What can you imagine Peyton Manning doing? Let’s build him an analogical world. You can imagine him wearing a short-sleeve button-down dress shirt. You can imagine him speed-typing numbers on an old-fashioned adding machine. You can imagine him lining up the corners on a pack of yellow legal pads. You can imagine him carrying coffee. You can imagine him researching lawn mowers. You can imagine him leaving early for work to take the station wagon in for a wax job and sliding Astral Weeks into the CD changer and watching the gray morning light settle on a street full of Dunkin’ Donuts and drive-through bank branches and thinking to himself, This is the time of day I like best.
It’s a cliché to note that he’s got some curious OCD tendencies — all that finger-licking under center, those rapid-fire Tourette’s bursts of audibles. What’s incredible is the cumulative effect 10,000 perfectly executed seven-yard reads have had over the years. At this stage in his late career, really for the whole season-plus he’s been with Denver, Manning makes being a midlevel IT manager look like a form of ruthless conquest. It’s as if he wrote a script to install automatic PC updates, and somehow it made him the god-emperor of hell. This is how he plays football: He goes out every week with a graphing calculator and a stack of forms, and he just audits teams to death.