MIAMI — Jim Caldwell is the third head coach Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has played for since he entered in the NFL in 1998. But during the course of his storied professional career, Manning has had only one offensive coordinator.
The combination of Tom Moore and Manning is the longest coordinator-quarterback relationship currently in the NFL, though it nearly ended last year. The 71-year-old Moore had planned to retire last May when the NFL changed its pension plan, but he returned as senior offensive coordinator, which is his official title this season.
Moore joined the Colts as offensive coordinator the same year Manning was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick under Jim Mora. When Tony Dungy, who actually played quarterback for Moore at University of Minnesota in mid-70s, replaced Mora in 2002, Moore stayed with the Colts and now he has his third different boss in Indianapolis.
The continuity of offensive philosophy is one of the major advantages the Colts have had to establish their hybrid offense.
Asked what has kept the relationship with Manning going so long, Moore said “trust.”
“I know he trusts me, and I tried to earn his trust,” Moore said on Wednesday during the interview session. “I certainly trust him. He can do anything he wants, I have his back. That’s the way it is.
“Whatever he does, it’s right. If anything doesn’t come off right, it’s my responsibility. If it didn’t come off right, then I didn’t properly prepare him. You give him the OK, and (tell him) ‘If you see it, go for it, don’t worry about it.’ “
Manning is a signal caller who frequently changes plays at the line of scrimmage. Some coordinators don’t like that. But that is not the case with Moore, he said.
“No, never,” Moore said. “I don’t coach that way. You give someone some freedom, the first time they do it, then you start questioning — that’s not the way it is. He’s got the freedom and as I say, whatever he does is the right thing. That’s the way it is.”
Moore trusts Manning not because the four-time league MVP is one of the most famed and experienced quarterbacks, but because Moore has seen Manning’s hard work and dedication over a long period of time.
“All I can say is he’s special and there are a lot of things he can do,” Moore commented. “Peyton has unbelievable qualities. He studies so hard, he knows so much on football, he helps with the game plan.”
One of the things Manning can do is engineer a comeback victory. Manning led the Colts to fourth-quarter comeback victories an NFL-record seven times this season.
In the AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets a week ago, Manning overcame a 17-6 second-quarter deficit en route to a 30-17 win.
“He’s patient. He has great patience,” Moore said. “He has great knowledge application. His intelligence and knowing what to do and how to do it, and maintaining the poise and not getting flustered, it’s a real gift. We practice (a comeback situation) a lot. I don’t know what other teams do, but we practice the two-minute drill a lot.”
Moore will be seeking his fourth Super Bowl ring in Sunday’s NFL title game against the New Orleans Saints. He earned his first two as an offensive assistant with the 1978-79 Steelers, and third with the Colts three years ago.
There is speculation Moore will retire for good after the Super Bowl, but he said he has no plans yet.
“My goal is to come out on Sunday,” Moore said and continued with laughter, “I don’t want my life to be complicated.”