“Coach Cut” and the Deconstruction of Peyton and Eli

Well known preacher and author Tim Keller is fond of saying “the Gospel is not […]

Howie Espenshied / 9.26.14

ole-georgiaWell known preacher and author Tim Keller is fond of saying “the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life, it’s the A t0 Z of the Christian life.” It sure would have been helpful to have had that ingrained in me when I threw my stick in the fire and “gave my life to Jesus” at church camp when I was 14. God doesn’t work that way with us though. He tends to let us try to “graduate” from the Gospel. “Okay”, we say, “First Corinthians 15:3-6 – Christ died, was buried, raised on the third day, appeared to Peter, twelve, five hundred…yada, yada, yada…check.” Many of us are so ready, so fast to move on from that. What book of the Bible should I memorize first? Which level of hell should I start charging into with a squirt gun? The Gospel (the blocking and tackling of the Christian faith if you will) fades into a distant memory.

Thus, our sanctification often plays itself out in a constant state of deconstruction–taking us back to the cross, and away from the ever present felt need to continue to try to save ourselves. I was reminded of this as I watched the segment below on Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports this past week. Peyton Manning will retire with the best quarterback statistics in the history of the NFL. Eli Manning is in an elite fraternity of NFL quarterbacks who have won multiple Super Bowls (his brother is still hoping to pledge that frat one day). Yet, both brothers have quietly spent the past few off-seasons going back to their old coach–Coach Cut–and allowing him to deconstruct them and take them back to their most basic quarterback fundamentals.

Coach Cut (David Cutcliffe) was Peyton’s quarterback coach at the University of Tennessee. They’ve stayed tight. “He’s always been my coach”, Peyton says in the interview. When Coach Cut left Tennessee for the University of Mississippi head coach position, Peyton’s younger brother Eli took notice and signed on to play at “Ole Miss” (Archie Manning, their father, is also an Ole Miss quarterback legend). Most recently, Cutcliffe has been the head coach at Duke for the past several seasons, and has turned the program around, taking them to the ACC Championship Game last season.

Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, when a serious neck injury left them believing his career was over. Enter coach Cut. After watching tape of Peyton’s throwing sessions, Coach Cut told him, “your mechanics are all wrong, you’re going to blow out your arm.” Cutcliffe then spent the next two years reconstructing Peyton the quarterback by taking him unceremoniously back to the basics. Eli Manning had a rough season in 2013, and similarly has allowed Coach Cut to carve him up and help rebuild him.

It’s not a lot of fun to have to come back from a devastating injury or a dismal period after experiencing seasons of glory. However, if we’re able to take that glory in stride, and realize that it being there in the first place has absolutely nothing to do with us, we’re able sometimes to find our way back to Coach Cut and the A to Zs.