With Peyton Manning’s retirement Monday, arguments debating whether the 18-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion is the greatest quarterback ever will reignite.
Naturally, Manning’s former college offensive coordinator and career mentor, David Cutcliffe, is giving Manning unrelenting support as the NFL’s leader in career passing yards and touchdowns.
“I’m not a little biased, I’m a lot biased. ... In my opinion, there’s no question, he’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game,” Cutcliffe said at a Sunday news conference, according to The Chronicle. “I just think he’s the most impactful player who’s ever played the game at that position, and maybe period. Everyone will always have fun arguing that, but I’d stay up probably half the night arguing with them, if they wanted to.”
Cutcliffe served as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator while Manning was the Volunteers’ quarterback from 1995-98. As Ole Miss’ head coach, Cutcliffe coached Eli Manning, and when Peyton missed the 2011 season recovering from neck surgery, it was Cutcliffe, now the coach at Duke, who worked with him to get back to an MVP level.
Even when accounting for Cutcliffe’s bias and ties to the Manning family, it’s not as if there isn’t justification for his belief that Manning is the greatest quarterback to play the game. Outside of Manning’s numbers and Super Bowl titles, Cutcliffe stands in awe of Manning’s detailed work ethic, even as his career hung in the balance in 2011.
“There were a lot of conversations because I watched how hard he had to work, there were a lot of conversations at the end of the days that were based on: ‘Should I even be doing this? Am I wrong for trying to do this?’” Cutcliffe said, according to The Chronicle. “That will never happen again like that where we shared something, and then watching this big, great athlete, great player, a guy that had accomplished most anything anybody would want, work as hard as he did to get back. That’s something just everyone should have the opportunity to see, and I got the opportunity to watch that. That’s a pretty special moment.”
Over the years, Cutcliffe has constantly voiced the Manning family's role in helping build Duke into a perennial bowl team, too. With Manning finding a little more spare time now, Cutcliffe could use a future Hall of Famer in his quarterback meeting rooms. Starter Thomas Sirk suffered what could be a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this year, and backup Parker Boehme has promise but limited starting experience.