Monday, January 12, 2015

The End of Peyton Manning? Cowboys Controversy Scars NFL

Peyton Manning's legacy in the National Football League has been etched for some time. Playoff losses and a 1-2 record in the Super Bowl aside, Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, if not the greatest.

He put up prolific numbers every single year of his career, obliterated the touchdown record (530), and captured three conference championships with two different franchises, and set the stage for the NFL as we know it today where quarterbacks rule Sunday every week.

He did it all with class, it was never about him and his down-to-earth personality, and vibrant sense of humor made him a favorite among NFL fans, even if they were not Colts or Broncos fans.

So it hard to sit there and watch what could be (hopefully unlikey) Manning's last game as an NFL quarterback. Over the course of the season we have seen Manning suffer the toll of 17 NFL seasons; the hits are becoming a bit much. He suffered an apparent tear in his right calf during a game against the Chargers, a game in which he was also battling the flu, and was never the same. He averaged only 257 yards passing a game, and threw six interceptions to three touchdown down the stretch, very un-Manning-like.

Of all the playoff loses that Manning has suffered in his career, this might have been the worst of them considering the circumstances in which it happened, and to whom it was against.

We've seen Manning have bad games in the postseason before, but that was because teams figured out that Manning had to be blitzed constantly and forced out of the pocket; and every time he lost those games it was easy to think, 'well maybe next year.' This is the first time in Manning's career that we are left wondering if this is the end? 

Not that the Colts didn't have a good game-plan against Manning, but watching him look every bit the part of a 38-years old quarterback as he struggled to push the ball down field, was inaccurate and lacked any arm strength in his right arm was disturbing.

It was painful to watch even more so since it came against the same franchise he put back on the NFL map, the Indianapolis Colts. All the wins, the losses, the good times, and the bad times Manning had with the Colts seemed to revisit him as if his life went before his eyes. When the dust settled, Andrew Luck was left standing as his true heir apparent. The torch that everyone was waiting to be passed from one great Colts quarterback to the next happened on Sunday, culminating in a handshake as the teams walked off the field.

When asked if he would be back in 2015, Manning didn't sound optimistic.

"Uh, yeah, I guess I just can't give that simple answer. I'm processing it. I can't say that. I could not say that.''

There is a lot of uncertainty in Denver. The Broncos window may have closed on them on Sunday. They have a number of free agents, including Demarius Thomas and Julius Thomas. Plus the coaching staff may get pouched for head coaching jobs in the league. There was even a rumor that John Fox was going to get fired, which the Broncos quickly and vehemently denied.  Fox will be back in Denver, but if 2015 were a transition year, why would he even want to stick around and get fired in January of 2016?

If it is the end of the Manning era, we have nothing to say but thank you for all the memories. He was one of the best to ever play -- maybe even the smartest to ever play. Perhaps we see him one day on the sidelines again as a coach, or maybe on TV as a late show host, or NFL analyst. One thing is for sure, we will see Manning in Canton, Ohio in the Hall of Fame in the near future.

Now to some controversy!

Well Dallas fans you know what they say about karma? Can't say I feel bad for the Dallas Cowboys, they were on borrowed time to begin with since they were given a gift by the officials in the fourth quarter of their wild card game against Detroit. That being said they got robbed and should have had a real opportunity to beat the Packers on Sunday.

Dez Bryant made a spectacular leaping catch on fourth and two to spot the ball at the Packers 1-yard line, but after instant replay the call was reversed, citing that Bryant didn't have possession of the ball all the way down. How? How could the NFL get it wrong again for the second straight week?

To be fair the officials are not to blame for this, they interpreted a badly written rule correctly. Known also as the "Calvin Johnson rule," when a receiver makes a catch they have to complete the process of the catch without the ball hitting the ground. If you remember the infamous Johnson play, he caught a touchdown, put the ball down as if to give it the referee and they called in an incompletion. Go figure.

What is to blame is the system and the rulebook. This is a horrific rule that should be thrown out. Bryant made the catch. If you watch the replay one can see that he has possession and makes three steps before falling down at the one. It is the moment his body hits the ground that the ball pops out. It looked like a catch, it should have been a catch. But it wasn't.

How is it that the ground can't force a fumble, but can force an incompletion on a play like this? Many have cited that this rule has been called consistently since 2010, but I haven't seen anyone point out any other play other than the Johnson play that illustrates this. I have seen many plays in which receivers made catches, fall and drop the ball afterwards, and nobody calls it incomplete. That's a fact.

Sure Bryant was holding the ball like a loaf of bread, something he does way too often, but he had his hand underneath the ball when he fell to the ground. The force jarred the ball out. If he had been bobbling the ball all the way through, or if it were obvious that the ball was slipping out of his hands while he was starting to trip, then I could understand it being called incomplete.

I don't want to hear from so-called butt-on-the-couch experts who try to say otherwise. I heard what Bryant said when asked about the play. He was involved in it, he made the catch and would clearly remember what happened better than you and I. I will side with Bryant on this one.

Roger Goodell better hope such calls do not happen in the next three ball games, because if Super Bowl XLIX is determined by a ridiculous item in a rulebook, then the NFL can kiss it's status as the number 1 national sport good bye.

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