Peyton Manning has had one hell of a year.
And I say that with the knowledge that, at some point, all athletes of his age and tenure are bound to face adversity; this is different.
Just think, before the season even started, John Elway, the man who brought Manning to Denver and built this franchise around him, was pushing him out the door. And before you say what I know you’re about to say, no, this is not conspiracy talk; it’s common sense.
It’s not everyday that that a team’s general manager initiates a standoff with his franchise quarterback in order to get him to take a pay cut, but when he does, he has to be willing to accept the consequences: That the quarterback goes and gets his money elsewhere.
Now, as we’re all aware, the two ended up meeting in the middle, and the Broncos moved forward. Manning entered the season as the Broncos quarterback, and Elway, I believe, supported him from that point on. Still, the sting of being told you’re not worth what you’re being paid doesn’t dissipate quickly.
And don’t forget; this isn’t the first time Manning has been told he’s no longer “worth it.” The Colts said the same exact thing when they jettisoned him out of Indianapolis in favor of Andrew Luck.
It’s easy to explain away both scenarios, but how many other Hall of Fame quarterbacks have had multiple franchises tell them they’re willing to move on? It can’t be a very long list, and I can’t imagine any of them were very happy about it, either.
But that’s just the start of it. Injury or not, Manning got booed off the field against Kansas City, and for the next two months, he had to listen as the entire sports world chanted his demise; he had to listen as the air within Sports Authority Field filled with cries of “Brock Lobster” and “Brocket Launcher” and “Brockweiler.” For as strong and mentally tough as Manning must be, I can’t imagine that he didn’t wonder if this really was the end.
Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a good portion of you who fall back on the “stop-whining” mantra, where no athlete should ever show any emotion or talk about anything other than the game at hand, but I’m not going to abide by that. This has clearly been a tough, emotional, trying season for Peyton Manning, and he said as much on Thursday.
“I’ve always told you all that I would never write a book,” Manning said. “I could probably write a pretty good short story, though, on this past offseason and this season.”
I know we all watched Manning’s return last weekend, but did you see what he looked like following the game? I swear, you could have slapped the man with a two-by-four and that smile wouldn’t have come off his face.
Even Emmanuel Sanders noticed the difference:
“Today, [Demaryius] DT [Thomas] and I were teasing him a little bit, saying, ‘Man, we haven’t seen you smile like that in about five or six weeks.’ I know that he’s happy to be back and everybody is happy for him.”
Manning may not end up writing a book about this season, but somebody will. And when they do, there will finally be some clarity as to what in the world happened inside Dove Valley these last eight months.