It’s probably safe to say that few know Peyton Manning better than David Cutcliffe, who coached Manning in college at Tennessee and spent much of the last three months working with the 35-year-old quarterback (he turns 36 on Saturday) as he rehabbed at Duke University from a series of procedures on his neck.
So, with Manning signing in Denver on Tuesday, Cutcliffe’s take on the development was surely in high demand.
Duke football coach David Cutcliffe joined The Rude Awakening on WCNN in Atlanta to discuss his time spent with Peyton Manning this year, as well as to offer his opinion and a little more background on Manning’s decision to go to Denver. Cutcliffe also speculated that Manning might have considered his brother Eli when making his decision, and he elaborated on details of Manning’s workouts at Duke.
On if he was surprised to see Manning pick Denver:
“I really wasn’t. I’ve been with him off and on now the last three and a half months through this rehab, and he stays at my house, so we talk. So I just kept my mouth shut and let him talk. There was a lot of things that went into this, and he knew and I knew that there was not one clear-cut only good decision. Just like all big decisions in life, most of them have multiple answers. It’s not a math problem where there’s one unique answer. But I’m sure there’s a lot of different things that went through his mind that I’m not aware of, but I think he’s probably found a good fit. So I’m excited for him.”
On how close he thinks Peyton is to being his old self:
“Oh, he could go play a game now. He’s throwing the ball well — he’s always been as accurate as anybody that’s ever thrown a football, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. But his arm slot is back perfect, his release times are right on target to what they’ve always been. He’s all over it but he’s gotta continue his rehab, which is going to continue. And the great part: it’s March. We’re not gonna start till August so he’s on pace. It’s like what I just said — I talked to (John) Elway yesterday and they’re in for a shock too. Everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what it’s gonna be like — the work ethic, things will change around their football facility in a short time now.”
On how difficult it was to keep Manning’s on-campus workouts private:
“It wasn’t hard. Our facility — he’d been down here about nine times before anybody ever knew it — that’s how good it is. He gets in my car in my garage, drives to work with me and stays here all day and drives home. So all during that time … and when they started tracking people in here and airplanes in here is when it got hot and heavy.”
On what Manning did during the day while at Duke:
“A lot of rehab. So he’s continuing his rehab. We have a physical therapist here, obviously all of his weight workouts, his running, all of those things during the day. He’s got meeting rooms to watch tape, study film. So it’s kinda his normal day in the offseason, so it proved to be perfect for him.”
On the notion that Manning wouldn’t fit in well with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco:
“I hadn’t been watching the news and I hadn’t heard anybody say that. I think the beauty of them is that they’re very similar competitors and Jim wants to win. That’s all. I think Jim would do whatever he thought. My time in watching Harbaugh’s Stanford teams and then what he’s done at San Francisco — one of the things I think he does well as a coach is his willingness to change and adjust, which they had to do with Alex Smith. So I don’t think Jim Harbaugh would struggle adjusting per personnel myself. And that’s through conversations with Jim Harbaugh as well. So I think he would’ve adjusted fine.”
On how much Peyton’s relationship with John Elway might have played a role:
“Oh I think they’re really good friends, really good friends, and have great mutual respect and John Elway is just a great guy. Just anybody would tell ya that, he’s just a great guy to be around. So you know that had to play some into it, but it ultimately was going to come down to how Peyton wanted to finish the story. And the story was supposed to be all the way through with the Indianapolis Colts and then this injury occurred so it kinda had to be a rewrite. And I told him that, I said, ‘Only you can finish this. There’s no one else can really tell ya how you wanna finish your career and what you want it to say.’ And a lot of athletes through the years have shocked people with those decisions, but I hope most of them do it for that very reason right there: ‘How do you wanna write the story? What do you want the finish to be?’ And it doesn’t necessarily always jibe with what all of us think it should be.”
On coaches having to surrender some power and control for players like Manning:
“Only coaches that have a little less ego than most and also have great confidence in who they are can approach those great players like that.”
On if Peyton made this decision partly in order to avoid having to face his brother Eli:
“I think that’s part of it. And if you know the family I think that’s respect to mom. I sat at a lot of those pro games with Olivia (Manning) and she’s a mom. She’s up there really nervous. And Archie’s a dad — he’s a pacer. But they’re great parents, they’re a great family, they’re very close. And I don’t think playing Eli twice a year in his division was really a very attractive thing.”