Be sure to check out this story on the Colts quarterback. I don’t know if Manning is the best ever–all things considered, given the foundational contributions that he made to the quarterback position and the game of football in general, I would have to go with Unitas as being the best–but he is surely at the upper echelon of those who played the position. His talents, and the mental approach that he takes to the game, are utterly extraordinary.
But I note this story for another reason. Nowadays, quarterbacks are only expected to “manage” games, with coaches holding all of the playcalling power and responsibilities. It wasn’t always this way; back in Unitas’s day, quarterbacks were expected to lead, and were asked to win games, not just manage them. While not every quarterback can be a Peyton Manning, his accomplishments show us that teams can ask more of quarterbacks than they are used to asking these days. Yes, defensive packages are more complicated, and yes, being a quarterback is tougher mentally now than it was in the past. But quarterbacks can still do more than their coaches and teams ask of them, and football would be more fun if they had that opportunity.
And of course, quarterbacks would love to have that opportunity. What quarterback wants to play the role of an automaton? What quarterback prefers being just another player on the field, as opposed to being the leader on the field?
It will be a long time before we see another Peyton Manning. But it doesn’t have to take a long time before more responsibility–and consequently, more fun and excitement–is brought back to the quarterback position. Coaches: Your quarterbacks are smarter and more capable than you give them credit for. It’s time to start trusting them with more power and responsibility on the field.