Bill Walsh

Peyton Manning just peed a little

From a 49ers-centric perspective, the right team won tonight. And not just because they defeated this generation’s Dan Marino (more on that later).

Ronnie Lott served as the Saints’ motivational speaker before the NFC Championship. Sean Payton played the role of bellhop as his team arrived at their Miami hotel, the same prank Bill Walsh played on his first Championship team in January of 1982. Payton even told reporters on media day that he doesn’t just plagiarize from Walsh, he steals directly from his playbook.

Although I don’t ever remember Walsh going for it on goal-to-go with three straight runs to the right side (and failing), or trying an onside kick to start a second half, like, ever — let alone in a Super Bowl, he’s the closest thing right now to Walsh. Innovative offense, game-decisions that are ahead of the curve, and a defense that’s sneaky-disruptive. All Payton needs to seem more like Walsh is a crisp white coaches’ polo shirt tucked into a pair of khakis.

And like with all of Walsh’s great teams, we all underestimated how good the Saints’ defense truly was this season. Jonathan Vilma was as incredible all night as he was all season, and he was perhaps the best middle linebacker this season other than Patrick Willis. The Colts had plenty of chances to play like the robots we all thought they were and outscore the Saints simply via their own perfection and Manning’s supposed genius, but the Saints’ defense made them nervous. Reggie Wayne feared for his life tonight. Dallas Clark got speared in the back of the leg and had to limp back to the huddle because his team had less than 3 minutes to score 2 touchdowns.

The Saints’ defense, just like Glenallen Hill whenever he had a 3-1 count, just didn’t give a f— tonight, or all season long for that matter. Phil Simms doesn’t like the idea of blitzing Peyton Manning on that 3rd-down play? Well, Tracy Cooper just took him to the house. In Trick Daddy’s hometown, no less.

Now we all have Saints fever, living vicariously through those maniacs in the French Quarter who may or may not actually be from New Orleans (not that it matters). I know I’m suffering from sports delirium when I spend an entire Sunday afternoon rooting for Jeremy Shockey. Ever since his infamous “G-Shock” commercials where he flexed and preened with about a quart of 10W-30 in his hair, I’ve been solidly anti-Shockey.  Tonight, I actually pumped my fist like a Jersey Shore douchebag when Shockey got into the end zone.

Part of it was the utter coolness of Payton’s actions over the past month, and the other was my desire for Peyton to get his comeuppance.

My sisters both LOVE Peyton Manning. Because his TV appearances are funny, and he’s not an unapologetic egotist like Tom Brady. And sure, he was decent on SNL, but nothing he’s ever done on a TV screen could match Joe Montana’s performance on SNL … yep, you know what I’m talkin’ about.

But Manning is Marino. It’s not a bad thing, the NFL always needs a Marino. That’s why CBS keeps him on their studio show, even though he has never said anything remotely interesting in his 15 years on-air. Like Marino, Manning’s teammates hate him. Don’t believe that? Then you didn’t see Manning talking to his offensive line in the third quarter, standing in front of them and holding court while they sat on the bench, trying to catch their breath after trying to protect their lead-footed quarterback.

Does anybody bitch at his team when he knows the camera’s on him like Peyton? Marino did, even Mr. Isotoner never acted like he’s the team’s quarterback, head coach, dean, headmaster and hall monitor like Peyton Manning. Why do you think Jim Caldwell has no personality whatsoever? It’s because this team is ruled by Manning.

This isn’t a bad thing, either. I’d rather have an NFL team’s leader be a Hall-of-Fame QB than another nondescript coach.

Like Marino, Manning’s put up amazing passing stats, thrown some of the most accurate passes between 15-35 yards in the history of the game, and aired out his teammates on national television every time things went sour.

Manning threw a couple passes that should have been caught that would have really helped. He also tossed up a couple ducks that should have been intercepted that weren’t, just like when the Colts barely beat the Niners. Reggie Wayne finished off a pretty terrible game by not going inside quite sharply enough on the game-ending interception, but isn’t that what Manning prides himself on — the fact that he’s worked so hard before and after practice with his receivers to figure out these exact scenarios?

We’re in the second golden age of quarterbacks most of us have ever seen.

Montana, Elway, Marino, Kelly, Simms, Esiason, Kosar, Moon.

Manning, Brees, Brady, Favre, Schaub, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Warner.

Manning is great. Manning is a Hall-of-Famer. But he is human, he isn’t as easygoing of a guy as his commercials suggest and he’s not the guy I’d want to captain my team to a comeback victory at the end of a Super Bowl. Being one of the greatest quarterbacks isn’t about showing off your own talents. It’s about taking of charge of the your team at the right time, deferring to the coach at the  right times and lifting your team not just physically but emotionally. Not sure Peyton’s there right now in all those respects. That’s why he can’t be called the greatest.

Free-associations while envying “Who-Dat Nation”

– Anybody else enjoying what this Saints win means from Philip Rivers’ perspective? Thought so.

– E-Trade, you’ve cornered the “Creepy Stock Traders Who Enjoyed Seeing Pete Townshend At Halftime Way Too Much Today” market with your played-out CGI baby commercials. Congrats.

– Speaking of CGI, LeBron and Dwight Howard’s dunks, followed by LeBron supposedly not knowing who Larry Bird was made a much-hyped commercial absolutely terrible. McDonald’s = FAIL.

– I don’t think Sean Payton trusts Reggie Bush at the goalline.

– And here, we all thought it was ridiculous that everyone’s Super Bowl prediction included a team scoring 31 points. Colts 31, Saints 28; Colts 35, Saints 27; Colts 31, Saints 27; Saints 31, Colts 94. Who would have thought that the Saints would win 31-17, and it would be more exciting than most of us even expected?

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