El­way doesn’ t want Pey­ton to have 2 nd thoughts

Chicago Sun-Times - - RICK MORRISSEY - RICK MOR­RIS­SEY Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ Mor­ris­seyCST. Email: rmor­ris­sey@sun­

Pey­tonMan­ning will have a news con­fer­ence Mon­day to an­nounce his re­tire­ment, but Bron­cos vice pres­i­dent John El­way didn’t waste any time is­su­ing a state­ment Sun­day. Not a bad move if you’re wor­ried that a worn­down, 39- year- old quar­ter­back might have se­cond thoughts about his de­ci­sion.

“When you look at ev­ery­thing Pey­ton has ac­com­plished as a player and per­son, it’s easy to see how for­tu­nate we’ve been to have him on our team,” El­way said. “Pey­ton was ev­ery­thing that we thought he was and even more— not only for the foot­ball team but in the com­mu­nity. I’m very thank­ful Pey­ton chose to play for the Den­ver Bron­cos, and I con­grat­u­late him on his Hall of Fame ca­reer.’’

Try mount­ing a fourth- quar­ter come­back against that, Pey­ton.

It’s hard for pro­fes­sional ath­letes to let go, even when they’re go­ing out on top. But it’s eas­ier when there isn’t much of a mar­ket for your ser­vices. The Bron­cos didn’t want Man­ning back, even though he was the start­ing quar­ter­back on their Su­per Bowl 50 team. Brock Osweiler is their fu­ture.

As Man­ning surely found out while try­ing to gauge in­ter­est in him, not many teams want an 18- year vet­eran whose passes break few speed- limit post­ings. The teams that might want a vet­eran to help men­tor a young quar­ter­back— the Browns, with the se­cond over­all draft pick, come to mind— usu­ally are strug­gling or­ga­ni­za­tions with the kind of tal­ent deficit that can leave a quar­ter­back in a heap.

Man­ning’s rep­u­ta­tion has taken a hit in the last year. He had to re­spond to a re­port that hu­man growth hor­mone had been de­liv­ered to his home ( he de­nies us­ing HGH), and a 20- year- old sex­ual- ha­rass­ment ac­cu­sa­tion against him was res­ur­rected. Had he played an­other sea­son, those sto­ries would have lin­gered.

No, this is the right de­ci­sion, even if it was a de­ci­sion made for him. He’d prob­a­bly play 10more sea­sons if he could. Foot­ball is what he does. Beach vol­ley­ball player Kerri Walsh Jen­nings is 37 with three chil­dren and­will be com­pet­ing in her fifth Sum­mer Olympics this year. Why? Be­cause she can.

Man­ning can’t play at a high level any­more. Any­one who watched the Su­per Bowl knows that. Now he walks away a win­ner on the field, with his body more or less in­tact. Smart move, even if it took a shove.

In­juries un­der­cut Bulls’ po­ten­tial in the East

There was some­thing al­most wist­ful about the Bulls’ vic­tory Satur­day. Their start­ing lineup did amean im­i­ta­tion of an NBA con­tender’s start­ing lineup: Derrick Rose, Jimmy But­ler, Taj Gib­son, Pau Ga­sol and Mike Dun­leavy, with Nikola Mirotic com­ing off the bench.

That was surely what ev­ery­one

had in mind when the Bulls be­gan the sea­son. First- year Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg dreamed of that lineup when he took the job. He left room for a healthy Joakim Noah in his reverie.

But even though the Bulls had al­most ev­ery­body to­gether for what felt like the first time in eons, there was a strong sense of what might have been. Where would this team be if ev­ery­one had stayed healthy? Chal­leng­ing the Cava­liers for East­ern Con­fer­ence dom­i­nance? Think­ing big thoughts about the play­offs? Sigh. We might as well have been won­der­ing what theworld would be like if pigs could fly.

A pig in a Bulls uni­form would be grounded by a bum wing. The Bulls can’t stay healthy. That’s not a fluke. That’s a hall­mark of this team, as much as Ga­sol’s dou­ble­dou­bles are and as much as the lack of any­thing re­sem­bling team de­fense is.

Maybe get­ting the band back to­gether will turn into some­thing good, and per­haps the 31- 30 Bulls, with 21 games left, will work their way up in the con­fer­ence play­off seed­ings. But there were too many games lost to in­jury to of­fer much in the way of con­fi­dence. And there was too much un­even bas­ket­ball when the key play­ers were healthy to give hope.

It’s hard not to cringe ev­ery time a Bull stays down on the floor too long, as Rose did against the Rock­ets. He got up af­ter fall­ing hard on his tail­bone, but do you have faith that he’ll get up the next time? If you do, I’ll have what you’re hav­ing.

Let’s think small and hope the Bulls will en­ter­tain us the rest of the way. But trust them? Not a chance.

At Illinois, Lovie will have to find a lit­tle per­son­al­ity

Let’s get this out of the way: Rex Grossman has no col­lege el­i­gi­bil­ity left. Lovie Smith’s “Rex is our quar­ter­back’’ mantra was a run­ning joke dur­ing his ten­ure as the Bears’ head coach, but no mat­ter how stub­born Smith can be with his per­son­nel de­ci­sions, Rex will not be his quar­ter­back at Illinois. But don’t hold me to that. That’s about all we know as the Illini pre­pare to make Smith their foot­ball coach. The rest of it is a bit of a mys­tery. The big­gest ques­tion re­mains Lovie’s abil­ity to re­cruit. A coach has to be will­ing to tell a re­cruit that he, the re­cruit, is God’s gift to foot­ball. He has to tell a fourstar quar­ter­back that they can’t live with­out each other. Hell, he has to be able to tell a pre­ferred walkon that the lad can walk on wa­ter. Rais­ing the ques­tion, just how much of his soul is Lovie will­ing to sell?

That’s part of a larger over­rid­ing ques­tion: How much is he will­ing to put into this? It’s not just the hours. It’s the en­ergy nec­es­sary to be tex­ting re­cruits, to be talk­ing a home­sick fresh­man out of leav­ing school and to be chat­ting up pro­gram donors at a 7 a. m. break­fast in May. To be de­bat­ing play­ing time with par­ents!

Smith has po­ten­tial pos­i­tives that most other col­lege coaches don’t.

Af­ter two stints as an NFL coach, he’ll be able to tell a re­cruit that he knows how to turn play­ers into pros. But that alone isn’t go­ing to seal the deal. There has to be a sug­ges­tion of a per­son­al­ity from the stone- faced coach, and he’ll have to pick one off the rack. That mat­ters at the col­lege level. Charm and sales­man­ship mat­ter.

Smith will bring ini­tial cred­i­bil­ity to Illinois. He will not bring guar­an­teed re­sults.



Oft- in­jured Der­rick Rose fell to the floor Satur­day night against the Hous­ton Rock­ets but got back up.

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