Usually, the last thing an NFL quarterback does from the sidelines is watch the opposing team's QB out on the field. However, Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens host the Denver Broncos, perhaps the best education that Ravens QB Joe Flacco can get is to stand as close as possible to the edge of the field, watch and listen to one of the best ever, now on the Broncos, Peyton Manning.
Manning is considered one of the best to ever play the game, but it is his on-field leadership and recognition that is widely considered the greatest. In their primes, the chess matches between him and the Ravens Ray Lewis were almost artistic, with Manning pointing and calling out audibles and Lewis barking out defensive signals in response.
Now, Flacco could see up close and first-hand, how an expert takes his time, reads defenses, makes changes (or not?) with a flurry of hand signals, audibles and perhaps even a slew of meaningless words designed to merely confuse the defense. Once the ball is snapped, watch Peyton keep his eyes downfield, looking off receivers to fool or move defenders where he wants them, then take his time, move in and around the pocket and then calmly find his target.
Manning does not need to scramble, he never cringes and folds and he holds the ball securely the entire time. He knows where and when his pocket is collapsing and step up to let the pass rush go by him. He knows when to hold onto the ball and also when to release it instead of having it stripped by a closing-in defender.
You will never hear Manning say, "We took what the defense gave us." Instead, he will dictate what the defense will take, not the other way around as you so often hear in Ravens post-game press conferences. Peyton's footwork is non-stop, constantly shuffling his feet so he can be in the best position to release the ball once he determines the target. He rarely throws off his back foot and his accuracy and touch is uncanny, even at the NFL ripe old age of 36 years old.
No, Joe Flacco will never be anywhere as good as Peyton Manning is. However, he can get better and there is perhaps no more educational way to do that than making imitation the finest form of flattery.
Watch and learn, Joe. Watch and learn.