The Schein Nine

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Peyton Manning, Cam Newton head guys most affected by SB50

There is no other stage in sports like a Super Bowl.

Legacies are defined, whether built or broken. Super Bowl showings leave indelible marks in permanent ink. And Super Bowl 50's ebb and flow provided incredible examples of this.

Here are the figures whose reputations and legacies were most affected by the developments on this past Super Bowl Sunday, Schein Nine style:

1) Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos

Peyton came back from the dead. On Nov. 15, Manning completed just five of 20 passes with zero touchdowns and four picks before getting benched in a 29-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was over. I wrote the epitaph.Peyton Manning was benched, injured and his majestic career was done.

Until it wasn't.

Manning, a living legend, always had that "yeah, but" next to his name. As in, "He's a top all-time quarterback -- yeah, but what about the playoffs?"

In what should be his last rodeo, Manning minimized his miscues against the Steelersand Patriots. And although he was truly dreadful on Sunday, it doesn't matter. He pitched arguably the worst game by a winning QB in Super Bowl history, but it does. not. matter.Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl and moved above .500 (14-13) in the playoffs for his career.

Yeah, but nothing.

John Elway needed Terrell Davis. Ben Roethlisberger was miserable in the first of his two Super Bowl triumphs. Peyton Manning had the Broncos' defense.

It doesn't matter.

Peyton Manning clinches his QB ranking in my book: I have him third all-time, behind only Tom Brady and Joe Montana.

He was already the smartest quarterback in NFL history, putting up incredible numbers, carrying flawed Colts teams. But a second ring takes Manning to a new level. What a storybook finish -- it has to be over, right? -- for a true legend.

Peyton was always incredible. Who knew he was capable of coming back from the dead?

2) Cam Newton, quarterback, Carolina Panthers

It's been a roller-coaster ride for this writer when it comes to Cam Newton.

Three years ago, I penned a column questioning Cam's maturity, leadership and ability to deliver a winning product to Carolina. Three months ago, I apologized in an open letter to Panthers fans, admitting that my initial assessment had been proven wrong. And just two weeks ago, I called Cam Newton the face of the NFL.

Super Bowl Sunday was a major step back in so many ways. It was disappointing, frankly, as someone who was happy to have eaten crow on Newton.

In the game, Newton was dreadful. His passes sailed high. He turned the ball over three times. Cam will have nightmares about Von Miller (more on him later).

But there are two particular stains on Cam's name in the wake of SB50.

First, with the Panthers trailing by six, four minutes remaining and the Lombardi Trophy legitimately hanging in the balance, Newton didn't pounce on a loose football after Miller's second strip sack. It was wild, bizarre and totally unacceptable. Cam pulled up. That can't happen.

And then the postgame happened.

Cam regressed in the postgame presser, going back to the petulant player we questioned years ago. He didn't take the heat after losing the Super Bowl. Instead, he sat disinterested in a hooded sweatshirt and embarrassed himself, taking away a lot of the positive currency he had accumulated, chipping away at a reputation that I had come to defend. Outside of one somewhat-expansive answer preceded by "I don't know what you want me to say," Newton provided a bunch of one- or two-word retorts before suddenly and inexplicably exiting stage. I don't want to hear the spin doctors telling me that Chris Harris' nearby victorious presser caused Cam to storm out. Newton needed to face the music and handle "the fifth quarter" -- that's what comes with being a quarterback, a team leader, a face of the franchise. He can't be a front-runner, only wanting to be in front of the camera when things are rolling. This was a relapse in his maturation process.

Scott Norwood stayed at his locker and patiently answered every last question after his "Wide Right" moment in Super Bowl XXV. Monday on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," Rich Gannon discussed how he did the same after his five-interception disaster during a 27-point loss in Super Bowl XXXVII.

It's called professionalism.

I think Newton made amazing strides this year as a player and leader. I was drinking the Cam Kool-Aid. But now, he will have to go a long way in proving that Sunday night was a blip and won't become a trend.

Super Bowl 50 will stay with Cam for a while, and that's sad after such a sensational season.

3) John Elway, general manager, Denver Broncos

It's very difficult for megastar players to become great coaches and executives, for a variety of reasons. But that's exactly what has happened in Denver.

John Elway was a majestic, top-five all-time quarterback. And now, he's become a top-five current executive. This is special. This is Jerry West and Ozzie Newsome territory. And in many ways, Elway has done it with the kind of savvy and instinct that made him a legendary signal caller.

After an embarrassing 35-point Super Bowl loss two years ago, Elway immediately revamped the defense. His free-agent pickups of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward prior to the 2014 campaign were brilliant. And he showed guts in changing coaches before this season. John Fox had won a lot of games in Denver, but Elway didn't think he could win the ultimate game. Elway's choice of his friend Gary Kubiak proved to be perfect.

Furthermore, Elway's drafts, starting with Von Miller at the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, have been superb.

What Elway has accomplished has been nothing short of remarkable -- and it's been so much fun to watch.

4) Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos

Phillips always has been respected as a defensive guru, but I think he gets unfairly knocked for head-coaching stints in Buffalo and Dallas where upper management and ownership forced his hand on decisions and drama.

Regardless, his Broncos defense just beat two Hall of Fame locks and finished off the league's MVP, downing Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton in succession. It's historic.

Denver's defense, behind Phillips, was the best in the league this season. In fact, it's an all-time great single-season defense. I'd put it in the top four with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens and 2013 Seahawks.

To sack the elusive and physical Newton six times and hold Carolina to 3-of-15 on third-down conversions is amazing. Newton, a near-unanimous MVP pick Saturday night, completed just 18 of his 41 passes on Sunday, with zero touchdowns and a pick. Phillips dialed up incredible pressure and maximized Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

At the end of the day, Denver won a Super Bowl with 194 yards of total offense -- talk about a credit to the defense ...

5) Von Miller, outside linebacker, Denver Broncos

It was arguably the single most dominant performance ever by a defensive player in a Super Bowl.


Well, consider the 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and six tackles. Consider the fact that Miller made the two biggest plays of the game: a first-quarter strip-sack that gave Denver a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and a fourth-quarter strip-sack that essentially put the Super Bowl on ice.

The Panthers' offensive linemen mauled the opposition all year. They smothered the Seahawksand Cardinals -- two top-five defenses -- in the playoffs. Miller looked like he was playing against the freshman team. It was an eye-popping performance by the Super Bowl 50 MVP.

Miller was legendary. If he was simply great, Denver might not have won the game.

6) Thomas Davis, linebacker, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers linebacker has always been one of my favorite players for his incredible play, toughness, perseverance through three major knee surgeries and extensive charitable work off the field (which led to him rightly being named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2014).

Still, Super Bowl Sunday spawned next-level appreciation.

Davis played incredibly well ... with a friggin' broken arm! After the loss, Davis posted a picture of his stitched-up arm on Instagram -- at first glance, I thought it was a football.

This cat is remarkable.

7) Gary Kubiak, head coach, Denver Broncos

From chump to champ.

Kubiak brilliantly handled Manning and Brock Osweiler all year. And on Super Bowl Sunday, he executed a winning strategy by deflating the football on offense and letting his defense win it.

Kubiak instilled toughness and confidence into this team. Not too shabby for a guy who got fired by the Texans. Kubiak is true class, and I couldn't be happier for him.

8) DeMarcus Ware, outside linebacker, Denver Broncos

This is the cherry on top of Ware's Hall of Fame résumé.

Two sacks in the Super Bowl for the former Cowboy, who languished in the mediocrity and chaos of Dallas for many years. So wonderful to see a sensational pass rusher get his time to shine and dominate as he gets up in age.

And I was so impressed, leading up to the game, when he expressed a wish that Jason Witten and Tony Romo could experience what he was going through. Like Kubiak, Ware's just a class act.

9) Carolina Panthers coaching staff

Mike Shula's game plan was terrible and predictable. Ron Rivera was out of challenges early in the second quarter and botched the game management at the end of the first half. Riverboat Ron turned into Titanic Ron.

The offensive line, receivers (Jerricho Cotchery couldn't catch; Ted Ginn needs a map after routinely running out of bounds) and quarterback all failed.

OK, Sean McDermott's defense played pretty darn well, but he was an outlier when grading this coaching staff's performance on the biggest stage.

Carolina had a dream season, going 15-1 and logging a pair of sensational playoff wins. This was a disastrous no-show in the Super Bowl.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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