Super Bowl 50 may well go down as the passing of the torch.
Quarterback Peyton Manning could (should?) be playing the last game of his illustrious career that has made him the quarterback (along with Tom Brady) of his generation.
He could be passing the torch to the next great quarterback, Cam Newton.
Manning is the epitome of the type of quarterback National Football League coaches and general managers longed for when he came out of Tennessee back in 1998 to join the Indianapolis Colts. He was tall, sturdy and threw from the pocket with an arm that could reach anywhere on the field.
Eighteen years later, Manning is nearing retirement and Newton may be the best physical specimen the quarterback position has ever seen.
He is 6-5, weighs more than 250 and runs like a deer, a very large deer. If he is the new epitome of what a professional quarterback is going to be like, pity the linebackers and defensive backs that have to try and tackle him and the others to follow.
But Super Bowl 50 will be more than Newton versus Manning.
It will be about one of the best offenses in the league, Carolina, against one of the toughest defenses, Denver. Ask Tom Brady what he thinks about Denver’s defense after the beat down he suffered last week.
It will be about Denver head coach Gary Kubiak, a former quarterback and offensive coordinator; matching strategies against Ron Rivera, a former linebacker and defensive coordinator.
It will feature two of the game’s top linebackers: Denver’s Von Miller and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly.
And two of the top cornerbacks: Carolina’s Josh Norman and Denver’s Aqib Talib.
But since this is the NFL, most of the attention focuses on the quarterbacks.
Manning is nearing the end of the line in the NFL. He holds the records for most career touchdowns and most career passing yards. He desperately wants to win a second Super Bowl to tie younger brother Eli and to put a little more luster on his legacy if this is indeed his last game.
But Manning has been only a shadow of his former self most of the year. Under first-year coach Kubiak, the Broncos have become a run-oriented team offensively this season, mostly because of Manning’s physical limitations.
But since Manning returned from injury and guided the Broncos to a come-from-behind win over the San Diego Chargers in the season finale, Manning has been able to guide the Broncos past two formidable playoff opponents: the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-16 in the divisional round of the playoffs; and the New England Patriots, 20-18 in the AFC Championship Game.
Manning did just enough to win both games, especially with the help of the Broncos’ outstanding defense which limited Ben Roethlisberger and Ton Brady to 34 points in eight quarters.
And that will have to be the Broncos remedy Feb. 7 against Carolina. Keep the score low and hope Peyton finds a way to win it at the end.
For Carolina to win, Newton also will have to be the difference maker. His ability to run gives the Panthers something the Broncos can’t counter. It will be up to Miller and the rest of the Broncos front seven to keep Newton from single-handedly taking over the game.
Newton has more help than Manning, also. Tight end Greg Olsen is Newton’s go-to-guy in the clutch. Jonathan Stewart is a more dependable back, when healthy, then either C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman are for the Broncos.
And wide receiver-kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. can be a game breaker himself. Expect the Panthers to use him a lot.
It will come down to who wins the most battles: The Broncos defense or Newton and the Panthers offense.
My heart wants to see Peyton Manning ride off into the sunset after a great career with a second Super Bowl victory.
My brain tells me the Panthers will easily cover the six-point spread and the game could be a blowout by the fourth quarter.
SCOTT ON THE HOT SEAT: The worst thing about the Lakers awful season thus far is the hot seat head coach Byron Scott finds himself sitting on.
While no one expected the Lakers to be as bad as they have been so far this year, no one except the most jaded fan expected them to be playoff contenders this year, either.
The Lakers hired Scott to develop their young players. The fact that he uses tough-love methods on players who have been coddled at every step of their way to the NBA was bound to cause friction with some players and it has, most notably with second-year forward Julius Randle and rookie guard D’Angelo Russell.
Former player and current television analyst Don McLean weighed in last week, saying Scott was stunting Russell’s growth as a player by not letting him play 35 minutes a game, no matter how bad he played.
NBA coaches walk a fine enough line dealing with spoiled players as it is. Look at the firing of Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt on Jan. 24.
Blatt had the best record in the NBA Eastern Conference at 30-11 (that’s almost a .750 winning percentage, folks) when he was let go, most likely because LeBron James was tired of playing for him.
At least Scott can tell his players he played in the NBA and can show them the rings he won with the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s to prove he knows what wins championships.
The Lakers front office needs to support Scott in how he is handling the young players. With Jordan Clarkson, Randle, Russell and Larry Nance Jr., the Lakers have a good young nucleus to build around.
It may be two years before they are a playoff contender, but Byron Scott knows what he is doing and that could pay big dividends down the road.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Like the Dodgers, the Pac 12 Conference basketball season can’t be found on most television sets during the season. We’re all missing some good games.
While Arizona and UCLA are normally royalty in the conference, this year we have Oregon, USC and Washington battling for the lead. UCLA has fallen flat for now, but should be a different team by the time the conference tournament rolls around March 9-12 in Las Vegas.
That’s the time of year college basketball starts to matter. …
The San Diego Chargers did the right thing by deciding to stay in San Diego one more year. The decision gives the Chargers more time to finally get a deal in San Diego that the politicians, the team and the fans can all live with. If not, the Chargers can move here in 2017. The Chargers always will be second or third fiddle in Los Angeles, behind the Rams and Raiders, and that’s just pro football.
That doesn’t even consider the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers and USC and UCLA football.
In San Diego, they will be top dog in all sports, with only the San Diego Padres in competition for the top of the heap. That’s why San Diego city officials need to step up and keep the Chargers. If not, they deserve the Raiders. …
Feb. 3 was national signing day for high school football players. We will cover all the action next week, with both USC and UCLA signings, as well as where area high school players signed. If you are a local player, let us know where you are headed by sending an email to email@example.com, with National Signing Day in the subject line.