The day Peyton Manning retired, Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams expressed his opinion of the legendary quarterback on Twitter. While Williams agreed that Manning is a future Hall of Famer who enjoyed a stellar career, he also pointed out that his final season was, in a word, or rather, in an emoticon, crappy.
Look Peyton is a hall of fame qb who couldn't play dead in a western last year but career over all is astonishing but last year was— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) March 7, 2016
Immediately, Williams took heat from the twitterverse. He responses to his critics kept the drama going until head coach Mike Tomlin weighed in, telling him to stop.
Was Williams wrong to criticize Manning on the day of his retirement? Bryan DeArdo of 247 Sports and BTSC contributor Dani Bostick weigh in.
Bryan DeArdo: Williams was out of line.
There is nothing wrong with DeAngelo Williams' Twitter (and radio) comments with regard to Peyton Manning's 2015 season.
I disagree. While I believe that it's a free country and that Williams is entitled to say whatever he wants, his comments were disrespectful and immature. They did not paint a positive light on Williams, which is unfortunate given how much he has given the franchise both on and off the field over the past year.
Again, I believe that Williams can say whatever he wants, but to bash Manning like that, on the same day of his retirement speech? That's unprofessional on Williams' part, to choose that time and that day to take some of the spotlight off of Manning's day.
Furthermore, Williams could have simply said that Manning stunk, or that he just wasn't himself last season, and everyone would have got the point he was trying to make. But no, Williams went at length to criticize Manning, to the point that it caught the attention of Mike & Mike on ESPN.
That last point is what upset me the most, and, based on Mike Tomlin's tweet to Williams, was his last straw, too, was his radio interview with Mike & Mike. A day after lambasting Manning on his Twitter account, Williams talked to ESPN's highest rated talk show about his comments on Manning. At this point, it wasn't about Manning anymore. It was about Williams, who talked about how he should be able to say whatever he wants about Manning and how if it wasn't Manning's last name that others would be just as critical of the future Hall of Fame quarterback's season.
But here's the facts, DeAngelo: People have been critical of Manning, all season, actually, up until he came back into the lineup to help the Broncos make its run to the Super Bowl. Another fact is that Manning--who "couldn't play dead in a Western"--played better than your defense at the biggest moment of Pittsburgh's playoff loss to Denver. Manning's stats might have been horrid, but they were good enough to win to a Super Bowl title.
The last fact Williams must understand is that he made Manning's retirement about himself. He could have made one comment about Manning and left it alone, but no, Williams continued to twist the knife, and made one of the greatest quarterbacks of this era's special day about him. That's why Williams' actions were wrong, and that's why it sadly overshadows most of the good things he's done as a Steeler.
Dani Bostick: Williams did nothing wrong.
Peyton Manning will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. His Super Bowl victory this past season was a fitting end to a stellar career. Although the Denver defense was the driving force behind the championship, Manning played well enough to ensure a win.
That said, Manning's final season was horrible. He threw too many interceptions and had a feeble arm. His running made stormtroopers look like Usain Bolt, and oftentimes his game management was lacking.
Was Williams wrong to point that out? Many people thought it was classless and self-centered.
It is true, however, that Manning had a horrible final season. He also is embroiled in other controversy over allegations he was involved in a sexual assault at the University of Tennessee. Though Manning denies the allegations, and some have framed the incident as merely an act of poor judgment and immaturity, Manning's legacy is tainted by more than a lackluster 2015.
Angry reactions to Williams comments reveal a double-standard in sports. Manning has been accused not only of sexual assault, but also of HCG use. While both are mere allegations at this point, he has been afforded more benefit of the doubt and has had more ardent defenders than other sports figures.
Cam Newton was slammed for his sulkiness after the Panthers devastating Super Bowl loss. He was also eviscerated for his enthusiastic celebrations during the regular season. Johnny Manziel has received harsh criticism for allegations of domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend. Greg Hardy was excoriated for his comments about Tom Brady's wife.
Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. His contributions to the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and the sport in general cannot be overstated. He is not a saint, however, and in the age of social media, it is nearly impossible to hide one's faults, missteps, and personal scandals.
Williams didn't mention the allegations of sexual assault. He mentioned an indisputable fact: Manning played poorly in 2015. Still, Williams was attacked and criticized as if he had committed blasphemy. NFL analysts, athletes, and fans all have a right to express their opinions, even on the day of a legendary player's retirement.
Either we judge athletes on their on-field performance alone or we judge all athletes by the same standards. Nobody declared Monday Peyton Manning Amnesty Day. Yes, it was the day he announced his retirement, but we cannot expect all of social media, journalists, fans, and analysts to function as if they were the Russian media reporting on Vladimir Putin.
Williams did nothing wrong. In fact, he did something right. He expressed his opinion even if it was unpopular.