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Why Peyton’s nephew Arch Manning is the game’s next QB phenom



Hear the name Arch Manning and it’s easy to skip past a high school sophomore and focus on the family legacy.

See him on the Isidore Newman School football field playing quarterback under the lights and it’s sure to bring thoughts of Archie, Peyton, Eli and Cooper Manning — his grandfather, uncles and father — who all made the game look so easy, the latter three having played on the same field.

But to compare Arch to his relatives would be a mistake. It’s not something the family does. It’s not something his coaches do. And it’s certainly not something Arch thinks about as he progresses through his high school career.

“Arch is his own entity,” Isidore Newman football coach Nelson Stewart said. “That’s one thing we tell him is, you be yourself. What a great resource he has with his uncles, grandfather and dad that can work with him and help, but as a sophomore, I would hope no one would put that label on him because there’s so much growth still to happen. We let Arch be Arch, let him be a sophomore.”

The family kept him out of the spotlight and away from media interviews his freshman season, and he has only started doing a few this season, though he declined to be interviewed for this story. His coaches and family are trying to keep the focus on the team.

Letting Arch be Arch is an easy task for Stewart and the rest of the coaches, because while they don’t want to make any comparisons, he is already one of the best quarterbacks in the country and getting better with every rep. He’s 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and through the first two games of the season, Manning has completed 27 of 37 passes for 463 yards and six touchdowns, with only one interception.

Football fans will be able to make their own comparisons and judgments when Isidore Newman plays KIPP Booker T. Washington on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Stewart has been the head coach at Newman, in New Orleans, for 15 years. He graduated from the school in 1995 and played with both Peyton and Cooper, then a wide receiver, in high school. He has been around Arch his entire life and has been able to see firsthand the person he has become.

Comparing him to anyone in his family wouldn’t be fair — not just because he doesn’t ask for that comparison but also because he is a blend of a little bit of everybody. His ability to move in the pocket is reminiscent of his grandfather, and there’s some athleticism from Cooper and a work ethic similar to Peyton’s.

“He’s not just one thing and he’s not a system quarterback,” Stewart said. “If you need him to run zone-reads, he can do it. You see him scramble and can find someone in the back of the end zone, throw it 25 yards on a rope, and he can just spot throw the points when he’s moving around.

“That’s where the special part of it comes, that he just has the innate ability that most people his age don’t have.”

During this pandemic, Stewart and Manning have spent hours on Zoom calls going over every single play in the team’s playbook, meticulously dissecting film and reviewing notes on what the sophomore can improve upon.

Manning also worked with the team’s other star player, wide receiver A.J. Johnson, an ESPN Junior 300 prospect in the 2022 class, building chemistry and timing for this season.

“[Johnson] has gotten really close with Arch, and I think the pandemic probably brought them closer,” Stewart said. “A lot of kids, when it all shut down, they kept working and kept going. They even came back with a couple different patterns they worked up with one another.”

That work paid off when Johnson had his first catch for Newman this season, a touchdown bomb in the first game.

Johnson transferred to Newman prior to last season and had to sit out the year under transfer rules. He has already garnered a ton of attention with very little film, which Stewart says is a testament to his character, work ethic and ability.

As with Manning, Stewart is trying not to make any comparisons with Johnson. The school hasn’t just had some famous quarterbacks on its field — NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. also attended Newman.

“[Johnson] is a violent blocker and he can knock the top off coverage; I think that’s the biggest thing,” Stewart said. “I was fortunate years ago to have Odell, and I remember the things he could do. Some of those things you see shadows of with the burst, high pointing the ball, the ability to knock the coverage off. I think those are fair comparisons from those standpoints.

“Where Odell was so unique, throwing the ball 60 yards with his left hand, he was a generational athlete.”

Having a talented wide receiver can be a young quarterback’s best friend, and Johnson and Manning have built great chemistry in a short amount of time.

Stewart is quick to point out, though, that both are young and still raw in what they know, with a ton of growth potential.

“Arch is his own entity. That’s one thing we tell him is, you be yourself. What a great resource he has with his uncles, grandfather and dad that can work with him and help, but as a sophomore, I would hope no one would put that label on him because there’s so much growth still to happen.” Isidore Newman football coach Nelson Stewart

For Manning, there are resources most young quarterbacks don’t have access to. But his humility and competitive fire are incomparable.

He wants to do it with his own name. Not as Peyton’s nephew or Archie’s grandson. As Arch.

“The Manning name is the first thing you see when you walk through the gates; he’s No. 16 and he’s a quarterback,” Stewart said. “But he’s his own individual. That’s the magic of him, that he keeps his head down, always gives credit to his teammates, and everything is done quietly with him because that’s who he is.” — Tom VanHaaren

Arch Manning’s scouting report

Playing QB with the name Manning on his back is going to draw a great deal of attention. Given that he’s just starting his sophomore season, we need to be reminded that he is still young with a lot of high school football ahead.

Manning should be able to develop his own identity, and he’s already showing he’s a different type of player than his famous uncles. One of the aspects of Arch’s game that immediately jumps out is his athleticism. He might not be labeled a true dual-threat, but he is a mobile quarterback with the ability to extend plays and create second-chance passing opportunities. He is also athletic enough to tuck the ball and generate big plays with his legs.

If the Manning name is going to carry great expectations, Arch is demonstrating the tools to meet them. He displays excellent poise and feel for the position beyond his years. He also has a quick release and throws a pretty deep ball. The early numbers and film back up the promise he has displayed, and as he continues to grow as a player both physically and mentally, he can become a prospect with the tools to be one of the most sought-after and elite signal-callers in the ESPN 300 era. — Craig Haubert


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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