Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (right) talks with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians (center) and assistant coach Tom Moore (left) before the teams' preseason game in 2013.
Bruce Arians was a successful coach without his years with Peyton Manning, and Tom Moore too had an impressive résumé even subtracting his years with Manning. And Manning probably would have had success even if he hadn't met up with Arians and Moore.
Yet the three are forever linked, relationships forged in meeting rooms and steeled through games. When the Cardinals travel to Denver to play the Broncos Sunday, Manning will quarterback the home team, while Arians and Moore pilot the visitors knowing much of what their student can do and knowing there is only so much they can do about it.
The three were together for three seasons, the first three of Manning's career in Indianapolis from 1998 to 2000. Fresh out of college, Manning got Arians as his quarterbacks coach and Moore as his offensive coordinator.
Manning set an NFL record for interceptions thrown by a rookie. But the foundation was laid for the future.
"Bruce was always real," Manning said. "He just kept coaching me, was positive with me and he and I had a lot of tough Mondays. … But he would coach me hard and I would learn what I did wrong and I really used that experience."
Moore said it was clear Arians was too good to be stuck as a quarterbacks coach for long. When Arians departed to be the offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Moore's relationship with Manning just got stronger.
Moore stayed with Manning through 2010 – the last year Manning actually played for the Colts, before a neck injury wiped out his 2011 season – before knee problems forced him out of the game. After the decade-plus Moore and Manning worked together in Indianapolis, Manning has said he thinks Moore deserves Hall of Fame consideration.
"It's pretty rare for a coordinator and quarterback to stay that long together," Manning said. "People used to tell both of us, 'You're lucky you have the same coordinator every year' and tell him 'You're lucky to have the same quarterback every year.' I think we both kind of said, 'Hey, if you call good plays and you play good quarterback, they're going to keep you.' "
There was no arguing success. With Manning basically orchestrating the Denver offense as he did many years in
Indianapolis, Arians joked that Moore knew exactly what Manning was doing every play.
To this, Moore played coy, only saying what Manning does now is "similar."
Broncos coach John Fox said he even brought Moore in to meet with the Denver coaches in 2012 after the Broncos signed Manning, so the coaches could have a better understanding what Manning did in Indianapolis and what he would be comfortable running offensively.
Moore was the one who called plays in Indianapolis, but Manning "had a lot of liberty," Moore said. "I always told him, 'Play smart, not scared.' "
Manning has had two of the best years of his already-Hall of Fame career since going to Denver. And that move to the Broncos is where this story again links back to Moore and Arians, because the Cardinals were one of the teams Manning considered as a free agent.
It was never truly serious for a number of reasons, but had Manning indeed landed as a Cardinal in 2012, it seems likely Ken Whisenhunt stays in place as coach, and Arians – along with Moore – don't come to Arizona.
Instead, the two have helped rebuild the team. Arians' no-nonsense approach has been welcomed by the players. Moore has been invaluable help not only to the quarterbacks but also to Arians, who craves his sounding board.
"You need somebody to bitch to," Arians said with a smile. "You can't take a young guy in there and bitch to him."
Told of Arians' comments, Moore deadpanned, "We discuss."
"We've been together a long time," Arians said, "so it's very easy for him to know why I'm doing what I am doing and relate it to everybody else."
Moore, at age 75, just wanted to be around the game. "A lot of people would like to put a 75-year-old out to pasture, but that's not where I am ready to go," Moore said, adding he has thanked Arians multiple times for bringing him on to the staff.
His role isn't just to listen to Arians. Once again, he is tied to the quarterbacks, sitting in the meetings with position coach Freddie Kitchens and the players as a quiet sage the group now calls "The Silver Fox."
"He's not one of these guys who is putting his two cents in over and over and over," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "Only if something needs to be addressed or a point needs to be made, which is nice. Because when you have two quarterback coaches in the room, it can get information overload. That's not his approach. His approach is, if Freddie covers it, great. If Freddie misses one thing, or six things, he'll mention one thing or six things."
Added quarterback Drew Stanton, "It's when he interjects that has the most profound effect and I think he understands that."
Moore said he feels blessed and lucky to have worked with the quarterbacks he has, and both he and Arians can't stop praising the job Manning did and still does. For Manning's part, he used the word "indebted" when talking about both Arians and Moore Wednesday.
The three are together again Sunday – although it's not about a reunion.
"(We're) with the Cardinals, he's with the Broncos," Moore said. "That's where our allegiances are."
A look at the Cardinals' statistical leaders at the bye