Fire Skip Bayless

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Readers of our blog (I probably didn’t have to make that plural, in hindsight) may have noticed my affinity toward fisking various articles/infomercials. That’s no accident: I love a good point-by-point takedown of something, especially since the things being fisked usually aren’t lacking material to work with. Plus it gives me this incredible rush of smug self-satisfaction, but mostly it’s that first thing.

The reason I bring it up is because I’ve spent the last week reading through the archives of the incomparable Fire Joe Morgan, and it’s got me in the mood to do it again. As luck would have it, I didn’t have to wait long because one of my favorite sports subjects ever is in the news again: Peyton Manning’s legacy is up for debate, and idiots are weighing in on his post-season experience!

For those of you who didn’t hear “idiots” and immediately think of Skip Bayless, shame on you, because he’s our subject today. But don’t worry, I’m sure we can count on a reasonable, measured and logical essay from one of the most level-headed and thoughtful sports personalities in the world, right? Especially with the title “Peyton Manning’s golden opportunity” – that seems like what he has in front of him, so I’m eager to hear Skip’s thoughts. What could go wrong?

I’ve never been the biggest Peyton Manning fan.

Oh. Terrific. Hell of a start there, Skip. Way to set the tone early!

I’ve long admired his dedication and the dignity with which he treats the game and its history. But even now I remain skeptical of his postseason legacy, which has never measured up to a status I conceded three years ago: Greatest Regular-Season Quarterback Ever.

As we all know, when Skip Bayless confers a status upon you, it means something — ESPECIALLY if there’s a snide back-handed nature to it. Skip Bayless thinks Johnny Manziel is the Greatest Non-Tebow College Football Player Ever. He thinks Jennifer Lawrence is the Hottest Average-Looking Girl in Hollywood. He thinks Ukraine’s riots are the Most Newsworthy Non-Bieber Story in the News. He is the one to decide your legacy — and, by extension, whether or not you’re living up to it.

Also, does anyone here want to bet “the dignity with which he treats the game and its history” is really just Skip Bayless remembering that one time Peyton wanted to pay tribute to Johnny Unitas by wearing black shoes? Because I’d put the chances of that at about 60%, personally.

Of course, for Peyton Manning, whose little brother Eli has two Super Bowl wins (over Tom Brady!) to Peyton’s one (over Rex Grossman?) while Eli has also led the NFL in interceptions three times, Greatest Regular-Season Quarterback must be starting to feel like a consolation prize.

I get that this Super Bowl comparison is a common enough refrain, which we’ll get to in a while. But can someone please help me parse how Eli Manning’s prodigious interception rate is supposed to make Peyton, like, jealous or something? Is one additional Super Bowl REALLY strong enough to overcome the difference between Eli’s Brett Favre-ian career path and Peyton’s literally-unprecedented dominance  for the last 1.5 decades?

Also, subtle work reminding everyone that Peyton’s pathetic single Super Bowl win came against the Rex Grossman-led Bears. I love that it never occurs to Skip Bayless that this weird head-to-head notion doesn’t really exist for QBs. If anything, the fact Grossman led the Bears to the Super Bowl is WORSE for the Colts, since it means their mediocre QB play was completely masked by their outstanding defense. But sure, let’s give the edge to Eli here – after all, he IS the Greatest QB to Ever Have David Tyree Miraculously Catch a Wobbly Pass Ever!!

But now, the mouth of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has opened and out has flown, like a fire-breathing dragon, the greatest opportunity Peyton could have ever wished for: a Super Bowl foe who’s a nine out of 10 on degree-of-difficulty scale. This challenge is much closer to the 1985 Chicago Bears than the 2006 Bears with backup-caliber Grossman at quarterback and a fifth-ranked defense. Seattle’s defense is ranked No. 1 in fewest yards allowed, in interceptions (28) and in total takeaways (39).

Couple things:

1) Nice simile there, with Richard Sherman’s words flying out of his mouth like a, uh…”fire-breathing dragon.” I think I speak for myself, ST and the rest of the world when I say I totally get why you dropped that analogy in there.

2) I like how Richard Sherman is implicitly responsible for making this a great opportunity for Peyton. As though a team of deaf mutes with exactly the same caliber players/coaching would be less daunting simply because they don’t talk. Richard Sherman being talkative from a spot on the field where Peyton will never hear him? IMPORTANT.

3) Skip Bayless Official Degree-of-Difficulty Rating: 9/10.  I really wouldn’t have even put too fine a point on this one if Skip hadn’t done so himself, but here we are. Here’s how he’d rate other possible opponents:

  • New England Patriots, Last Week: 6/10
  • New England Patriots, 2007 Super Bowl: 7/10 (+1 for keeping it close against Eli!)
  • Super Bowl XLVII as played in Madden 25 against Russell Wilson: 10/10 (!!)
  • Physical manifestation of Peyton Manning’s post-season demons: 666/10
  • A team made up entirely of Tim Tebows: 3:16/God
  • Literal fire-breathing dragons: 0/10 (surprisingly bad safety help, poor coaching)

4) This should probably be higher than #4, but the 2006 Bears defense forced the most TOs in the league, just like the 1985 Bears. They allowed the third-fewest points that year, too. Seattle was tops in TOs and points allowed this year, sure, but I’m not seeing any way that the 2006 Bears were clearly THAT much worse than either Seattle or the ’85 Bears.

Last thing: It’s kind of a crude measurement tool, but if we look at total points the 2006 Bears had the third-ranked defense and tied for the second-best offense. For all that hand-wringing about Rex Grossman being all Rex Grossman-y, they sure put up a pretty impressive showing that season. Yes, that’s the year Devin Hester went absolutely nuts, but still, it’s hardly like they were starting a football-playing tapir at QB.

Guess who they were tied with for second-best offense? That’s right, the Colts. Guess what Indy’s defense was ranked? 23rd. As we’ll learn later Peyton’s team was still favored by seven points. Peyton Manning: Totally clearly not singularly responsible for that spread. Skip Bayless: inexplicably going to make this article worse before it’s over. JSG: In need of a drink.

Unlike the 1985 Bears — the greatest defense ever — Seattle’s was built from the back end to stop what a Peyton Manning does best.

  • 1985 Bears: #1 in INTs, second-fewest completions (on the 11th-most passing attempts against!), second-best net yards/passing attempt, 3rd-most sacks

I mean, maybe the ’85 Bears weren’t explicitly built to stop the pass, but they were pretty goddamn good at it anyway. Also, for reference:

  • 2013 Seahawks: #1 in INTs, third-fewest completions allowed (albeit on the 26th-most attempts), best net yards/attempt, 9th-most sacks

But sure, whatever, just ascribe whatever you want to this year’s Seahawks team, it’s fine.

Also, I love love love the idea that Seattle built their defense to stop players like Peyton Manning. Here’s a list of teams the Seahawks absolutely knew they were going to play this season: Carolina, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Arizona, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Minnesota, New Orleans, NY Giants. Excluding that one game against Drew Brees (who they ended up facing twice, thanks to playoff scheduling), who in that list is really “a Peyton Manning” type at all? Andrew Luck? Maybe Matt Ryan, coming into the season?

More importantly, here’s another list — this one is a randomly chosen list of QBs the Seahawks had to face off against: Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kellen Clemens (x2), Mike Glennon, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel. Just kidding, that wasn’t a random list, that was six games’ worth of terrible starters/backups that the Seahawks were lucky enough to face at the right time — none of which includes Matt Ryan/Eli Manning’s terrible years, or Colin Kaepernick’s inconsistency, or Arizona’s fairly lackluster offense with Carson Palmer all year. That’s a solid 12 games of spotty-at-best QB play against.

Last one: here’s a list of QBs who “a Peyton Manning” might apply to: Peyton Manning. That’s the whole list. No one does what Manning does that successfully, you dumb idiot. Just because the playoffs don’t bear it out doesn’t mean you can just ignore it.

The ’85 Bears mostly terrorized passers before they threw. Sherman & Co. more often make QBs and receivers pay after the ball has been thrown — with interceptions and concussions.

Again, 9th-most sacks this season — not exactly terrible. And as we all know, concussions are something the league has been lauding all season long and not actively working to get out of the game — which is good, because Seattle led the league in Concussions Delivered/Attempt at a mind-boggling 0.0027. Long live the Legion of Head Trauma!

So, with Sherman relegating Peyton to Best Supporting Actor next week — with the sports world hanging on Sherman’s every word about how devastating Seattle’s secondary can be — the credibility of Peyton’s challenge will rise by the sound bite. With Sherman’s game-saving pass breakup in the NFC title game, he cinched his status as pro football’s best cornerback — precisely the kind of long, strong, headstrong corner who can match physicality and downfield speed with Peyton’s favorite target, Demaryius Thomas, who’s longer on speed than quickness.

Yep: For Peyton, Seattle is a IX in Super Bowl degree of difficulty.

“The credibility of Peyton’s challenge will rise by the sound bite.” I know I already quoted that part, I just wanted to re-print it here to make sure we all saw it again, since it’s so coma-inducingly stupid it almost can’t be a real thing Skip Bayless thinks. I mean, it’s not like this is the guy who thinks Tim Tebow could have led this roster to the Super Bowl.

Does anyone believe that Richard Sherman is responsible for making this challenge a “credible” one? Is it not inherently credible enough?? Watch ESPN or NFL Network for 30 seconds and you’ll hear someone mentioning the top-ranked offense vs. the top-ranked defense angle. People are pretty OK with this game, I think.

Also: Seattle is a IX in Super Bowl degree of difficulty? What’s with the Roman numerals? Is that some sort of weird Super Bowl-themed joke? It’s not working for me.

For now, I rank him no higher on my all-time list than sixth, behind (in order) Joe Montana, Brady, John Elway, Roger Staubach and Brett Favre. After all, Peyton is only 11-11 in playoff games, with eight first-game exits — four of those as a top-two seed playing at home after a bye. Until his two recent home wins over the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots, Peyton had lost three straight playoff games. I’m sorry, but, by Peyton Manning standards, that’s sorry.

Yeah! Suck Skip Bayless’ wrinkly white balls, Peyton! Sixth-best all time! Nevermind how you’re second in passing yards and passing TDs and, despite having the second-most passing attempts of all time (he’s behind Favre in all three categories, FYI) you’re only 19th on the interceptions list (Favre is first by a mile) and fourth in completion percentage, to say nothing of your 51 game-winning drives (tied most all time with Marino) and your second-lowest sack percentage of all time behind a patchwork line for most of your prime! And fuck how your career is still going, including what most people regard as the best single season in NFL history this year! Your playoff record, which as we all know is totally contingent on you and you specifically, happens to be 11-11 — what happens in the playoffs is more important than your 240 regular season games and your 69.6% winning percentage, asshole.

Anyway, Skip spends the next few paragraphs talking about how this one game is the most important thing for Manning ever, etc. You’ve heard all that. I love what comes next, though: a series of reasons why he, Skip Bayless, ostensibly a journalist, has it in for Manning.

Maybe I took an unfair view of Peyton from the start because he played at the University of Tennessee, archrival to my alma mater, Vanderbilt.

Hey, it’s cool. Don’t even worry about it, I’m sure this means you’re totally impartial about Peyton and this in no way invalidates your point.

Then again, I must admit I’ve always preferred my all-time great quarterbacks to play with more rifle-armed flair than Peyton ever has. Give me Elway’s finger-breaking fastball and jockish swagger. Or Staubach’s miracle-making fire. Or Dan Marino’s arrogant rocketry. Or Favre firing a touchdown pass with every ounce of his excitable being.

Give me Michael Vick’s dog-murderingly effortless deep ball. Give me Give me Eli Manning’s impish grin while willing David Tyree to pin the ball to his helmet. Or Ben Roethlisberger’s poignant elegance in the face of rape charges. Or his motorcycle accident. Or his league-mandated suspension.

Give me Elway’s 7-7 playoff record through 1996, before Gary Kubiak and Alex Gibbs turned Terrell Davis into Walter Payton. Give me Dan Marino’s lack of a Super Bowl. Or Brett Favre’s game-clinching pick against the New Orleans Saints in the 2010 NFC title game — a game that led New Orleans into the Super Bowl against, surprise!, the Peyton Manning. But it’s cool, I bet he threw it with every ounce of his excitable being nonetheless.

Seriously, how can you not love this? Imagine you have two bars in your town. One of them has a master mixologist who makes the best Manhattan in the country. It’s been lauded as the best by even the strictest critics; he’s been making them the same way for a decade, slowly and subtly tweaking his recipe as situations demand it, and once every few years he adds a dash too many bitters and the drink is ruined. The other has Tom Cruise from Cocktail working the bar. What he does looks impressive and flashy, and the crowds are entertained, but he’s way more prone to fucking up the ratios and he fairly often just drops one of the bottles outright.

Which bartender would you really want on your staff? More importantly, what am I even talking about? The point is: this is a good Manhattan.

From the start, Peyton played NFL quarterback as if he were a hyper chess master. He created a game above the mud-and-blood game of football, a mind game with which he could toy with superior athletes.

Overrated. Horrible. Who the FUCK does he think he is?

Peyton Manning made playing quarterback look as easy as driving a Buick. He rarely needed his helmet and pads.

Hey, Skip, a quick word? This article is about why Peyton Manning isn’t great, remember? I mean, I’m sure you do — you’ve been at it for a while now — but it’s just starting to sound kind of like those are good things.

Peyton finally broke through in his ninth season, beating the Bears 29-17 in the rain in Super Bowl XLI. Peyton’s team was a seven-point favorite. Degree of difficulty: four.

I believe you meant to say: “Degree of difficulty: IV.”

Peyton’s Colts, of course, lost Super Bowl XLIV to Drew Brees’ New Orleans Saints 31-17 (after beating Mark Sanchez’s New York Jets 30-17 in Indy for the AFC title). The Colts were a five-point favorite over a New Orleans team with the No. 1 offense but just the 25th-ranked defense. Degree of difficulty: five.

Hey! We just talked about this one. Good thing New Orleans didn’t get a one-seed and then have to beat Brett Favre on the way!

Most memorable moment: The Colts were driving to tie the score at 24 when, with 3:24 left, Peyton’s pass intended for Wayne was intercepted by Tracy Porter and returned 74 yards for the game-breaking TD. Hall of … Blame?

I don’t have a strong argument for this one, I just want to point out what horrible writing this is. Is “Hall of Blame” supposed to be clever? Actually, let’s start simpler than that: Who or what is the subject of that sentence? There’s a terrible antecedent problem. Even if we assume he’s talking about Manning: Who was Manning “blaming” for this, exactly? Himself? This is pure nonsense, Mr. Bayless.

Last season, his first in Denver, Peyton did what Peyton often does, delivering the AFC’s No. 1 seed off a 13-3 regular season. And Peyton did his part to build a 35-28 lead over eventual Super Bowl champ Baltimore. But, with 31 seconds left, a 70-yard Hail Flacco TD pass forced overtime.

And in the second overtime, the Greatest Regular-Season Quarterback Ever made a shockingly poor decision, throwing a lifeless pass back across his body into the strength of the defense. That interception set up Baltimore’s winning field goal. That didn’t exactly reek of greatness.

“Next time the opportunity comes I will make the play. I’m sorry the way the season ended. It ended on me, which I never expected,” said Peyton Manning, expressing regret over how the game ended. Hmm? Oh, wait, sorry: that was Rahim Moore’s post-game quote. You know, the one who allowed that 70-yard Hail Flacco TD pass? Now, Rahim Moore took a beating in the press for that, and deservedly so — but how can you throw ALL the blame at Manning for not winning this game?

And I know I keep harping on it, but you…you’ve seen the list of QBs with Super Bowl rings, right Skip? Brad Johnson has one. So does Trent Dilfer. Ben Roethlisberger was 9/21 for 123 yards and 2 INTs against Seattle in Super Bowl XL. Did that “reek of greatness?”

Reminder: Montana went 4-for-4 in Super Bowls and (I thought) deserved all four MVPs. Jerry Rice (11 catches for 215 yards) was MVP of Super Bowl XXIII even though Montana threw for 357 yards, including the winning 10-yard TD pass with 34 seconds left.

Reminder: Joe Montana was coached by one of the greatest offensive pioneers in NFL history and had unquestionably the best WR of all time on his side. This isn’t to say they were easy wins, but it sure as shit wasn’t as hard as it’d be today.

In his record-smashing regular season, Peyton faced only four defenses in the top half of the league — the highest being the Houston Texans’ seventh-ranked defense. Now comes Seattle’s D, ready to make a case that it deserves some all-time respect.

Peyton’s season: Inflated by playing bad defenses.

Seattle’s season: Historically-dominant defense uninflated by their division and run of good luck in facing terrible opposing QBs.

Now Sherman’s team has fallen from Super Bowl heaven into Peyton’s path. Now, a week from Sunday, it could feel as if Peyton Manning wins two or three Super Bowls that night. I’ll be rooting for him.

Utterly nonsensical close. Seattle’s team has fallen from “Super Bowl heaven?” It could feel as if Peyton wins “two or three” Super Bowls?? I’m having a hard time thinking this Seattle team is anywhere near some sort of vaunted magical unicorn defense that we’ll never lay our eyes on again. Also, let’s take a moment to appreciate Skip closing with “I’ll be rooting for him.” Incredible, right? He’s spent the whole article disparaging Peyton Manning compared to his contemporaries and talking up the Seahawks defense as an all-time great, and now he’s turning it around on us? Da-whaaaaaat?

I guess the point here is, where are we at on getting me another Manhattan? Also, Skip Bayless is dumb. Also, go Broncos!

-jsg

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Fire Skip Bayless

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