I’ll tell you the writer who ought to be covering Super Bowl 50.
Charles Darwin, that’s who.
The upcoming duel is all about the development and survival of quarterbacks, the doddering omniscient versus the spry and strong yet somewhat callow.
Darwin could identify these stages of man: Peyton Manning of Denver, the savvy Bronco who has come back from being turned out to pasture in November, and Carolina’s Cam Newton, a self-styled Superman still learning the ways of life on Planet NFL.
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The quality of defense played by these teams will decide the outcome, but that too will be viewed in the context of how these quarterbacks cope with the pressure.
Can Manning outsmart it? Can Newton overpower it?
By Sunday night, the story will be the poignant farewell to Manning, who changed the game in his 18 seasons, or the coronation of Newton as one of the reigning examples of the new breed ready to change the game even further.
It should be a game for generations.
If you’d rather watch Matlock reruns than hit the clubs, you’re likely pulling for Manning.
If you think that “dabbin’ ” is a dance that resembles people sneezing into their elbows, you’re for Newton.
If you recall “dabbin’ ” as what you used to do with your Brylcreem, you’re for Manning.
Manning turns 40 next month, and his career epitaph was being carved in November. Playing with a foot injury, he appeared to hit bottom against Kansas City when he went 5 for 20 with four interceptions. His passing yardage (35) was almost doubly negated by the yardage of interception returns (62).
Satirical mock-news website The Onion ran a story on Manning’s decline, featuring a doctored photo of him being led onto the field by a service dog that would guide him to and from the huddle, and bark when blitzers neared.
It seemed an ignominious end to a career in which Manning passed for more yardage than any NFL quarterback in history, and was named league MVP five times.
But he ditched the dog and returned to lead Denver to wins in Game 16 and then in the playoffs against Pittsburgh and New England.
He is largely immobile and his arm is a popgun. But it’s considered a truism that no quarterback prepares like Manning, and none better knows how to guide a team or deal with what the defense presents.
He passed for an average of less than 200 yards in the playoffs, but had no interceptions with his two touchdowns. He still can get the job done.
Newton has become a quarterback-in-full, but is still green compared to Manning. Only 26 in his fifth season, Newton passed for 35 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions.
He’s 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and so fleet of foot he rushed for 10 touchdowns this season.
Newton’s burgeoning maturity as a passer and team leader helped the Panthers go 15-1 in the regular season, and defeat Seattle, 31-24, before plastering Arizona, 49-15, in the NFC title game rout.
Denver beat New England, in part, by hitting quarterback Tom Brady 20 times. If they can get to Newton even half as many times, it will be unnerving to some extent.
The Panthers, meanwhile, will want to do to Manning what they did to Arizona’s Carson Palmer (age 36). They harassed him into four interceptions in 40 attempts after he had suffered only 11 in 537 passes during the regular season.
Be aware, this is not the Denver team that Manning led against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. That was the top-rated offense in the league, with Manning expected to personally dismantle the Seattle defense.
This time, Manning and the Broncos offense are second fiddles to a defensive unit ranked No. 1 in the NFL. That Broncos defense led the NFL with 52 sacks.
The challenges for both Manning and Newton are daunting.
And we’ll see if this becomes a matter of survival of the fittest, or of the smartest.
I think it’s going to be more of a matter of which quarterback, young or old, is the most resilient in the face of defensive pressure.