As Peyton Manning prepares to quarterback the Broncos in the playoffs a year after he sat out his final season with the Colts following multiple neck surgeries, the coach who guided him through his comeback is calling it a tribute to Manning’s hard work.
David Cutcliffe, the Duke head coach who was Manning’s quarterbacks coach in college, supervised Manning’s recovery during his year out of the game. And in a feature that will air Saturday on NFL Network’s NFL GameDay Morning, Cutcliffe details just how hard Manning worked to get to this point. The NFL Network feature includes footage from a simulated game Manning ran at Duke’s football facility in which he made every single throw the same way he had made them in a 2010 playoff win over the Jets, and that’s a “game” Cutcliffe says he remains very proud of “winning.”
“I don’t think I ever won a game that I felt better about what we accomplished than this ballgame that nobody watched,” Cutcliffe said. “It is really a story worth telling about hard work. Everybody says, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes.’ That’s whatever it takes right there.”
Manning, who had four neck procedures in 2011, was far, far away from being able to do that when he and Cutcliffe first began rehabbing together. In fact, Cutcliffe said that Manning sent him video of his workouts shortly after his last neck procedure, and he was struggling to throw passes so much at first that Cutcliffe ordered him not to lift a football for fear he was going to make things work.
“I called him immediately and I said, ‘You need to stop throwing now. You’re getting ready to hurt yourself. You need to focus on getting well, not getting back,'” Cutcliffe recalled.
NFL Network’s segment includes the footage Cutcliffe had the Duke staff shoot of Manning progressing from just lobbing the ball 10 yards to making all the throws he has to make in an NFL game, and it’s an impressive journey. One that Broncos fans can be glad Manning made.