Sports column: Manning just what NFL needs

By Ian Gold

Ok, I’ll admit it. I have been taking steroids the last three months in an attempt to gain an edge on my colleagues Bobby La Gesse, Mike Szwaja, and Jeff Feyerer.

Kidding aside, the recent developments in sports ranging from player/fan brawls to steroid admissions have cast a shadow over the integrity of America’s professional athletes.

At a time like this it is important to remember the good things in sports – the things that make us tune in each week and remind us of our undying loyalty to the game.

Something is happening this year in the NFL, in a city not so far away named Indianapolis. Ironically, I’m talking about the same city that houses the Indiana Pacers and their traveling circus of fan beaters.

The Indianapolis Colts, however, are doing things on the gridiron that are unprecedented.

The Colts offense, led by iconic quarterback Peyton Manning, is putting up miraculous numbers.

After Sunday’s game, Manning has thrown for 44 touchdowns, just four shy of Dan Marino’s single season record. With four games left in the season, he should be able to eclipse the mark easily, perhaps in the first quarter of next weekend’s contest.

Manning is hands down the best quarterback in the league, despite his inability to beat the New England Patriots (See 2003 AFC championship game). Give him Tom Brady’s defense and there would already be a statue of Peyton at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Watching Manning play this season gives you the feeling that you are truly watching something special.

Every once in a while you just get the inkling that something is so extraordinary that it will be remembered for decades to come.

It’s the same type of feeling I got during the ’95-96 Bulls season, the last five years of Seinfeld and the first time I saw Luther Head go up for an alley oop.

Manning’s receivers – Future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley – have come together to form a deadly trio for opposing defenses.

This year the Colts will become the first NFL team to have three receivers with 10 or more touchdowns in a season – after Stokley, who has nine, grabs one more.

It is probably a combination of Manning’s legendary arm and his receivers’ abilities to run precise routes and to get open that has resulted in this juggernaut of an offense.

It is impossible to talk about the success of the Colts offense without mentioning running back Edgerrin James, who looks as though he has finally fully recovered from the knee surgery that sidelined him for most of the 2001 season.

James’ running skills have even further opened up the passing game. Oh yeah, Manning is also the best in the league at selling the play-action fake.

After Sunday’s 51-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Manning was interviewed on CBS and mentioned that all of the hard work he had put in with his receivers in the offseason was paying off.

It was refreshing to hear success in sports being credited to determination and dedication as opposed to the use of performance enhancing substances.

Manning personifies the leadership skills needed to guide the Colts on and off the field. And though football is a team sport, Manning has shown the ability to carry his team.

Great quarterback play can never be underestimated in today’s NFL, especially in the mediocre NFC.

If in the middle of the season the Bears had somebody who could throw the ball 10 yards down the field, they would be a shoe-in for the playoffs right now.

However, they are currently hanging on to their playoff hopes by a Chad (Hutchinson).

I guess it’s a good thing the Colts took Peyton Manning instead of Ryan Leaf with the first pick in the 1998 NFL draft.

Now, if Manning could only throw the ball more to ex-Illini and Colts fifth receiver Aaron Moorehead…

Jacob Bressler is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]