Peyton Manning didn’t announce his retirement. He didn’t break out a choreographed shuffle. He may have shook hands with “Papa Johns”, however Peyton, when every Bronco fan in the stadium wanted to, didn’t make it about him.
In the days leading up to the game a lot had been made about how Cam carries himself on the field. Cam will have a lot he can learn from the tape he puts on, but his biggest lesson may came from a review of the post-game video. A gracious Manning, gave credit to his teammates and reserved any retirement decisions for a later time for fear of being the center of attention. He acknowledged Von Miller and quickly handed the Lombardi off the podium to his teammates below.
There is no doubt Newton would not have carried himself with such humility. “Having fun” is perfectly fine if you can lead with the same valor when you are down. Cam proved on the largest stage he could not. In the 4th quarter with the game in the balance and his fumble on the floor the brightest smile in football pulled back and chose not to put his body on the line for his team. It was about Cam as it always is. The cool guy with the towel on his head doing basketball leaps with Derek Anderson inexplicably chose not to dive into the dog pile. The Broncos recovered. He sulked on the bench alone and then rolled on the floor as the Broncos put the game out of reach.
The Panthers were better this year. Cam is still a force that is hard to stop for the time being as long as Von Miller isn’t lined up on the other side of the field. But during Super Bowl 50 Cam Newton made it glaringly obvious that he may not have grown as much as some people have thought.
At the same time Peyton Manning put on a clinic of humility and graciousness. The “aw shucks”, “I just want a Budweiser and see my family” persona was on display for the world. That is how a quarterback, regardless of skin color carries himself. Quarterbacks in the NFL take all the blame, and accept none of the glory, although it is often showered upon them. That is how you garner the level of respect that a stadium of fans, a team of opponent, and a national audience showed the quarterback of the Denver Broncos as he put walked off into the sunset.