Peyton Manning's career was supposed to be finished.
The 16-year veteran NFL quarterback was sidelined two years ago with a neck injury that would have ended many other players' careers. He faced a long and tough rehabilitation that made it unlikely he could regain his former status as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. His career prospects were so uncertain that the Indianapolis Colts, his team for more than a decade, released him in 2011 to take a new quarterback in the NFL draft that year.
Yes, Peyton Manning was supposed to be finished. Instead, he's on fire.
In the first game of the NFL season, he threw for an NFL record seven touchdown passes in a single game. Since then, he and the Denver Broncos have been shattering NFL records, and through the first six games of the season, his team is undefeated, and is already generating buzz as a Super Bowl contender. The buzz is premature, but his resurrection and the way he plays the game of football on and off the field actually offer some powerful business lessons.
1. Preparation leads to success. The way that Manning prepares for games is almost legendary. He has a photographic-like memory for plays and movements. He studies defenses and learns signs that help him understand how a defense is trying to play against him in real time. NFL commentator Cris Collinsworth studies extra hard to prepare for games where Manning is playing, and says that many players when interviewed about Manning agree that "he’s playing chess when most of us are playing checkers."
2. Strength isn't everything. One of the most common ways you typically hear people describe NFL quarterbacks is based on the strength of their arm. By most accounts, after his neck surgery, Manning is one of the weakest arms in the NFL—and often his throws are not perfect spirals or bullets to receivers. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for in positioning. He understands where defenders are and where his receivers will be, and places the ball in the ideal place. Being the most powerful or strongest competitor doesn't always lead to victory.
3. Quick decisions pay off. Manning rarely gets sacked and keeps the ball for only a few seconds before throwing it. As a result, it's almost impossible for a defense to react fast enough to stop his quick throws. Making decisions quickly is one of the most valuable things that any business owner can do, because it puts you in a situation to move more quickly than competitors. For Manning, quick decisions pay off in keeping a defense off balance and unable to react to his attack.
4. Strategy is never perfect. For all his preparation and the skillful ability of the coaches on the sideline to call the right plays for every situation, often the strategy needs to be changed at the last minute. One of the abilities Manning is best known for is his ability to call another play in real time while his team is lined up and ready to go. Strategy, no matter how good, is never perfect ... but Manning's ability to change strategy in real time when needed is an amazing skill and one any business owner can learn from.
Whether Manning and the Denver Broncos make it to the Super Bowl or not, history is sure to record Peyton Manning as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game of football—not to mention a great example to learn business lessons from.
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