When they both arrived to their respective teams, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning instantly changed the faces of the franchises. Now, as one’s career is set to soar, the other is set to close. But first, one last game with everything on the line against each other.
By Jeff Weisinger
It was a much different scene on November 11, 2012 when then-second-year quarterback Cam Newton hosted Peyton Manning, the then-new quarterback of the Denver Broncos. As expected back then, Peyton and the Broncos easily handled Carolina 36-14.
Peyton threw for 301 yards with a touchdown while Newton tossed for 241 with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions while being held to just seven rushing yards.
Both quarterbacks have taken very different paths to get to Super Bowl 50, however as Peyton is set to retire after Sunday’s big game and as Newton’s career is ready to take off, it seems fitting that both will go up against one another with everything on the line. In ways, it’s a passing of the torch with the “ol’ sheriff” set to ride into the sunset.
It’s fitting that a combination of the NFL’s past, present and future all come together in the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl.
The 2015 season, Newton’s fifth in the league, was definitely a big one, as he threw for 3,837 yards with a career-high 35 touchdowns, a career-low 10 interceptions while recording a career-best 99.2 quarterback rating.
Once a runner who could throw the ball well, Newton’s developed into the best dual-threat quarterback in the league, incredibly proficient both passing and running with the ball. But what makes Newton even more polarizing is the energy he brings to the field, an energy that the NFL (aka the “No Fun League) has tried to abolish.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) February 5, 2016
Much like Favre did celebrating in his own way – holding his helmet in the air, jumping into his lineman’s arms, running the length of the field to celebrate a touchdown – Newton has done in his own, modern way – dabbing, the Superman shirt tear, the hip-hop dancing.
“The cool part of it is it’s a different way to be a franchise quarterback,” Allen said. “For so long, there’s been this cookie cutter type of what people expect franchise quarterbacks to be. … (Newton) wins football games and he does it in charismatic fashion. He elevates the play of his team, he’s a good leader
“He just does everything you want a franchise quarterback to do, maybe he just does it with a little different style. I think it’s great. It’s fun and, being the old guy in the room, it’s really refreshing.”
While Newton looks to take the NFL into the future, he’ll have to beat one of the best ever to cement his place as the great, new face of the NFL.
Peyton Manning will be the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl on Sunday, at 39 years and 320 days old. Super Bowl 50 will be Peyton’s fourth trip to the big game, his second as the starting quarterback for the Broncos. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to bring multiple teams to a Super Bowl.
Now he has to win this one, looking to leave the game on top as his boss, hall of fame quarterback John Elway did 18 years ago.
Peyton’s road to this Super Bowl is much different than that of Newton’s. While Newton was rewriting the rookie record books, Manning was recovering from neck surgery which forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, which in turn rolled the carpet out for his exit from Indianapolis.
The offseason before the 2012 campaign was a new frontier for Peyton. He had never been a free-agent prior to that point. After every NFL team pulled out their red carpet to welcome him – some a helicopter and one even a jet – he chose Denver (the one with the jet).
“People want to know the reason,” Manning said in his introductory speech in Denver in 2012. “There really isn’t one. I could have pictured myself on any of those other teams. But what it came down to is, this just fit. It felt right.”
The hall-of-fame quarterback got his future hall-of-fame quarterback in the end, because of familiarity.
’16 Peyton knows he’s not ’98 Peyton.
“May not be able to throw 95mph.. he can still work the corners of the plate” https://t.co/UmPN2jcdB0
— NFL (@NFL) February 3, 2016
With Elway and a veteran coach in John Fox, now Gary Kubiak, Manning was taken care of. In ways, it was nearly a perfect move – with Manning behind center the Broncos have now been to two Super Bowls in the last four years. Even though the first one didn’t go as planned – okay, let’s be honest, it wasn’t even close – Manning has a chance to go out on top, again, like his boss did. All we need is Peyton running on the right side, diving for a first down to potentially seal a win.
I mean, if you think a 37-year-old quarterback wants to win a Super Bowl, you should see one who’s 39-years-old do the same.
In an era where picking quarterbacks is hit-or-miss with the next five or 10 years of the franchise is at risk, let alone the legacy of the player, both Carolina and Manning hit their decisions on the nail. While one is on his way out, the other is on his way up.
Either way, a torch will be passed to the face of the new generation of quarterback. Although both teams have great defenses that helped get them to Sunday’s big game, the overall storyline is in fact that of the quarterbacks.
The 50th anniversary of pro football’s greatest achievement, mixed with the passing of the torch in one of sport’s most important positions – a perfect storyline for a big day.