Oh, boy was I wrong.
I wrote months ago that getting Peyton Manning was a mistake. I longed for the days of Tebow. If they just simply put an offense around Tebow, I was SO convinced it would work.
Now, this week, Tebow is bowling with what I assume is a Virgin Actress, and Manning is winning the AFC Offensive Player of the Month award.
Three-hundred yard games? Manning throws ‘em easier than Pizza Dough. Interceptions? Aside from the Aberration in Atlanta and a Matthew Willis misstep, Manning has been more accurate and on time than a Papa John’s delivery boy. Completion percentage? Nothing is higher in the state of Colorado than a stoner in Boulder ordering a slice at 2 a.m. Manning has this state, this team and this league in total lockdown. Tebow’s ego ride to New York has landed him in another controversy where good men will be fired and Skip Bayless will prosper.
It’s not just what Manning has meant to the team on the field. It’s who surrounds him. Brandon Stokley had a busy fall planned of driving his kids to lacrosse practice. Instead, he is catching every damn pass thrown his way, scoring touchdowns and stopping knuckleheaded, alley-oop hi-jinx. He is a reliable friend and receiver who will mentor and accelerate the abilities of two enormously gifted receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Jacob Tamme has been rock solid and a terrific addition. Joel Dreessen said he wanted to take his game to a new level and he actually chose to leave a great team in the Texans for what may be an even better team when it’s all said and done.
The Broncos have seen money go to waste, and they have actually improved! This Team IS better off without Ty Warren. The Team IS better off without Joe Mays at linebacker (although will he be missed on special teams? Hmmm). The Team IS better off without Tracy Porter. I understand there are medical reasons why Porter has been held out, but now there are specific playing reasons why he will ride the pine. Sadly, I think the Broncos are better off without J.D. Walton. Dan Koppen has been absolutely outstanding. His senior leadership and experience is just what this incredibly talented but young line needed.
Financially, it’s tough watching big bucks go bust. 4 million for Porter and Mays, plus another million and a half for Warren stings, but look who arrives on the scene. Kevin Vickerson, who happily agreed to a pay cut. Mitch Unrein, who grew up a Broncos fan and is the pride of Eaton and Wyoming. Justin Bannan at a serious discount. Chris Harris may be a starting corner for the Broncos for the next 10 years and is mature beyond his age and just as talented. Keith Brooking is taking a seniors rate to be a first-class contributor. Danny Trevathan is about to explode and be a star. He was a 6th-round pick!
It’s scary what happens when a group of underachievers outperforms their higher-paid counterparts. Maybe it’s the eternal chip-on-the-shoulder-thing that is bolstering this team. Nobody screams more over-achievement than Wesley Woodyard, who we all hope is DJ Williams’ fast track ticket out of town. Did Wesley celebrate one of the best defensive games of any player in Broncos history by ripping up the Dyme Lyfe in Lodo? Nope. He took his mom out on the field on her birthday so he could get a picture of her with the game ball.
This team is a reflection of its leader, who is clearly Peyton Manning. He has led by example. He has led with his voice. He has led by his dedication and competitiveness. He’s not a goody two-shoes that nobody can relate to. He is NOT surrounded by handlers and relatives despite the constant barrage of attention that would drown most athletes. He eviscerated Eric Decker for tripping on grass. He teased the media about smashing them in the head with his wobblers. He mockingly called out the coaches for the historic Prater to Beadles passing/receiving connection. I’m sure if there is a little old lady that needs help getting across the street, he’ll be the first one there to give her a hand – and a pepperoni pie.
I’ve seen Manning try to answer questions that nobody could understand with grace and aplomb, and not with Jay Cutler-like sneering degradation. I’ve seen Manning greet those less fortunate with ease and understanding, making eyes water and fulfilling dreams. With Tebow there was a certain kind of phoniness that you wanted to believe in, but it just seemed too good to be true. Manning is in a different mold. He is the real deal. He is the person you would want your daughter to marry, not some sort of one emotion, coddled robot.
Manning is much more than we thought he would be. He is genuine.
Elway was right. YOU were right. I was wrong.
I will now order a dozen Papa John’s pizzas with everything on ‘em, because I’m sure Manning would rather have me eat that rather than crow.