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King on D&H: Colts are ‘like the Atlanta Braves’

02.08.10 at 2:35 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated columnist and NBC analyst Peter King joined the Dale & Holley show Monday afternoon to reflect on the Saints’ Super Bowl victory, as well as the Hall of Fame voting that took place over the weekend in Miami.

King said that he raised the idea that the Colts are like the NFL’s version of the Atlanta Braves in that, “They either win their division or make the playoffs every year, but how often do they win a championship?” He also touched on how Peyton Manning’s performance in the loss Sunday night hurt his legacy. While King was quick to point out that it is too early to evaluate since Manning still has a number of good years left, he did add that “winning as many playoff games as you are losing, you are not going to be seen as great as, say, Joe Montana was.”

King was also full of praise for Saints coach Sean Payton, lauding him for being unafraid to take risks such as the onside kick that opened up the second half and commenting on the fact that “he is very much in-touch and in-tune with the players on his team.”

King also discussed the NFL Hall of Fame class that he helped select over the weekend in Miami. While there was some debate over players not named Jerry Rice or Emmitt Smith, particularly in the case of Floyd Little, King said there were “a lot of guys in there that I am very bullish on, particularly with Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson.”

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

You put the Hall of Fame and the Super Bowl together, there is no time for sleep, right?

First of all, we really didn’€™t do ourselves any favors with the Hall of Fame class. Don’€™t get me wrong, I am very happy with the Hall of Fame class because we got a lot of guys in there that I am very bullish on, particularly with Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson. But that is a very exhausting situation in there, pretty emotional at times in there. So yesterday was really a fun football game, I thought. We had a really fun time at the game and a very, very interesting afterwards. A lot of the things I saw at the Saints hotel and being on a bus with a bunch of Saints family-type people and friends from James Carville to the 97-year-old Archbishop of New Orleans to Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush. So it was quite an evening.

What did you think overall of Sean Payton’€™s decision?

You know, probably, but I’€™m not sure he would have been an all-time dope. Because look at what he was risking. In essence he was risking giving the ball to Peyton Manning at his own 45 or at the Indianapolis let’€™s say 25 or 30. So obviously that is three first downs, it’€™s a big thing, but it’€™s not an incredibly revolutionary deal. I love the move because I think he had figured it out. For those listeners that don’€™t know, early in the off-week, Payton and his special teams staff basically came to him and said there is a big hole in what the Colts do on their kick return team. There are two guys who bail ‘€” which basically means as the kicker is approaching the ball, instead of staying honest and staying right in your lane and waiting for the ball to come to you, if in the one in a hundred chance there is an onside kick ‘€” they leave a step or two early on the kick, which they did on this play. And all of a sudden it is a fair fight. Sean thought there was probably a 60 to 70 percent chance that they would recover. I don’€™t know if the odds were that good, but I think the element of surprise was there, which is always vital on an onside kick.

Peter, you’€™ve been following Sean Payton’€™s career for a long time. How is he different now as opposed to his time in New York after they went to the Super Bowl and Jim Fassell took play-calling duties away from him? What is the biggest difference?

I think he is older. He knows it all comes down to him and he is totally unafraid to take the kind of chances that let’€™s say a Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick would take. I think that has really helped him a lot, because when he makes decisions that go wrong he shrugs his shoulder. He gets mad when he gets ripped for them, but he shrugs his shoulders and says say’€™s that’€™s why I’€™m in this seat, you’€™re going to have to take the criticism. The two biggest influences on his coaching career, Jon Gruden and Bill Parcells, both of those guys are probably in the top five of this era of getting the crap ripped out of them by people after they make a decision that people don’€™t agree with. So I think that is one of the things he has done. One of the other things that I really like about him is that he knows what makes the modern player go and what makes him tick. That is the thing I have really grown to like about him. His feeling is, in essence, that I need to get to these players, I need to figure out a way. So he does these tremendous multi-media presentations the night before the game and he did another one this week that revolved around Katrina. So I think he is very much in-touch and in-tune with the players on his team.

Sean Payton, he strikes me as a players coach, but has he had any situations where he has had to discipline a guy?

I wish I could remember one off hand. One doesn’€™t really come to mind, Michael. I think he has been pretty direct with Jeremy Shockey. I think he has been very direct with Reggie Bush; I think there has been times when he has been very unhappy with Reggie Bush’€™s offseason effort and he gets to him and he basically holds the playing time over him. I think he is able to do that, but I think sort of like the Patriots and Giants and the teams that Parcells coached that is pretty much kept in house pretty well.

In the aftermath of the loss and now a 9-9 playoff record, does the Peyton Manning legacy discussion change?

I’€™ve listened to everybody talk about this and in fact I’€™ve given my opinion about it in that I thought if he won the game he would probably be considered in the top five quarterbacks of all-time, or maybe five, six seven, right in there. But I think part of that is a little silly because we are talking about a guy’€™s legacy mid-career. Now if Peyton Manning retired tomorrow and never played again, then we can start talking about his legacy. But a guy’€™s legacy basically happens and is taken care of after he retires from football or after he gets cut from football. So I think it is a little bit futile to start drawing definitive conclusions. I think if he wins say three championships or maybe four, I think he would be eligible to be judged against all the great quarterbacks. But until he does that it seems pretty silly to compare a guy like Peyton Manning, because the quarterback position is so much about winning, to compare a guy like Peyton Manning to a guy like Otto Graham, who played for 10 years and won a championship game in his league seven times. So I would probably want to hold off on determining anything, but clearly he continues on this path. Winning as many playoff games as you are losing, you are not going to be seen as great as, say, Joe Montana was.

As usual you have a lot of great things in Monday Morning Quarterback. One of the things in there refers to a conversation you had last night with Bill Polian. What were the highlights of that and how would you describe him?

He was extremely in control. He had stopped to do an interview with a local NBC affiliate in Indianapolis and then I saw Sal Palantonio sort of do a U-turn when he saw that Bill had stopped to talk to this guy and so I said, ‘€œSal, I’€™m right behind you.’€ His basic thing was, hey listen, give credit to the Saints. They deserve to win and today they were the better team, which they were, we all saw the game. And that doesn’€™t mean that they would be tomorrow, but the Colts just didn’€™t make enough plays. He was very, very impressed with Drew Brees and rightfully so. If you finish 29 out of 32 with a drop and a spike in your last 32 throws, the guy was unbelievable last night. Just absolutely unbelievable. He started slow and ended like Phil Simms in 1987. So I’€™ve got so much respect for Brees. And I think Polian’€™s attitude in essence was, listen, we made two horrible plays in losing the onside kick and in not making the one yard on third and one at the end of the first half. He didn’€™t blame Pierre Garcon, but I have a feeling he didn’€™t blame Pierre Garcon because he certainly doesn’€™t want to blame any individuals. But you know, the Colts will love to fight another day. They usually do, it’€™s just, I raised the specter today that they are beginning to look a little like the Atlanta Braves. They either win their division or make the playoffs every year, but how often do they win a championship? I didn’€™t look this up last night, it was around 4:30 in the morning, but I thought the Braves won one.

That’€™s it. Only one, 1995.

Yeah. So, I think they were really disappointed. But, hey, If I’€™m Polian and I saw that one of the oddsmakers already made the lines for next year to win the championship, they have the lowest odds of anybody. If you are a football fan in Indianapolis, you mourn for a few days and then you say we might not really like Bill Polian very much, we might think Jim Caldwell is sort of a cold fish, but we’€™ll take our chances with Peyton even though he didn’€™t play very well in the clutch on Sunday and that might be a recurring trend.

Can you put this in perspective what it means to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana?

Yeah, a friend of mine wanted to be out. What was crazy was that the hotels in New Orleans were in full occupancy on Saturday and Sunday. In fact, this is a hilarious thing, WWL, the 50,000-watt station in New Orleans that does the Saints games on the radio, had their pregame show leave Miami and fly back to New Orleans because they wanted them to be there in the Quarter with all the Saints fans. It’€™s an interesting thing, you are on the site of the game and all of a sudden you’€™ve got Bobby Hebert, he is not even going to the game anymore. He left town on Friday night. You know, it’€™s funny. New Orleans is such a great story. I tell this story, guys.I was in town about six weeks ago for the Dallas-New Orleans game, it was a Friday night and I was out to dinner with a PR guy, Greg Bensel, Ed Werder, a couple other people in town, and we are sitting at a steak place called Mr. John’€™s in the garden district of New Orleans, a beautiful area. We are sitting there and Greg Bensel, the PR guy, says, ‘€œYou know, I wonder what Archie is doing right now. Let’€™s call him and see if he’€™ll have a beer, he lives right around the corner.’€ Five minutes later, Archie Manning comes striding in, sits down for like 45 minutes and goes, ‘€œYeah, you know Olivia has got her bridge club Christmas party tonight; it’€™s not altogether bad I had to leave to have a beer with you guys.’€ I said, and I’€™m not trying to dramatize this, that wouldn’€™t happen in Green Bay. And I’€™m not referring to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, I’€™m just talking about, it’€™s just different in New Orleans where there is such a sense of community. When they lost to the Bears in the playoffs three years ago in the NFC Championship game, when they landed back in New Orleans in the wee hours and the papers came out early the next morning, this gigantic headline in the New Orleans Times-Picayune was, ‘€œBless you boys.’€ In other words, you lost, in fact you got creamed, but we love you and don’€™t you forget it. Somehow, I don’€™t think the Globe or the Herald when the Patriots lose a playoff game are going to say gee whiz guys everything is fine. That’€™s what they do in New Orleans because they love that team without reservation.

Let’€™s break down the Hall of Fame selection. I’€™m a little surprised with Floyd Little, and I also don’€™t get why Shannon Sharpe and Cris Carter are on the outside looking in.

Well, look at it this way. The recent history of modern era candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is that for every one defensive player that gets in, 1.6 offensive players get in. So the last few years we have been making a conscious effort, at least I try to do it, whenever it is close to go with the defensive guy. What you have to realize is that in this group, there were 10 all-decade players eligible out of the 14 players. There was also Don Coryell. There are 10 all-decade players, so theoretically most, not all, but most all-decade players will get in the Hall of Fame. So what ends up happening is that a lot of times, you end up having this tremendous back-log and then you have to try to figure out ‘€¦ I ask this question plaintively to you guys, other than Jerry Rice who is a gimme, we have Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown. Now depending on what area of the country you are from and which guy you saw more, it is reasonable to suggest that a lot of guys from the Midwest might say we’€™ve got to put Carter in, a lot of guys from the Northeast might say Reed and a lot of guys from the West Coast, I think we have five or six selectors from California, might say Tim Brown. So it’€™s natural that those votes might get divided. All I’€™m trying to do is I’€™m just trying to explain to you some of the things that go through our minds. And look, I’€™ll tell you this, I supported Carter and Sharpe absolutely without reservation, and the other voters are going to have to come up with their reasons why the supported somebody else. But one of the reasons why I don’€™t think it is that horrible is that if you support, let’€™s say Dermontti Dawson, who I think is definitely a hall of fame football player. First of all, best center of the ’90s. A few guys who played in both the ’80s and ’90s say that he is equal to Dwight Stevenson. So, you know, you are making choices, but it would be one thing if you said we are putting in John Doe who is not qualified. Michael, you asked about Floyd Little; I’€™ve been very upfront in the fact that I have not supported Floyd Little, so I can’€™t really argue with you. But the only thing I can say is that if you read my column today one of the really interesting things is that the guy who presented his case, a guy named Jeff Legwold ‘€¦

I read that. He said he saw about 1,200 of his 1,600 carries. Peter, I appreciate the attention to detail that Legwold has there, but basically he is saying if the guy had a better team he would have done better. That is not the spirit of the Hall of Fame.

Let me ask you this question, Michael. I’€™ve always thought that a guy like Tommy Nobis ‘€” and it’€™s hard to really hard to judge tackles and sacks and things like that for players who played in the 60s and 70s. But a lot of people who played and coached in that time said Tommy Nobis is just a smidge below Dick Butkus, sort of like how Ricky Jackson was just a smidge below Lawrence Taylor. Well, Tommy Nobis played on a horrible team, the Atlanta Falcons, and I believe that guys who played on horrible teams ought to get a chance, if they are truly great players, to get into the Hall of Fame.

I agree with that. But you think Floyd Little is a great player?

I probably don’€™t, but here is my attitude, Michael, I am one of 44. And I respect the other people in the room; whether I agree with them or not is another matter, but I respect them all. And if 80 percent of them or more vote for Floyd Little for the Hall of Fame, I don’€™t say well he is no Hall of Famer in my book. I say, hey he is a Hall of Famer; we had an honest disagreement, he is a Hall of Famer and I respect that. But I do think I do not remember a player, and maybe there has been, and again this is not technical, but from this research if a guy is hit from behind the line of scrimmage on a third of his carries in professional football, his numbers are clearly not going to be as good as somebody else’€™s. So again, that is up to people to decide if whether that should make the difference in who they vote me. My own opinion is that it didn’€™t make a big enough difference for me because he averaged 3.9 yards a carry and had just one 1,000 yard season, and I just don’€™t think that is enough. But it did for a lot of people in that room.

Do you think it was smart for Dwight Freeney to have played yesterday?

I did, because in the first half he had one sack and then another impact rush where he forced Brees to throw quickly. Now he basically was a non-factor, and this is something that I should have checked on; in the first half I was charting his plays and everything, but in the second half I was looking at other thing. What I would say is that Freeney was effective enough in the first half to make him being active worth it. You always have to ask yourself who is going to be active if he isn’€™t? And I don’€™t know the depth of their deactivation list to know if there was somebody else who could have helped them either on special teams or somewhere else. But I don’€™t find a lot of fault in him trying to play.

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