When Peyton Manning wanted to be pulled from a blowout, Bruce Arians refused
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians knows how to coach quarterbacks. He wrote the book on it. Literally.
The Quarterback Whisperer, officially released next Tuesday, has plenty of interesting stories from Arians’ lifetime in football, as both a quarterback and a coach of quarterbacks.
Here’s one that justifies a blurb of its own. Arians, serving as the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis early in Peyton Manning’s career, showed a willingness few have to be blunt and candid with Peyton.
During a 1998 game against the Patriots, in only the second start of Manning’s career, the Colts trailed badly. “Midway through the fourth quarter of the game, with the outcome already decided, Peyton was so frustrated that he asked for mercy,” Arians writes. “He wanted to be pulled from the game.”
Arians refused, in a colorful way.
‘“F--k no, get back in there,’ I told him,” Arians explains. “‘We’ll go no-huddle and maybe you’ll learn something. You can never ask to come out. You’re our leader. Act like it.’"`
Arians then describes what happened next as a “sight to behold,” with Manning leading a late drive that ended in a touchdown pass. Arians saw the drive give Manning a “shot of confidence.”
The next year, as Manning tried to break an 0-3 streak against the pre-Belichick Patriots (in those days, the Colts and Patriots were both in the AFC East), Arians noticed before the game that Manning “had a frowning, contorted face” and that “he looked like he really needed to go to the bathroom.” Arians continued to sense that Manning was uptight about facing New England again, so Arians said to him, “‘Peyton, your footwork is all messed up. . . . What’s wrong with you, man?’”
Arians says that Manning’s footwork actually was fine, but in the process of focusing on working on his footwork after Arians called him out, Manning’s anxiety disappeared. The Colts won the game. Arians calls that moment before the game as a “turning point” in their relationship, one in which Arians pushed the right “psychological button.”
And that’s what so much of the book is about -- the psychology both of being a quarterback and of coaching one. It’s already a worthwhile effort to read, and I’m only at page 26.