- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Peyton Manning wants to hear no "Mora" of his coach's veiled negative comments about his play.
The Indianapolis Colts are a team in turmoil after three consecutive losses, and Manning believes coach Jim Mora should keep his comments confined to the locker room. Immediately following last Sunday's 40-21 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Mora ripped the Colts and went public with implied criticism of arguably the best young quarterback in the league.
Without mentioning Manning by name, Mora said, "I don't care who you play whether it's a high school team, a junior college team, a college team, much less an NFL team when you turn the ball over five times … you ain't going to beat anybody. That was a disgraceful performance. We gave it away. … I don't know who the hell we think we are when we do something like that.
"We've thrown five interceptions [that were] returned for touchdowns. That might be a league record. And we've still got six games left, so there's no telling how many we'll have. I mean, it's absolutely pitiful to play like that. … Horrible. Just horrible. Horrible."
After taking over the weak Colts, Mora's first move was to pick Manning out of Tennessee with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. On Wednesday, the 25-year-old Manning fired back at his coach through the media.
"To be called out in front of the whole country, where that press conference is going to be replayed over and over again, that bothers me, but I can handle it," Manning said. "What went on in the locker room is our business. … The ironic thing about this whole thing is that I'm playing for his job. I want him to be the head coach here."
Even the Baltimore Ravens (7-4) came to Manning's side. When the Colts visit PSINet Stadium today, Manning can take some small comfort in the fact that the Ravens weren't impressed with Mora's comments.
"The coach doesn't have to play," safety Rod Woodson said. "I don't know what he's trying to do. I don't think Peyton will let that bother him. If they didn't have Peyton Manning, they wouldn't be close to winning a lot of football games."
Elvis Grbac of the Ravens, who has taken his share of criticism this season, said there is a right way and a wrong way of critiquing a quarterback's play. After Grbac threw five interceptions and fumbled twice in the past two games, coach Brian Billick was the first to offer support, although many fans want to see backup Randall Cunningham running the offense.
"I've been in the other situation where [the coach] doesn't give you a lot of confidence and it does pull you down and you lose a lot of confidence in what you are doing," Grbac said.
One day after his outburst, Mora said he couldn't remember his comments about Manning and seemed to do a complete turnaround.
"I love Peyton Manning," Mora said. "I wouldn't trade him for any quarterback in the league." But the damage, if any, had been done.
Before the season, many predicted that the Colts would be a playoff lock. Now, however, they would have to go 5-1 the rest of the way just to finish 9-7.
The Indianapolis defense rated 27th among the 31 teams is simply dreadful. The Colts have no ground game since star running back Edgerrin James, who has rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his two previous seasons, went out for the year with a knee injury.
Manning, who threw four interceptions last week and has 16 for the season, represents the best chance the Colts have for victory. In 1998 Manning's rookie season the Colts went 3-13, but he almost single-handedly turned the team around until the current slump. Manning, who has thrown for more yards (14,996) and touchdowns (103) than any other quarterback in the league during the same time span, led the Colts to a 13-3 mark in 1999 and a 10-6 record last season.

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