This question was asked before the AFC Championship, and it’s being asked before Super Bowl 50: If Peyton Manning is not playing well – if he’s playing terribly – should Gary Kubiak pull him from the game?

“Well, the answer to that, has to be yes because it’s all about winning the game,” former Super Bowl-winning coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But I don’t want to be that guy. You can do it for all the right reasons, but it’s Peyton Maning – future Hall of Famer, arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the history of this game, has been a class act – for him to go out that way and for you to pull him in his last game, that would be a tough one. No one’s going to remember that it was the good tactical team thing to do because you had to make a change; all they’re going to remember is that you pulled this Hall of Fame quarterback in his last game.”

To pull Manning, Tiki Barber said, the game would have to be out of reach.

“Chances are, the game is going to be pretty much out of reach by the time you (would make that decision),” Billick said. “So will it really make a difference? The only way you don’t go down as the biggest ass in the history of football is if you win the game. And so, is it one, two, three interceptions? And particularly the way Carolina has been playing, it might not go well early. And so, yeah, this is a tough one. I’m sure Gary Kubiak will say, ‘We don’t think in those terms. We know he’s going to play well.’ But that is a storyline that’s very, very real.”

Carolina was up 31-0 against Seattle in the second quarter and up 34-7 against Arizona in the third quarter. The Panthers, who are 17-1 this season, have been clicking on all cylinders pretty much since Week 1. They’ve played with confidence, and they’ve played with swagger.

Cam Newton, of course, has been a big reason why, even if he’s been a little controversial in the process.

“Absolutely,” Billick said. “It’s all about how the team reacts to the personality of the quarterback. I think it’s the same with Cam Newton. Can that wear a team out at times? I think that’s possible. I think Ray Lewis, as brilliant a leader as I’ve ever been around and as natural a leader as I’ve ever been around, I think sometimes Ray’s approach and his passion for the game sometimes wore thin on some players, but that’s true of any personality. There’s a lot of different ways to lead, and right now, his team’s got a pretty good run going, so who am I – or anybody else – to argue that this doesn’t work for them?”


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