Sports Never Cease to Surprise!
It’s been 24 hours since the news broke … Peyton is choosing Denver! Peyton Manning will play for the Broncos next year, instead of suiting up for the NFC West champion Niners or staying close to home with the Titans. WHAT?? My reaction then and now remains the same. It may not be completely real to me until I see him step on the field in his #18 Broncos jersey this fall. But digging deeper, there are two sides to every story; and after time to process, my reaction also has two faces, two variations, and I’m still waffling back and forth between the two.
The Peyton face: Not kidding when I tell you this, the phrase “He’s PEYTON MANNING!” (with emphasis) has come out of my mouth at least two dozen times since I heard. Fellow football fans keep asking me what I think, and that’s my initial reply. Why? His name conjures up all the images, statistics, and track record you need to understand what he can mean to an NFL franchise. In Peyton’s 13 healthy seasons, the Colts reached the playoffs 11 times and the Super Bowl twice. They were perennial contenders, even when they didn’t have elite personnel around Peyton. The Colts won the 2007 Super Bowl and built a new stadium on Manning’s back. His cerebral approach and infamous work ethic only enhance his deadly accuracy. His signature style of calling and changing plays at the line of scrimmage forces defenses to scrap their game plans. Four MVP awards and a continual assault on the passing record books make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he retires. And Peyton raises the level of play around him because he demands the same excellence of his teammates. He’s a winner!
During the pursuit of Peyton Manning, two questions lingered. Is he healthy after multiple neck surgeries, and is he too far past his prime? As part of the recruiting process, Peyton went through an extensive physical from doctors hired by the Broncos, and he passed with flying colors. He also threw the football for a Broncos contingent that included John Elway. Who better to evaluate Manning’s status than a Hall of Fame quarterback who blazed the trail in Denver? Elway also won his Super Bowl rings at age 37 and 38, which is older than Manning even after he celebrates his birthday this week. Questions answered.
The Tebow face: Let me be clear about Tim Tebow. Even if he wasn’t a Denver Bronco, I would still be cheering for him to succeed. After watching him run my favorite team for the better part of a season, I’m sold on everything he brings to the table. Competitive fire, mental and physical strength and toughness, amazing leadership, the ability to inspire greatness, and a never-say-die attitude. Whether or not you like his unconventional style and unique skill set, you can’t ignore the 6-game win streak, AFC West title, and playoff win by the Broncos after Tebow won the starting job. Despite constant volatile criticism, you never saw him get defensive or fire back. His grace, humility, and unwavering commitment to his teammates are just part of the reason Tebow-mania consumed the NFL last season. His jersey sales were second only to Aaron Rogers in 2011. Millions of football fans can’t be wrong about his charisma, character, and impact on the field. Just like Peyton, he’s a winner!
Tebow’s entering his 3rd season in the NFL. It’s way too early to give up on him. I wish the Broncos would keep him in the fold. I don’t want to see him playing anywhere else but Denver. I already know it will sting to see him in a different uniform. Down the road, we may look back and recognize him as a once-in-a-lifetime player. But Peyton’s already there. It’s likely only two teams will ever get to claim him, and I’m proud to say Denver is one of them. The Colts’ loss is the Broncos’ gain. There are only a few quarterbacks that I would choose over Tebow, and Peyton’s one of them. I never thought I’d get to make this choice but he’s PEYTON MANNING!!!