Peyton Manning throws during the Broncos' practice on Wednesday in Florham Park, N.J. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)
Jersey City, N.J. – Nothing like a little ironic twist to spice up a Super Bowl matchup.
Back in March of 2012, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider stopped just short of stalking then-free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. They chased him around the country, hoping he’d meet with them and listen to their sales pitch.
Manning never did, ultimately signing with Denver. The Seahawks went to Plan B, which was to sign Matt Flynn and take a chance on an undersized kid out of Wisconsin – Russell Wilson.
Well, two years later, Flynn is back where he started (backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay) and Wilson and Manning will square off Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“We started the process, to make an effort, to see if there would be some kind of connection here for us,” Carroll said Wednesday. “Word got out and really he called me first; he knew that we were interested. He gave me a call (and) woke me up one morning. I jumped out of bed and said, ‘OK, let’s go. What’s up Peyton?’”
Carroll admitted that the impromptu sales pitch wasn’t the best he’d ever delivered.
“That was the beginning of a very short process that got him to where he scheduled his visits that he was going to make – as we figured it out along the way – and we worked with his agent to understand that,” he said. “We tried to get involved with that to see if there was a next stage of the process, and there wasn’t.”
Manning reflected on his free agent experience on Wednesday.
“You can only pick one team to go play for,” he said. “It reminded me of college somewhat, that you would like to play for a lot of teams. Go play for this team for a year, maybe give this team four or five games and bounce around. It’s not the way it works; you have to pick a team.”
Manning said he hated that the recruiting process became a public spectacle but he made it clear he held and still holds Carroll in high regard.
“I know Pete Carroll,” he said. “Pete was the head coach of the Patriots my first two seasons with the Colts. They were in our division. I knew him then, and I knew Pete when he was with Southern Cal. He actually did a pretty cool thing for me.”
Manning told a story about Carroll letting him work out at USC’s facility one summer. Manning had some commitment in Los Angeles and all he was looking to do was throw with the USC quarterbacks. He didn’t want to interrupt Carroll’s summer practice routine.
“I just wanted to join right in and throw whatever routes Southern Cal was throwing,” Manning said. “Coach Carroll had eight receivers, four tight ends, four running backs – all stretched, lathered up and ready to go when I got there. I said, ‘What routes do you want to run?’ They said, ‘No, Coach Carroll said we are going to throw whatever routes you want to run. This is going to be your workout.’
“That is about as good a treatment as you can get for a visitor from a different team. I really had a neat day throwing.”
Carroll, Manning said, did not attend that workout so he couldn’t properly thank him at the time.
“Of course my allegiance is always to the University of Tennessee, but on that day, Southern Cal helped me out,” Manning said. “Coach Carroll is an outstanding coach. I know he is a great recruiter. I had to pick one team to go play for, and the Denver Broncos was the team that I picked.”