We were fortunate enough to have Archie Manning, former star quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and father of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, for an interview as he is promoting the Liberty Mutual College Coach of the Year (www.coachoftheyear.com). [See bottom of post for more details on how to participate]
Among the topics we discussed: his career and how his style differed from his sons, how Peyton’s decision played out, some thoughts on youth football, and how that whole Manning family ESPN commercial came to be.
Q: In looking back over your career, one of the things I find interesting when comparing you to Peyton and Eli, is that there are a lot of stylistic differences–pocket passers, getting rid of the ball quickly with a low sack rate, whereas you were more of a scrambler. Do you think that was era-related, or were there differences in your game versus your sons?
Archie Manning: Well, a little of both. In college, I was a sprint out quarterback, that was our system. So I had a big transition coming to pro ball even though I was drafted high, because you’ve got to adjust to the drop back thing. And we just weren’t very good, so it probably was beneficial to me that I could run and scramble a little bit and get out of the pocket, because we just kind of had a start over team, always changing, and we just weren’t real good.
Yeah, I really had a different style than both boys. They were pocket guys from the get go, from high school on.
Q: With those differences, would you like to play in today’s game if you could have taken a time machine and come to now, with the rules changes and various things?
AM: You know, I’ve never been asked that, but yeah, probably. I liked playing when I did, but they are definitely throwing it around more today, because the rules changes are set up to help the offense.
Q: It seems to me like it’s a tradeoff, because back then they could chuck everybody, and it was harder to throw with defenders coming onto you so quickly, but the defense seem very complex today what they do with the packages.
AM: Yeah, it is a tradeoff there. It’s so much more complex today. Back then, shoot, you probably . . . the same personnel that was pretty much in there on first and 10 was still in there on third and 15. It was the same eleven, there just wasn’t a lot of changes. You didn’t take out linebackers and put in defensive backs. Today, my gosh, the personnel packages, more blitzing, you see a lot. It’s definitely a more complex game.
Q: You played with some colorful characters, coaching wise, I believe Hank Stram and Bum (Phillips). Who was the most colorful?
AM: Yeah, I loved Hank Stram–I mean I liked Bum, too–I loved Hank Stram. I didn’t get to play for him the first year he was here, I had two arm operations, I missed that whole year . Then the next year we weren’t very good, and shoot, he got fired. But I thought Hank was a real innovator on the offensive side of the ball. He was quite a character, he was really a funny guy, real funny. Always had a lot of say in’s, he was a pretty special guy.
AM: Well, I wasn’t day to day and didn’t want to be. Peyton’s 36 years old, he knew where I was, he knew he could pick up the phone and he could run something across me, he could talk and I’d listen, or he could ask whatever. It wasn’t going to be me calling him, and asking him what he was doing and what he was thinking. Peyton’s a big boy and he could handle it. That was kind of our policy and it worked well.
I think the one thing I remembered about it is it was hard for him–I think one thing that was so hard is the deal in Indianapolis was emotional and tough for him. He had to turn right around and start trying to find a new team. He started making some visits, and he couldn’t keep doing that. He did that as a high school player and it just wasn’t the same, you know. I know after two visits, he was supposed to go to a couple more, and he said I’m going to go home.
I said, “where’s home?” It was Duke, home was Duke at the time, that was where he had his comfort, his old coach David Cutliffe, and had a trainer and some receivers, and kind of let them come to him.
Q: I know everyone that covered the NFL was speculating, but no one had any idea. It seems like John Elway had a lot to do it, that he had an experience as a franchise quarterback that didn’t change a team, but had a late career resurgence, was that a key factor do you think?
AM: I think it would be crazy to say, and who knows for sure, and I never talked to Peyton in detail, but I think it’s obvious John [Elway] was a factor, and I know John Fox was too, Peyton had known John Fox. I think it was kind of telling that was the first place he visited. He had to make a visit, and that was the first one because he knew Foxy and he knew and respected John.
And then I think he liked some things about it, but some other teams just had some deadlines, and everybody wants to identify their quarterback. If Peyton’s going to come, it’s gonna disrupt some other things, so there was kind of some urgency involved, and I dont know, It seems like the Broncos and John did something pretty smart and said, “Hey, Peyton, take your time and get through this thing and do what you’ve got to do.”
I don’t think it was–I know there was some other teams may be more talented at the time, may be a better team right now–but it was a decision he had to make with his heart. I know it was hard, he told me it was hard.
Q: We don’t want to ignore your other son that plays in the NFL, since he did actually win the Super Bowl this season. Eli had a fantastic year. I know the first Super Bowl he was coming of age still, but it seemed like this one he really carried a team that had injuries, lots of fourth quarter comebacks, lots of excellent play. Just your thoughts of what you saw of his development.
AM: Yeah, I thought Eli came a long way last year. It was really the first time that the Giants offensively weren’t balanced up with the running game, they just had trouble, had injuries in the line, just had trouble running the football. So, Eli and his receivers and the blocking from the O-line really had to keep them in a lot games. They played a lot of close games, a lot of final two minute type games, won their share, lost some but won some. Then, much like their first Super Bowl team, got healthy and got hot at the end of the year. Just got on a roll, and most of it on the road.
Q: Well, your sons were born when you were still playing, when did they first show interest while you were playing, and when did they start playing tackle football, because there’s all this head injury stuff causing concern for youth football today?
AM: Yeah, the oldest two, Cooper and Peyton, they started going to games, and they remembered games I played, and they liked to go. Eli was kinda young, I quit in ’85, so Eli was four years old, he went a few times but didn’t remember a lot of it.
So, they liked it, and my philosophy was if they liked sports to start them out in baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever was there, do a lot of different things. Didn’t really know anything about any youth football in the city, tackle football, and I didn’t really go looking for it either, you know.
Their school, they started in the seventh grade, and it was done very well. It wasn’t turned up a lot, kind of get them familiar with it.
Q: So even though we’ve seen footage of Peyton throwing passes or having a helmet on at a young age, they didn’t actually start playing organized football until the seventh grade?
AM: They didn’t play organized football until the seventh grade. Eli went to a different elementary school for a couple of years, and he played flag football, that’s great. I mean that’s good stuff.
Q: My son’s doing that now, he loves it.
AM: It’s great, it’s great. My grandsons are doing that. Cooper’s got my grandsons, two of them, in a league and it’s great, it’s wonderful. It’s kind of like what is going on in our high schools across the country, where they have these 7 on 7 tournaments in the summer. God, I would have loved to have had that, my kids would have too.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with tackle football at a younger age, because I know Pop Warner has a good program, it just wasn’t available to my kids. I’m still kind of old fashioned, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just getting a bunch of kids getting into somebody’s back yard or vacant field and choosing up and playing football. You don’t see much of that, you don’t see enough of it.
Q: One last question, the ESPN commercial was such a big hit and both Eli and Peyton have proven to have a pretty good sense of humor, how did that commercial come about?
AM: ESPN was after me for, oh, two or three years, to get the boys together and come up there and do a commercial. It’s just hard to get my guys together, it’s just hard. And sure enough, we were all going to be in New York for something on an afternoon, so I called this girl. I said, “look, we’ve got about a three or four hour window here,” she said, “let’s do it, come on.”
So we went up there, and they were really impressive. They had that little skit planned out and we did it quickly. I know Peyton had to fly to Indianapolis for a mini-camp, so we really didn’t have a lot of time. They were well organized. We did it, and people seemed to like it. I think people related to it. My part was the “look.”
ESPN asked the boys, “what happens when you are cutting up, what’s your dad going to do.”
They said, “He’s going to give us the look.” Alright, let’s do the look. It was a one take. I mean, that was it.
. . . People say to me, that’s the look, that’s the look my dad gave to me!
Well, I thought you nailed the look, too. Thanks for your time.
ARCHIE MANNING’S WORK WITH LIBERTY MUTUAL COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD
The Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award is the only college football award that supports both charity and scholarship through its winners. It honors one coach in each NCAA division who best exemplify sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence on and off the field.
Now through December 1, fans can use their PC, tablet or mobile device to visit www.coachoftheyear.com and post a pre-populated tweet of their Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year vote. Fans can then follow the Coach of the Year discussion on Twitter at@lmcoachofyear and using #COTY2012. The top 15 coaches with the most fan votes in each of the four college football divisions – FBS, FCS, Division II, and Division III – advance to an evaluation process using an objective scoring model endorsed by the College Football Hall of Fame to measure coaching excellence, sportsmanship, integrity, academic success and community commitment.
Last year’s winners included Les Miles of LSU, Rob Ash of Montana State (FCS), Tim Beck of Pittsburg State (D-II), and, the award’s first two-time winner, Glenn Caruso from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota (D-III).
[photos via US Presswire]