Peyton Manning’s pre-Super Bowl call to Matt Ryan revealed a deeper truth
During the non-stop craziness of NFL weekdays in free agency, some of the things that land on my list of items to write get kicked to the curb. Saturdays and Sundays become the days to look back on things that fell through the cracks and that still seem interesting, two or three or four days later.
Here’s one. From Colts quarterback Matt Ryan’s introductory press conference. He was asked about his relationship with former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Ryan answered be telling a story. A story that is very telling about Peyton’s relationship with another quarterback.
“When we won the NFC Championship [in Atlanta],” Ryan said, “we left the stadium, we went to dinner. And I was at dinner with my family, we were kind of celebrating. The first call I got was from Peyton. And he was like, all right, here’s how you’re gonna map out your two weeks. And I’m like, man, we just won this game, right? I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
When this clip aired during Wednesday’s PFT Live, Chris (some have asked that I always use his first name when mentioning him here) Simms and I hadn’t previously seen it. For both of us, we had the same immediate reaction.
This wasn’t about Peyton helping Matt Ryan. It was about Peyton keeping Tom Brady from winning another Super Bowl.
They act friendly for the benefit of the media and fans, but Peyton and Brady were (and probably still are) bitter rivals. Remember the Brady emails from Deflategate? Brady apologized to Peyton once they came to light, and Peyton aw-shucks’d his way through the topic, explaining that Brady’s email “was amateur night compared to some of the things that were said about me” by others. (Peyton got the last laugh in 2016, during a Comedy Central roast of Rob Lowe, who had inaccurately “reported” in 2012 that Peyton was retiring: “You tried to take the air out of my retirement announcement so fast, you can probably get a job as Tom Brady’s ball boy.”)
Bottom line? Peyton and Brady competed, intensely. And each wanted to be remembered as a better quarterback than the other. Although Brady ultimately won their head-to-head battle of who’s the better all-time quarterback, when Peyton made that call to Ryan five years ago, Brady had four rings and Peyton had two.
Peyton, at one level, may have been trying to help Matt Ryan get his first. At a deeper (and more important) level, Peyton was desperately trying to keep Brady from getting his fifth.