The world knew the Carolina Panthers would play the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 at the final whistle of the NFC Championship, but one man had no idea who he was playing. Cam Newton found out Peyton Manning was waiting for him during his postgame interview in which he called Manning "The Sheriff." This wasn't a homespun nickname by Cam, "The Sheriff" has been Manning's nickname for a while.
The nickname first came to prominence in 2009 during a Monday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins. ESPN's Jon Gruden first used it, saying that Manning "lays down the law" in opposing teams' stadiums. He continued to use this sheriff analogy by describing how Manning manipulates his offense at the line of scrimmage through his audibles. This was perpetuated by Ron Jaworski, who throughout the game continued to refer to Manning as "The Sheriff" after Gruden made his comments.
Before Newton was drafted he sat down with Gruden for his yearly rookie quarterback camp for ESPN. Gruden once again called Manning "The Sheriff" as he showed a then 21-year-old Newton footage of the Colts quarterback.
It seems Newton remembered the nickname he heard from Gruden years before, because "The Sheriff" isn't a commonly used nickname, but people are aware of it. Truth be told, Gruden has invented dozens of nicknames over the years on Monday Night Football and the vast majority of them never stick. However, by telling Newton that Manning is "The Sheriff" back in 2011, it may have solidified the nickname for years to come.
It's because Peyton really, really looks like an old-timey sheriff. Also, he probably grunts when he tries to get out of his car.