Bruce Arians returns to Indy, where he once coached Peyton Manning

From ESPN - September 17, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Polian likes to say he did not let the outside noise cloud his thinking in 1998 when, as the new general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, he had to decide between drafting Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf with the first overall pick.

But that's not true. Polian let in the outside chatter.

In the days leading up to Easter 1998, Polian had begun hearing things such as Manning's arm having a ceiling. At 60 yards, his passes would start to flutter and lose steam, so Polian did what any sensible general manager would do. He investigated.

On Easter Sunday, after getting to the office after church, Polian sat at his desk for three hours, turned on a video of every one of Manning's college throws and charted them. Sure enough, the data proved the noise was right. Manning's passes started dying at 60 yards. With a career-defining decision ahead of him, Polian got nervous. He walked down the hall to where offensive coordinator Tom Moore and quarterbacks coach Bruce Arians were sitting to tell them.

Moore looked up first.

"Good, we wo not throw any passes over 59 yards," he said.

Then Arians responded.

"Do not worry," he said. "You do not have to throw it that far unless it's Punt, Pass or Kick."

The three of them then cracked up laughing.

"I realized what a stupid thing I did," Polian said. "I watched three hours, charting this thing. We all had a good laugh."

Six days later, the Colts drafted Manning first overall and Polian, head coach Jim Mora and Moore handed Manning off to Arians so he could start grooming, tutoring and mentoring the quarterback.

While it was Moore's offense that Manning ran for 11 seasons, it was Arians who handled Manning on a daily basis in those first three seasons.

"He did a phenomenal job with Peyton in his really formative years when it was important to get him through the early rocks and shoals and onto bigger and better things," Polian said.

On Sunday, when Arians returns to Indianapolis with the Arizona Cardinals to play the Colts as a head coach for the first time, Manning's influence will be everywhere. There will still be No. 18 jerseys in the crowd. There will be a space outside of Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts are preparing to place a statue of Manning. The stadium itself is a testament to Manning.

People in Indianapolis like to say Lucas Oil Stadium is the house that Manning built. If that's the case, then Arians has to be considered the architect. It's impossible to know what kind of quarterback Manning would have turned out to be if Arians was not his first coach.

But Arians was. Manning went on to become one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, and Arians established himself as one of the preeminent quarterback coaches in the NFL.

When Manning arrived in Indianapolis, Arians was given carte blanche with Manning for the most part. Polian had one message for Arians, though: Make him the best quarterback he could be.

Moore's directive to Arians was a bit more specific.

"I told Bruce when we drafted Peyton, wherever Peyton is, that's where you should be. Whatever drill he's doing, you make sure you are with Peyton so Peyton had a hands-on coach with him full time," Moore said.

"So Bruce and Peyton developed a great relationship. Of course Bruce had known Peyton from when he was with the Saints [coaching Peyton's father, Archie Manning] and Peyton used to come by the office. So Bruce had a good working relationship with Peyton. He knew Peyton. Peyton knew him. Peyton felt very, very comfortable with Bruce, and that was important."


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