Garber: Older and wiser

QBs make for Super contrast

Focal Point: Chandler vs. Broncos secondary

  Monday, Jan. 25 12:52pm ET
Peyton trying to take things slowly
By Greg Garber, special to

NEW ORLEANS -- Archie Manning leans through the french doors of his kitchen and says, "You guys ready? OK. I'll go get the Big Kahuna up."

 Peyton Manning
 Peyton Manning took every snap for the Colts in his rookie season.

There was a time when Manning, the No. 2 pick of the 1971 draft, was the Big Kahuna. He played 13 seasons in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings, but that title now belongs to his son, Peyton.

That's what happens when you're the No. 1 pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 draft and produce a remarkable rookie season. Peyton led the NFL with 575 attempts, was second in completions (326), third in yards (3,739) and fifth in touchdown passes (26), balanced by 28 interceptions and a 3-13 record.

Thirty minutes later, father and son stroll out to the back porch of Archie's stately Garden District home and, sitting in rocking chairs, discuss Peyton's coming-out performance. His early-season struggles and the success of so many veteran quarterbacks underlines just how hard the learning curve for NFL quarterbacks is. Some excerpts of the conversation that will be part of a feature on ESPN's NFL Countdown Super Bowl pregame show next Sunday:

Peyton: I felt like playing in the Southeastern Conference -- it's a very fast conference -- I think it gets you prepared to play more than any other conference in college football. You see the zone blitz, see the closing speed of a cornerback and a free safety. You learn what you can do and what you can't do.

Archie: It was a Sunday night game at New England (Week 2, Sept. 13) where I think he really tried too hard. His motor was running too fast. I think after that he really slowed down and maybe the game slowed down for him some. After that, I just sensed a confidence thing.

Peyton: Early in the season, I was just saying that the guys were no open. But when you watch it on film, they really were open and you just didn't see it quite the way you did later in the season.

It's still not as slow as it is for Steve Young and John (Elway) and Troy (Aikman), but it did slow down. When you come out, the field is really small to you, everybody is covering so much ground. As it slows down, the field kind of gets a little bit bigger and guys seem to be a little more open.

Archie: Probably the greatest thing the whole season was that he took every snap. We talk about experience, there really is no substitute for that. (Colts coach) Jim Mora told me not only did he take every snap in the games, but every snap in practice. He got a lot of reps. For some quarterbacks, he got three years worth of work in his first year.

Peyton: I really appreciate Jim Mora's faith in me. The way he told me, 'You can't learn on the sidelines. I agree with that statement. People ask me, 'Do you wish you had a veteran in there to learn from and watch for a whole year?' And I would say, 'No way, because that second or third year when you play, well, you're still a rookie.' You're still going to have to go through those growing pains.

Archie: The Indianapolis paper ran a comparison every Monday, comparing Peyton to what I had done, Game 6, rookie year. And we get the paper and my wife and (son) Eli asked me, 'Did you do anything that year?' But I was hurt, in and out of the lineup. My second year, I played every snap. By the end of that year, I knew what was going on.

Peyton: People ask what was the highlight of the season, and they say, 'I had to be the Jets' game. Well, we win that game, and we're still 2-8. I don't really get too excited about something like that.

Next year, there will be a different kind of defense out there that will give us different types of problems. It will be another step to make. There will be some more mistakes, but as long as I keep going up ... That's my plan, and that's what I think I'll do.

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