – put in the stands every single week.
So there’s going to be a great tribute but there’s also going to be a great passing of the torch Andrew Luck if you watched him play at all you know what a fantastic player he is — his mobility, his brainpower, his ability to do so many other things that Peyton did early in his career and arguably even at a better level.
I mean, he took a 2-14 team to the playoffs last year and he put up tremendous numbers. So this is not a bit of magic – we are honored and to call this game and we’re really looking for to it.
Rodney Harrison: I’ve had an opportunity to play against Peyton Manning when he came into the league. I was with the San Diego Chargers and obviously a different quarterback now than he was back then. I marvel week in and week out at what I see in Peyton Manning.
I’ve been able to have a lot of success against Peyton Manning but even with that being said he is – and I know Patriots fans attend to get really angry at me when I say this – he is truly the best quarterback that I’ve faced in my career and I’ve had the privilege of going against so many great hall of fame quarterbacks. But Peyton Manning is something special.
You try to defend and when you try to game plan — you can’t game plan around Peyton Manning. You just kind of hold your breath, try to do a few things right and hopefully you don’t get beat. And just to see the type of football that he’s playing — like Coach Dungy said — at this stage of his career is absolutely amazing.
When I put on tape and see the decision-making, the quick thought process in which he’s doing things, his impact on how he makes others so good around him and just his leadership is just truly amazing and I just marvel at it. I’m really excited about this week.
I just wanted to ask you, you know, anybody that watches Peyton work at practice or kind of taking it back by the way he’s kind of coached on the field, how he is incessantly instructing his players – and I know he does that even in the film room when they look at the all 22 and they go back. Could you just speak to the intellect of Peyton Manning and how that makes him tick?
Tony Dungy: Well, I think that’s really his number one asset. When you look at it he is so smart, he’s got such a great memory, such great recall and he kind of likes that situation of, you know, having to make the decisions and help everybody out.
So he doesn’t shy away from it and it is pretty remarkable when you watch him because he’s always working on things — what may happen, different ways to get better running routes, different ways for his guys to recognize what he’s seeing. And when your best player is also your hardest worker it just makes it so easy to coach.
Cris Collinsworth: I think the line that I hear the most when talking about Peyton Manning from the players that we interview is he’s playing chess while most of us are playing checkers. And it’s a pretty good line, you know, because for example in the Denver Broncos game earlier this year that we did against Baltimore to open the season there were some players and coaches on Baltimore that had worked with Peyton.
And so Peyton knew that they knew some of his calls that he likes, some of the key words that he used to get into certain audibles. And so he used those words to set up the defense so they would think something was coming. He would fake it to what they thought was coming and then threw a touchdown pass. Now that is saying ‘okay I know what, you know, and I’m going to use what you know to change what I know and take the next step in that play.’
And that sort of advanced chess if you will is really what makes it so much fun, I mean, I have to say that I studied harder for an Indy game when he was there or a Denver game now watching Peyton Manning then I do with any quarterback because I don’t want to look stupid because I know he’s going to do something that I’m going to go ‘now what just happened there?’
You know, what did he see? How did he know that backside defensive end was going to be a man coverage on his back because they brought the blitz from the front side? And he just has a way of anticipating things that makes it really fun to watch.
Rodney Harrison: And for me facing Peyton, you know, earlier what we tried to do — we try to figure him out as a player, you know, as a staff, coaching staff, as well as the players in the locker room — the defensive guys. We try to watch him and try to figure out all the formations and we just really stressed ourselves out and really couldn’t figure him out.
I think when we started having success against Peyton is when we simplified everything, you know, Coach Belichick said ‘look we’re going to play a player play two or three different coverages. We’re going to try to, you know, walk around this guy at least a basic coverage two, cover three and a cover one occasionally.’ And once we simplified everything it was a lot easier because we didn’t try to figure out the hand signals, we didn’t try to figure out all the checks and the adjustments that Tony Dungy would try to confuse us with.
And basically it made it a lot easier. I think a lot of times what people try to do is – and the Baltimore Ravens they tried to blitz Peyton, they tried to figure out, they tried to do all these creative schemes and I think you try to over scheme trying to face Peyton instead of doing simple things. And we said Jacksonville they had some success on Peyton early and they played basically rush four guys and play the cover too.
And I think, you know, you have a tendency to follow to that – that mold where you think you have to be so creative and do all these trick defenses when really all you have to do is play simple defenses, kind of jam the guys, put some pressure on Peyton – you got to put pressure on him and try to put pressure directly in his face.
And then, you know, I mean, as good as he is we’ve had success in rattling Peyton and, you know, you can make some plays off Peyton. He’s a human being, he will make mistakes.
This question is for Cris Collinsworth — it’s a little late in the game for this topic. Cris how much in your opinion should discussions of concussions exist on an NFL broadcast? And have you ever felt either overtly or tacitly censored by the NFL to discuss the topic on an NFL broadcast?
Cris Collinsworth: I’ll start with the latter — absolutely not. And if the NFL came to me and asked me to back off in some way on an issue like that I would run straight to the newspapers and tell the world. That’s not what they’re supposed to do and what I’m supposed to do is to tell the truth as I see it and not really care what the consequences are.
And NBC has been fantastic over the years backing me when I’ve gotten into some tough situations with some coaches and some owners and so I feel great confidence that I can’t say what I truly think. As to the first, I know 3 hours for a broadcast seems like a long time but I really think the topic is so deep that to try and take, you know, it would take 10 minutes of a broadcast while a football game is going on to try and give that topic any depth whatsoever.
And so, Al Michaels, I’ve really learned a lot from Al, but if I learned anything, it’s that ‘Don’t short change topics that deserve an in-depth discussion.’ Because then you end up saying something and then somebody throws a 50-yard touchdown pass, and then you’ve got to do the replays, and then you never get back, and then you end up with a very shallow comment on something that deserves depth. This is a little bit of a long-winded answer, but it’s something I really care about, obviously, I’ve got kids who play the game, and I’ve done a lot of studying and a lot of discussing of this issue with a lot of people. I do care about it, but I think probably, in my case, the ‘Inside the NFL’ show is the better format for discussing it.”
I wanted to go back to the decision that Irsay made to let Manning go and at the time I think a lot of people thought it was a no brainer because Andrew Luck and the $35 million owed Peyton and the age of Peyton and the injury. But given the way Manning has played in hindsight is it less of a no brainer? Is it – is there maybe a reason to look back at that decision and maybe wonder if Indianapolis didn’t do the right thing?
Tony Dungy: Well I can tell you that it wasn’t a no-brainer. I was on the phone with Jim Irsay probably five or six times over the course of maybe a month as he was leading up to that and he knew all the factors that you just enumerated there. But Jim also had a great deal of loyalty, you know, Jim was a young boy when his dad traded Johnny Unitas so he knew the ramifications of those types of decisions.
And he also knew how much Peyton had done for the city of Indianapolis for that franchise. So even with all the reasons why that you just stated that it should be done I don’t think it was ever a no-brainer in his mind. And I can almost guarantee you that if he knew that he was going to be healthy like this and playing this kind of football in hindsight I don’t think he would’ve done it.
But with everything the way it was at that time — with Andrew being there and being available, knowing the scouting report on Andrew and the percentages of Peyton coming back and playing well at that point it was the right thing to do.
Cris Collinsworth: From my standpoint, and this will be something we get into during the course of the game I would imagine but, you know, one of the problems was that Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning were so good, the idea of when you’re going to get the number one overall pick again had to come to their mind.
I mean, they knew nothing but winning 10 to 12 games every year and picking at the bottom of the draft and so when you got a quarterback who – I don’t know how old he was at the time – 36-37 whatever he was – and you have to say all right he’s got a bad neck, he’s had all these surgeries, he’s a 36-37 years old as it is right now how many more top end years could we possibly get out of the guy?
And sitting there for me to choose from is Andrew Luck and RGIII who could be that franchise guy for the next 10 to 15 years, you know, I understood it, and you always have to put yourself in a position what would I have done given the health uncertainty of Peyton Manning at that time I would have done exactly whatever it is they did.
I was wondering should the Redskins change their name so the conversation can get back to football? And when it does get back to football what’s wrong with the Redskins?
Tony Dungy: I went on record on the show saying that they should change their name. I don’t think you sit up there and say ‘I’m not offended by something, so it shouldn’t offend anybody else’. You know, I would look at it and say, ‘Hey, we may be offending someone. There’s no need to in this day and age to offend anyone.’
I know there’s a long tradition with that name, but I think they should change it and then we could get back to just talking about football.
And when we’re talking about football, you know, they were 4-0 in the pre-season and they won the division. What’s happened to them?
Cris Collinsworth: Well I think there’s been a few things that have happened to them. And probably the biggest of which is, you know, Robert Griffin didn’t get the amount of work in camp and in pre-season and that he probably needed. You know, he’s still a young quarterback.
If you talk to Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan the number of fundamental things that they wanted to work on him with – I mean obviously phenomenal talent. Nobody’s ever going to question his talent; off the charts arm strength, off the charts speed. You know, he’s a smart guy, dynamic leader even at an early age, so many different things. But there were things they wanted to work with because he really didn’t have much experience with being a pocket passer.
From what I’ve been told they didn’t even have a route tree at Baylor it’s almost all off the read-option and how they run that offense. And limited routes. I don’t want to say anything bad about Baylor, but that was a little bit more of the college game. And they wanted to work on expanding this offense which they didn’t get a change to do and the flipside was a lot of people spent the entire off-season figuring out what they were doing and improving on that.
So it was the defense got better. Because of the knee injury, Robert didn’t get a chance to improve his sort of pocket passing offense to add to the phenomenal things he does with the read-option stuff and the running game. So I think they sort of stayed the same and defenses around them got better.
Tony Dungy: And you have to look at the other side too; defensively they’re a team that can rush the pass, so right now they don’t have a lot of team speed on defense and they’ve had problems on special teams. So a lot going into why their record is what it is.
I wanted to ask a question about the New York Giants. Have you ever seen a Super Bowl championship team decline this fast and what do you attribute that to?
Rodney Harrison: You know, I just look and coach and I we try to figure out every week what’s going on with the Giants. And coach said it best three weeks ago; they just don’t have many good players on defense, on offense. Eli, you know, he’s your main guy; he’s playing terrible. You know, they’re struggling running the ball. He has no confidence in his offensive line…you just see him making all these errors.
You look at the lack of leadership. You know, the guys that you depend on, on the defense side of the ball, JPP hasn’t had the type of year – break-out year since he was a rookie. Though how well he’s played. Justin Tuck, he’s on his last legs. And, you know, quite frankly at the linebacker position, at the corner position they don’t have any impact players. They just – they don’t – they’re not a very good team.
And, you know, whether it’s, you know, them getting rid of guys, guys retiring or whatever happened to all their good football players, they just don’t have many good football players. And that’s what happens; when you have your best player, your quarterback, he’s playing poorly and you don’t have many good players. And, you know, you get to a point where I don’t know if they’re reading the press clippings or they’re sitting back shining their Super Bowl rings too much at home, but they just – they’re just not very good right now, obviously.
Cris Collinsworth: You know, I think – and obviously I’ve spent some time thinking about this myself too. I was talking to Howard Katz who sort of makes the schedule for the NFL. And we were sitting there I think it was last week or maybe two weeks ago and he said, ‘you know, when I’m making the schedule for the national television games you just sort of write down the Giants and the Steelers and know they’re going to be in contention.’
And all of a sudden now it didn’t happen. And just from my view of this thing, I don’t know the details of what’s going on, but I thought they won championships with their offensive and defensive lines. I thought there was a time there that they could move people, their running game was so good with multiple backs. Eli could rely on play action passing and there was a great balance. And I think that’s when he’s at his best.
And then defensively when they were able to put Justin Tuck in at the defensive tackle and were really kind of one of the early teams to do that, and Jason Pierre-Paul was just simply off the charts. I mean for that year he was unblocked – I don’t know that I’ve seen many guys since I’ve been doing this that have the kind of impact he did that one dynamic year. So I think Rodney hit it pretty well on the head; they just don’t have the dynamic players they once did.
Tony Dungy: And Cris, you bring up Pittsburgh and it’s the same thing. I mean this day and age you have to protect your passer and rush the passer; those are the teams that are having success. And Pittsburgh and the Giants really can do neither one of those really well right now and that’s why they have their record.
They have a good quarterback, they have some skilled position players, but if you can’t protect your passer and you can’t rush the passer, you’re going to struggle winning in the NFL.
Cris said earlier that the Colts changed the way offensive football was played; I’m wondering if you can quantify or explain the influence that Manning specifically has had on the quarterback position and modern day offensive football?
Cris Collinsworth: Tony’s in a better position to do that than I am, so.
Let’s hear it.
Tony Dungy: Well I think what Peyton has done is take the quarterback position really back in time. I think because of growing up around his dad felt like that the quarterback you’re in charge out there and the big thing he never wanted to do was run bad plays. And so if we had a play call that he knew wasn’t going to work he didn’t want to run it.
And the more time he could have at the line of scrimmage, the more time he had to figure out whether the play was going to be good or bad. And that was really the genesis of the whole no-huddle situation and the whole no-huddle offense and all the audible-ing. Not every quarterback coming up through the college ranks is trained that way, thought that way, but that’s what he wanted to do and I think he has inspired a generation of quarterbacks who want to study and want to know and want to put their team in the right play.
And that has kind of spawned this whole no-huddle thing that’s gone all the way down to college football now.
Cris Collinsworth: Yes it’s really interesting for me that, you know, obviously everybody talked to the coordinators and what’s going on. And no matter how brilliant – I mean you can go whatever, Bill Walsh, whoever you want to; no matter how brilliant the play caller is, he only is going to guess right on what the defense is going to do maybe 50% of the time.
Tony, maybe 25%, maybe 10% of the time when you get down to the details of all the things that’s going on with the defensive look now. But you put Peyton Manning up there and give him the last look – in other words, because he’s going to go hard count some or, you know, and slow count and he’s going to go quick count. So if you’re going to try and disguise, you’re going to get stuck in disguises when he goes up and goes on the first sound and you’re going to be completely out of position to play defense.
So now what do you do? Now you have to start showing your defense a little bit early and if you show it to them he’s going to go a one-word or two-word kind of audible, snap the ball and he’s got the perfect play in that situation. So as great as the coaches are there’s no way they’re going to be as knowledgeable making a play call as Peyton Manning’s going to be because he’s walking to line of scrimmage and he has first-hand knowledge of what they’re going to do to him.
Is there any other player worth comparing him to influence-wise and how much kind of an impact on the offense he’s had? Or does he kind of stand alone in that category?
Cris Collinsworth: You know, I mean certainly you got to talk about Drew Brees; you got to talk about Aaron Rodgers. You have to talk about, you know, there’s Tom Brady of course. You know, there are guys that can do it. And I think that, you know, look at Tony Romo’s numbers this year; he’s been given more latitude to make those kind of changes, to have influence on the game plan.
And, you know, despite the interception everybody talked about against the Bronco’s, his numbers say he’s on an uptick right now. So I just think that, you know, we’re going back in time. We’re going back to the days when the quarterback had to last, although that used to be in the huddle; now it’s at the line of scrimmage.
Coach Dungy, you might know Peyton better than anybody. He’s going to tell us tomorrow is this just another game and he might not even mention the Colts by name. Can you tell us how much this game really is going to mean to Peyton?
Tony Dungy: Yes, in a sense he is going to treat it that way because that’s the way he prepares; it’s analytical and it’s positioned. This linebacker, that corner, that defensive coordinator. But, you know, I promise you this means a lot to him coming back there playing in front of those fans. Just the whole thing; it’s more than just a game against a faceless opponent.
But I know him and the way he’s going to prepare; he’s going to try to keep himself in that mode all week, but it’s going to be difficult.
Tony, you mentioned it wasn’t a no-brainer necessarily the decision that Jimmy had to make, you know, last March. Can you sort of envision as we play the what if game how you think things might have unfolded had he decided to stick with Peyton? You know, financial ramifications to players they would have had to let go? What the Colts might have been like moving forward?
Tony Dungy: Well they had two options. You know, they could have kept Peyton, paid his salary, drafted number one and just said, you know, we’re going to sit him like Aaron Rodgers sat and we’re going to go down the road. They could have kept Peyton and made that big trade and got some very cheap labor, some number one draft choices that would be inexpensive guys that would just be, you know, coming into their own now.
So there were some things that could have been done, but the health issue was the biggest thing. And that is something that Jim thought about. And, you know, that was a good team. Even thought they only won two games that year before there were a lot of good pieces to the puzzle. They were keeping Peyton and keeping the system. They would have won 10 or 11 games for sure if Peyton could come back and be healthy.
So there were a lot of things that went into Jim’s thought process, but in the end he did what was the prudent thing with the information that he had.
A question I’d like if you all could address this; when Peyton decides to hang it up be it 5 years or 20 years from now do you think he’ll be a better coach or a better broadcaster?
Tony Dungy: I’ll start that one. He’ll be a much better broadcaster. He would be as a coach – I don’t think he could do it because he’d expect everybody to be at his level of preparation and he’d get so frustrated with guys that only want to put in 50 hours a week at work. I don’t think he’d last long as a coach.
Cris Collinsworth: I hope he doesn’t waste his life as a broadcaster. I mean this guy has so much to give the game. He would be a great owner. You know, or President of a team like Elway is. He would be great within the league. He has a deep understanding of all issues. He may not openly express them with what’s going on, but he gets so many things on so many levels. I mean, there’s a hospital named after him in Indianapolis.
The guy, you know, from what I’ve read it’s like when he went over to the school where some kids were impacted with that theater shooting that happened out there and he shows up at this school. And this guy is a special guy. And there are more of those guys in the league than you think.
It’s one of the difficult parts for me is that broadcasting in general we tend to focus on whatever the splash news is of the week and generally it’s somebody doing something stupid. But I’ll tell you, we’ve gotten a chance to meet so many of the guys around the league, and these are intelligent guys that do the right thing. At the top of the list, or certainly one of the top guys, is Peyton. You know, he is – he gets it on a lot of levels. And I wouldn’t limit him to those two things you just mentioned.
Rodney Harrison: You know, I have to agree with both of you guys. I think if you look at Peyton in terms of coaching, I agree with Tony – Coach Dungy as far as just – I don’t know how patient he could be because he’s like, look, I see these – I see this defense and how can you not see that they’re switching from a cover two to a zone blitz? I mean, it’s so simple.
But, you know, as far as what Cris was saying on that general manager, president of a football program, I think he will be fantastic because he’s so smart. He understands what a team needs. And the players, I think he’s a great judge of talent. He knows exactly what players he wants to go after. I think he’s so smart. And he knows exactly what direction he wants to go in. And I think whatever he chooses to do he’ll be great at.
I wonder if I could ask two questions about the other 6 and 0 team in the league, the Chiefs, and how they match up – how you stack them up with Denver. But, Tony, I wonder, have you been paying attention – I’m sure you have – to their pass rush, their 31 sacks, they’re on track to shatter the 1990 Chief team record and the 1984 Bears league record. Can you kind of maybe compare for me what you’ve seen with Tamba and Justin Houston to the guys you were around, Derek and Neil Smith and just what’s made this pass rush so great?
Tony Dungy: Well, you know, Kansas City has kind of snuck up on everybody but they have had some great defensive players there they’ve been building with some good drafts. And their problem in the past was the offense was turning it over so much and they weren’t having success; they were never ahead in games.
Well now you’re getting to see what this defense can do. I’m anxious to see them play Denver because they’ve got the perfect formula. They can run the ball. They’re patient on offense. And defensively they can get pressure without going to maximum blitzes. And so they will give Denver all they can handle for sure. I love that defense. And they’ve got speed and athleticism. They’ve got speed in every part of the defense. You mentioned Tamba Hali up front, Derrick Johnson is an ultra-fast linebacker, Houston, and then you’ve got Eric Berry playing great in the secondary. I just think they’ve got a great defensive package.
Well in particular the pass rush, I mean, you were around Derek and Neil when they were, you know, going crazy…
Tony Dungy: The pass rush in Arrowhead with the noise when you get ahead if you have to throw with all that noise and the tackles can’t hear the snap count, and you’ve got to go on a silent count, there are a lot of things playing in your favor. It’s a pretty special group. I don’t think they’re going to stay at this pace; they’re not going to get 10 every week. But this is not a team you want to be behind and have to throw against in the fourth quarter.
Rodney Harrison: The thing that I’m interested in seeing is, you know, this is a team that obviously they’re young, they’re having a lot of success early. But really how do they respond when they face adversity? This team, we talk about Alex Smith, he’s been a game changer. Can this team score enough points if their defense has a bad day? The question I have, well people say they haven’t played anyone with a winning record. Well, you can only play, I mean, the Broncos. And that’s basically what it comes down to. So I don’t know how good they are at this point until they play a really good team like the Broncos. Can they match up? Yes, on paper. But I don’t know about the leadership. I don’t know about the young players, and if they’re able to overcome adversity. I have to be able to watch that game to see exactly how those young players are able to overcome adversity when they face a guy like Peyton Manning.
Cris Collinsworth: Yeah, that’s the matchup that ultimately is going to decide this whole thing. And watching them last week against the Raiders I’ll use this word. I kept going, “Wow.” I kept going a lot of other words that I shouldn’t say. But watching them get after – Justin Houston who’s been fantastic.
I think Dontari Poe, I didn’t know what he would be coming out of the draft. But when you put that kind of athlete on the nose, you know, we know 34 teams that that’s really going to be the key. I think a guy like Mike DeVito has sort of added a little edge to this defense. You know, he’s just one of those old hard-knocking tough kind of guy. But between Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and Derek Johnson, when they decide to go get the quarterback it’s a little frightening.
And, you know, and you heard Rodney talk about it and I think it’s dead-on, a team that’s going to beat Peyton Manning is going to be a team that is going to be able to hit them. And if you can’t hit them you’re not going to beat them. If there’s any team looking down the road that you think may hit them a little bit it’s the Kansas City Chiefs with the way they can come after the quarterback and to have a guy like an Eric Berry they can play man coverage on wide-outs, tight ends or backs coming out of the backfield is a huge asset. So that’s the matchup, that’s the one. But I don’t think it’s as much a shoe-in that Denver is going to knock them off because of Kansas City’s lack of offense because the way they’re going to be able to hit Peyton or I think they will.
First of all, Coach Dungt, you were here with Peyton in Indianapolis during those heydays. Tell me what you believe this city means to him, what he means to the city and what you expect that atmosphere to be on Sunday night. And are you surprised giving everything we’ve heard about his injury this year, about how serious it actually was, are you surprised we actually made it to this point where Peyton is coming back for this type of game of this magnitude?
Tony Dungy: Well, I can tell you he always thought that was going to be the case. He saw the best doctors in the world on this. He got assurance from everybody that he wasn’t at risk. You still don’t know until you go out there and take a hit but he had every idea in his mind that he would be playing at a high level.
As far as what he means to the city, when I got there he had been there, you know, four years already. It was a basketball city. And Peyton Manning made it a football city without question.
He played well on the field but he was there, he was involved in the community on a daily basis. And he’s just one of the – he and Reggie Miller are special athletes in the city.
You know, what it means to him that – he spent 14 years there and he poured everything he had into it. And that’s why it’s going to be so emotional when he goes back. It’s going to be emotion from the fans. There’s going to be emotion from him. He’s going to try to hide it as best he can but I promise you it’s going to be emotional.
How does that affect how you play or does it affect – once the opening kickoff happens?
Cris Collinsworth: I just wonder if there – even if they win the toss if they’re going to take the ball because they may want to give Peyton a minute to calm himself. I mean, there’s no way when he comes out of that tunnel with the welcome you think they’re going to give that he’s not going to have a few tears in his eyes and even old – the old iron horse who can do anything in any situation.
I’ve got to think he’s going to have to take a minute or so to piece it all back together. So that will be an interesting thing to watch at the beginning of the game.
Rodney Harrison: Yeah, I think it’ll be a heartwarming opportunity, you know, because you look at all the players that you’ve played with and Coach Dungy talked about, you know, looking across the field and seeing Reggie Wayne but also looking across and seeing those ushers and seeing those people that worked in the cafeteria and those security guards that you’re so used to seeing. I think that’s – those are special moments.
I went back and played against San Diego and you just miss those people, the secretaries and the equipment managers and all the people that did so much for you, all the people that really don’t share that spotlight like players like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark and all those guys. It’s really an emotional time especially for a quarterback that’s done so much.
And, you know, you hear about everything that he’s done on the field but you know all the work that he’s done off the field. And Coach Dungy talked about it, it’s just absolutely amazing. But I think this really drives him and makes him even more focused and focused on winning because, you know, Peyton, he’s a very competitive person.
And, you know, as much as he’s going to have much gratification for everything that the fans are doing but it comes down to that he wants to win that football game because all that doesn’t matter if he doesn’t win and that’s the way he’s probably looking at it.
I wanted to ask you what you thought about the four targets that Peyton has this year? I know he had great targets in Indianapolis there with you, Tony, but the fact that he has four what does that mean to this offense and how much of the success is due to having Julius Thomas in that mix with the receivers?
Tony Dungy: Well you talk about all the different weapons and to me, you know, obviously Wes Welker – I mean, he’s huge. Julius Thomas, I think he’s really the difference-maker. And I think this was what made this offense really take a next step to that next level because he is so big and now he’s playing with so much confidence.
Just think if this Thomas kid was with any other quarterback maybe he just would have been a backup tight end, a guy who comes in and blocks. But now that he’s with Peyton, Peyton has given him the confidence and really showed the skill and the ability that this young kid has. Now he can threaten down the field.
He’s a big target. Peyton can just trust him and throw the ball up and he catches everything. So you talk about all the weapons, everyone focuses on Welker but I really believe. And then you can’t forget Knowshon Moreno, just the energy that he plays. When he’s healthy just the energy, the – just the emotion that he plays with I think is pretty special. And Peyton, that’s the power with Peyton rubbing off on everyone else.
Cris Collinsworth: Yeah, from my standpoint I think that the addition of Wes Welker was huge. You know, any time, whether you’re talking about Bill Belichick or anybody, you have to pick and choose. You have to say, okay, who am I going to take away or try to take away on the team?
And last year I thought the Denver Broncos were kind of Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker or bust, you know, much of – so much of their stuff was to the outside guys. And now they’ve got the inside threat, Welker, obviously he’s as good as there is, Julius Thomas, and he’s still just a pup. And he’s growing into it. Not a great blocker but a definite Jimmy Graham type down the field.
And so now – and I really don’t think – Coach could probably answer this better than I do – I don’t think Peyton Manning falls in love with anybody. I think he falls in love with the single coverage. And when you’ve got four guys that can win on a consistent basis he’s just going to find the single coverage and let them win.
Rodney Harrison: No, you’re right, (Cris). And that’s why it’s so much fun to be a receiver in that offense because when you get the opportunities you’re going to get the ball. We’re in Indianapolis, we played Denver in a playoff game and they had ((inaudible)) on Marvin Harrison. He threw – I think Reggie Wayne caught 11 balls on Roc Alexander.
Our Super Bowl year when Rodney got hurt we had a mismatch inside with Dallas Clark and he, you know, tailored the game plan to Clark. So that’s the thing that these guys will begin to understand, it’s not just Welker who’s going to catch 140 balls but whoever has the mismatch that day or whoever the defense decides to take away he’ll more than gladly go to the other guys.
So it makes it fun and that’s what is kind of highlight in all those guys it makes them look a little better than they are because they’re getting the balls at the right time and very accurately.