INDIANAPOLIS —Getting all the way to the Super Bowl, only to come away with nothing by game's end, is probably the most deflating feeling in the National Football League.
In 2009, the Indianapolis Colts had yet another terrific regular season and coasted through two AFC playoff games (with the exception of the AFC Championship Game, in which they trailed at halftime against the New York Jets), but would ultimately fall to the New Orleans Saints, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV.
The morning after that big game, Clyde Christensen, then the Colts' assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, received a text message.
"You know, we lost to New Orleans in the Super Bowl, and I remember getting that text in the morning just kind of apologizing and saying, 'I let you guys down.'"
The message was from Peyton Manning.
Manning, who was the league's MVP that season, took the entire loss on his shoulders.
"He took his responsibilities so serious," Christensen said. "He had a humility to him that I always appreciated."
Christensen discussed his longtime relationship with Manning on and off the field, as well as several other Colts-related topics, this week with Jason Romano on The Sports Spectrum Podcast, which you can listen to in its entirety by clicking here.
But here's a transcript of the current Miami Dolphins senior offensive assistant coach's comments about his close relationship with Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy — including a funny story about how they got lost on a rainy walk in Miami the day of Super Bowl XLI — and more on Manning:On what comes to mind when thinking about the Colts' Super Bowl championship:
"The thing that just jumps out to me is the time with the Lord and reviewing the journey and you go, 'Wow, what a journey this has been and what a blessing this is.' If you've read Coach Dungy's book, you'll know we always take our walk before the game, and we took a walk on Super Bowl Sunday, and to make a long story short, but we took a long walk, it's raining, but it was a neat time. And I remember us just kind of praying and thanking the Lord for the whole journey and all the different things that had come up and the different people he had brought into our lives and just how he had worked, and way beyond football, and just kind of a gratefulness and kind of an excitement that, 'Hey, remember when we started at Tampa? And remember when we weren't sure if you were going to get a job? And then we got fired at Tampa, and weren't sure where we were going to end up? And end up at Indianapolis… .' That's what I remember that was special; I just remember kind of the journey, and not just the good things but also the hard things that you came through on the journey. And that walk, we ended up getting lost and about missed pregame meal — we're walking around in the rain; we had switched hotel sites for that last night, so we're wandering around South Florida in neighborhoods we hadn't been familiar with, and got ourselves lost and didn't know the name of the hotel. We couldn't remember what the name of it (was); we could not find the hotel, and we're asking everyone, and we finally did make it back there, got a shower, got the pregame (meal) and then off we went to the venue. But that's one of the things that I really remember about it, just the sweetness of the journey and God's presence on the journey and what he had done along the way. It's a great time for me reflection-wise. And then, of course, they return the opening kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown, I'm going, 'Oh, gosh.' So that kind of snaps you back into reality quick. But it was a neat time, and it wasn't a life-maker by any means, but it certainly was fun, fun to see your family enjoy it; it's a lot more fun to win it than lose it, I'll tell you that. Losing it is a downer and is tough. It's amazing that people make it hard to just view it as a great season, came up one game short. So I always find myself kind of feeling for the loser of the Super Bowl, just that they've had such a great year, and you go home and you just kind of feel like you came up short, almost in a failure-sense. So that's a hard one, and you have to work through it."
On his experiences working with Peyton Manning:
"He's terrific. That's one of the fun things in this league, that I think we were together for 11 years or so, so it's kind of the same thing is I always bring up the journey, that he was a single guy who had never won a playoff game when we first got there, and then to see him married and start his family — he has twins — and then, you know, win a couple playoff games and a Super Bowl, etcetera, it was really neat to be a part of it. Just anything that he touches people get better. He makes you a better coach, he makes you a better man. He's so demanding, he's also driven. He just has a great way of looking at things — 'How do we make things better? How do we get better at something?' And I think I take that from him; that's always something I'm grateful for having been around him so long, just how he pushes you, how you prepare more as a coach for a meeting, as you prepare more as you bring a game plan to him, just because you know how hard he's worked and how demanding he is that everyone row and take their spot in the boat and do their part."
On a specific Manning story that stands out:
"Here's the kind of guy he was. You know, we lost to New Orleans in the Super Bowl, and I remember getting that text in the morning just kind of apologizing and saying, 'I let you guys down.' He took his responsibilities so serious. He had a humility to him that I always appreciated. So there's some awful funny ones, but there were some times that we went through some stuff that was really special. Baptizing his kids — he was hurt one year, and going down and he dedicated his two twins to the Lord, and going there on a Sunday morning before a ballgame and just being him and his pastor in a neat little service. There's a hundred little special stories, and he's coming to town this week and we'll get a great chance to have dinner and sit down and he'll spend the night and we'll kick around life. And now in retirement (he's) the same way: 'Let's take a look at my life. Where is it headed? How do I get there?' So he has a great way to approach things."
On why Tony Dungy's approach of "doing it right" worked so well:
"The neat thing is it was a blessing to find someone — and we were both assistant coaches at that time, don't forget — that had the same aspirations, that wanted to be a Christian coach and still a husband and a father, etcetera. And I remember when he called — you know, we were at Clemson — he talked about he thought the Tampa job was going to happen; he said, 'I just really feel like that we can do this in a Christian manner and treat people right and have an impact on Tampa and Florida and maybe the league and who knows what else?' Which has come to pass. So when you say 'Do it right,' I just think it's treating people right and not compromising your family, (which) Coach Dungy was huge on — 'Hey, get your work done and then get home.' And there's some nights that might be 11 at night, but there's an awful lot of nights where you just get it done and get out of there where maybe some coaches would say, hey, that you're not outworking your opponent or something, and he did keep a perspective that it was still about family, that you never had a problem that if your daughter was in a dance recital in the offseason that you were going to disappear from the office for a couple hours, you never worried about that, that was just a given that you were to care for your family first. I think the other thing that jumps out for me is that he treated people right, whether it was from the janitors to Peyton Manning, everyone got treated the same. He had an open door. I think the other thing, the third thing, would be just that it was a platform to share Christ, that at every opportunity that he got, he shared Christ, and that's how he built the thing, on biblical principles, and that it was just a platform, that it wasn't the end-all, be-all. I've always respected and told whoever asked that he coached at a high level. I used to get mad that people would say, 'Yeah, Bill Belichick is a genius, and Tony's a great human being.' Well, Tony's also a really, really fine football coach, and had a genius on managing football. And he was a great guy also. So I do think that he didn't compromise on the football side; that it was good football, that he thought it was extremely important and that that's where the platform came from, from doing our jobs with great competence and great enthusiasm. That's the whole thing: that we do our jobs well, and then also that's a large part of the platform that the job gives you, that you've got to do your job well."