During his Hall of Fame career, Peyton Manning is hailed for his ability to read defenses better than anyone at the quarterback position. Manning’s expertise came from his intense preparation in film study as well as having the confidence in the plays he would audible to at the line of scrimmage.
Colts head coach Frank Reich had an up-close view of Manning’s preparation during his time on Indianapolis’ coaching staff. Reich sees similarities between between Manning and current Colts quarterback Matt Ryan from a game-planning standout. While NFL play sheets can sometimes be as thick as an old phone book, Reich said that Ryan — like Manning — prefers a more simple approach that harkens back to a simpler time in football.
“Matt’s an incredibly smart guy,” Reich recently told Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer, “but one of the things I’ve continued to be impressed by—he doesn’t want to expand things, he wants to consolidate things. It’s a little bit Peyton-esque like that: ‘Don’t try to overcoach, don’t get too cute, don’t try to overscheme, let’s just run the same things over and over again.’ That’s how I’ve been brought up in this league. In an age where everyone wants to talk about how smart the coaches are, or the quarterback is, and all the ways that you can scheme, and do this and that … and those are all important things, (but) Matt is old school, and I’m a little bit old school like this, too.
“It’s like this, rather than always trying to scheme things up where one guy’s open, the play is designed so if the quarterback can work his progressions, somebody’s going to be open.”
Along with sharing a similar mindset towards game-planning, Ryan also shares Manning’s appetite for film study. Ryan recently said that he’s watched more film this offseason than he has the previous 10 or 12 years as he tries to get comfortable with the Colts offense. Ryan has also been trying to get acclimated with his new teammates, who started 9-6 last season on the strength of running back Jonathan Taylor, won won his first NFL rushing title.
With training camp on the horizon, most NFL players will try to enjoy their final month of the offseason. Ryan, however, will spend a good portion of that time meeting and working with teammates in various parts of the country. Instead of meeting with his entire skill position group in one setting, Ryan will work with two teammates at a time at various sites. The hope is that, by meeting in smaller groups, Ryan can develop a deeper rapport with his teammates both on and off the field. Ryan’s late summer plans with teammates compelled Reich to call his quarterback an “elite leader.”
Like Manning, Ryan is heading to a new team during the back-nine of his career. Manning, who went to Denver following a 14-year run in Indianapolis, retired after winning a fifth league MVP and a second Super Bowl ring with the Broncos. Reich is confident that Ryan — who arrived in Indianapolis this offseason after 14 seasons in Atlanta — has several years of high-level football left in him.
“Not even close,” Reich said regarding Ryan possibly nearing the end of his prime. “I mean, not even close. He’s made so many throws. The way his throwing mechanics are flawless and it’s so effortless, literally reminds me of a PGA golfer who looks effortless in his swing. Like when the ball comes off the clubhead, the ball just sounds different, looks different, feels different, and then the golfer hits it where he wants to hit it. That’s the way I feel with Matt. He makes every throw look the same, he’s never straining, he’s very disciplined in his mechanics, very sound in his mechanics.”