While we wait with dread over the possibility of Peyton Manning retiring after the Super Bowl, there's no better time to remember some of the wacky things he’s said in his illustrious career. Yes, Peyton Manning will be remembered not just for breaking every possible record, but for being the Master of Audibles.
If it hadn't been for the changes in mic placement a few years ago, football would be football. But now, it's not just the game that keeps us enthralled. One of the most enjoyable aspects of a game is in listening to what quarterbacks use as signal calls. It's all about fooling the current opponent - and future opponents.
It's all code, gibberish, strings of nonsensical words shouted out. They seem to mean one thing but really mean something else. 'Blue 80, set, wait wait, check check check' doesn't necessarily mean anything is being set, waited for, or checked.
Sure, we've come to recognise Manning's famous “Omaha!”, which he started using as a Bronco. You'll remember he cheekily told media, “It’s a run play, but it could be a pass play, or a play-action pass, depending on a couple of things. The wind, which way we’re going, the quarter and the jerseys we’re wearing”. Now everyone knows it's just “pay attention, I'm snapping the ball!”, not a plug for Omaha as a vacation spot. The best thing is, Brock Osweiler took this on as his main call while Manning recovered from plantar fasciitis. We can be confident this word will be Manning's legacy and Osweiler will shout it with pride when he takes over.
Then of course, there's brother Eli’s usual “118! 110!”. Sure it means “hut!”, but what a display of brotherly love! As in, Peyton’s 18 and Eli's 10? Andrew Luck has taken to referencing Lord of the Rings. And as for Aaron Rodgers, we’re still scratching our heads over “New York Bozo”. Tom Brady used Rex Ryan’s name once (and that sure amused everyone). Then there's Drew Brees and Tony Romo, who are aren't known so much for clever calls, but for being the LOUDEST.
The quarterback’s secret language is key to both offense and defense. Many players have said the best quarterbacks are the ones that speak the best code. And no one can beat Manning. He's turned the humble signal call into an art form.
In the early days, he stuck to simple things like “Hurry, hurry!” and “River river river!” We suddenly had the urge to pee. Then came the added features of this one-man show – stomping, waving his arms like a crazed string puppet. Finger signals, flapping hands. “Pickles!” “Sally!” “Orange!” “Yo-yo”!
Some of his absolute best? “Trips right 255 X Block Slant H Disco Alert 12 Trap!” Sounds like dance choreography. A recent one had plenty of fans in stitches. “Bags Montana fat man!” Now, now Peyton. The polite term is “overweight”.
He wiggles his right index finger then his fingers form a ‘C’. “Dice right ice cream alert 654 Jose!” That Mexican man on the right wants ice cream? Nope, he's switching plays. He shuffles two steps to the left. Stomps his right foot. Taps his left toes. Snaps the ball.
Ah, no one does audibles quite like Peyton.