x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

All that is right and wrong in the NFL summed up in Peyton and Payton

They share similar names, but Peyton Manning stands as the definition of class in the NFL while Sean Payton stands for something less noble.

How Peyton Manning, above, handled his release by the Indianapolis Colts, search for a new team and eventual signing with the Denver Broncos is to be admired and respected. How New Orleans coach Sean Payton handled the NFL's initial investigation in to
How Peyton Manning, above, handled his release by the Indianapolis Colts, search for a new team and eventual signing with the Denver Broncos is to be admired and respected. How New Orleans coach Sean Payton handled the NFL's initial investigation in to "Bounty Gate" is reprehensible.

They are central characters in heart-breaking stories from the NFL's unsettling off-season.

Two men with the homonym names who embody the antonyms of "good" and "bad" in sports.

Peyton and Payton.

Peyton Manning's split with the Indianapolis Colts was devastating to their devotees and disappointing to those who relish the quaint notion of a player's career going sunup to sundown with one team.

But his dignity, on full display during the departure from Indy and nationwide tour in search of a landing spot, brought relief to most aggrieved parties.

Then there is Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints' coach-in-purgatory, punished in response to a repulsive hit-to-hurt format that rewarded individuals on the defence for injurious plays.

There might be no blood on his hands - the bounty system was hatched by the former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams - but they are unmistakably dirty. Some break-ups between a team and its transcendent athlete turn bitter enough to qualify for an episode on Divorce Court.

But even if player Peyton, who is destined for the Hall of Fame, is being replaced by a kid yet to take a snap in the league, he showed not a speck of spite.

He said this: "It truly has been an honour to play in Indianapolis."

And this: "I will leave the Colts with nothing but good thoughts and gratitude."

And this: "Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.

"I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback."

There was no need to have hooked up player Peyton with a lie detector to verify the honesty in his farewell remarks.

Then, as he crossed the country on job interviews - the job candidate, in a twist, interviewing potential employers - player Peyton exhibited humility by agreeing to throw for teams.

The workouts were beneficial to him, too, in the wake of multiple neck surgeries.

But, still.

Few athletes on his stratospheric level would bother contacting the unsuccessful suitors to alert them that he had chosen someone else.

Yet when the Denver Broncos won the sweepstakes, player Peyton phoned the other teams before informing Denver and expressed appreciation for their interest in him.

No wonder why, for years, parents have named their babies after player Peyton, though it might be happening less often in Tennessee, where he is revered still from his college days in the 1990s.

"He was nice enough to call me and tell me he wasn't going to be our man," said Bud Adams, the Tennessee team owner, even though no rejected team was more crushed than his Titans.

As for coach Payton, when league investigators phoned him to inquire about the knowledge of a bounty arrangement, he lied.

Compounding the sin, he advised his assistants to lie about it.

The NFL instructed coach Payton to check into whether such a programme existed.

He ignored the edict, according to the league's report, and made no inquiries with his staff.

Ah, cruel karma. Coach Payton has previously violated the concept of sportsmanship to a lesser degree.

With victory over the Atlanta Falcons assured on a late December night last year, he dialled up repeated pass plays during the fourth quarter, pouring it on so Drew Brees could break the single-season passing-yardage record.

Never mind that another game remained on the schedule.

More: coach Payton moved his family to Dallas at a sensitive time when New Orleans residents, most famously Brees, stayed in a pledge of faith with a city rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

More: coach Payton was implicated, though not by name, in a lawsuit by the Saints' one-time security chief stemming from a felony theft of an prescription drug from the team's medicine cabinet. The security man claims he suffered lost wages for resisting attempts at a cover-up allegedly ordered by the general manager Mickey Loomis, who was exiled by the league for a half-season over his own see-no-evil approach to the bounties.

All of you new moms and dads: make sure it is spelt Peyton, and not Payton, on those birth certificates.

Even with his inventive offensive mind, it would serve coach Payton right to never work a sideline again. His failure of responsibility has damaged a proud franchise, which paid a hefty fine and was stripped of two high draft picks.

It might be enough to drive Brees, beloved in New Orleans, to another team after this year.

Justice in sports does not always prevail. In this instance, assuming kind karma allows player Peyton to do his hand-gesturing, signals-barking, touchdown-tossing thing again, it will.

The Broncos' contract promises player Peyton US$18 million (Dh66.1m) this season.

Coach Payton begins a suspension today that extends through the Super Bowl and will cost him $5.8m in salary.

Player Peyton earned it.

So did coach Payton.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

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