Denver, CO. We are slowly creeping towards Denver Broncos training camp, which begins in 8 short days. We have all seen the photos or videos of Peyton Manning in the Broncos jersey and helmet, practicing with his new teammates at the Dove Valley facility. The excitement and anticipation for what 2012 may bring to Broncos fans and Peyton Manning fans is not quite like anything this area has seen in some time, if ever. The fact that Mr. Manning is signed, sealed and delivered to the Rocky Mountains for the next few years is still somewhat surreal, even for yours truly. The expectations are very high, and the likelihood that Denver will be a strong AFC contender for the next several years is very real. Some fans and analysts have penciled the Broncos in to easily win the AFC West this year, and to possibly be Super Bowl bound. Heck, I have them going 12-4 and having a breakout year in Peyton’s first season here. But….what if most people are wrong? What if he isn’t the Peyton Manning of old? What if….he is just an old Peyton Manning?
All reports say he is healthy and ready to roll after a few neck surgeries in 2011. He himself says he is good to go and has no limitations to his game. Knowing what I know of Peyton Manning, watching him during his entire career in Indy, and listening to his tone of voice in recent interviews, he sounds like a guy who is ultra motivated to get it done now. He sounds like someone who knows his career is winding down, but still has plenty of juice to make Denver an instant big-time winner. Everything looks and smells like roses, as the honeymoon in Denver has begun. But there is the other side of things to consider, a side that could potentially be disappointing and one that tarnishes his career to a certain extent. What if Peyton Manning just can’t be what he used to be? What if his timing is off with his new receivers? Peyton became extremely comfortable with guys like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark over the years. What if he doesn’t have quite the zip on the ball that he did as a Colt? I mean, he is 36 now, and a guy who could be very rusty after missing all of 2011. What if playing outdoors in almost all of his games now has an effect on his passing? We all know how the weather changes every ten minutes here. Back to his health, every indication is that his neck is fine and it’s not an issue. However, what if he takes a shot from a defender that triggers more neck issues? There are a lot of “ifs” here, but it would be naive to not think about the possibility of it not going as planned. If for some reason, Peyton Manning as a Bronco does not live up to all of the hype surrounding it, this whole thing has a chance to be….well….disastrous and regrettable. Remember Joe Namath as a Ram? How about Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal? Michael Jordan as a Wizard? Jerry Rice as a Seahawk? These are all visions that make fans of these players cringe, wishing it didn’t end that way. Trust me, this similar scenario could play out here in Denver for Peyton if things happen to go south.
Having brought up all of the potential doom and gloom, I do still believe it will work out very well for Peyton and the Broncos. He is a unique type of athlete, who doesn’t seem to be driven by the money he makes. Instead, he seems driven to be great and to be remembered as one of the best QB’s of all time. If he retired today, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer without a doubt. But these next 4-5 years will end up being some years that everyone will remember, and his legacy is still very much up in the air. It could end up being a storybook finish to one of the best NFL careers ever. Or, it could end up being a sad finish, and one that Manning and Broncos fans never wanted to envision.
Denver Sports by J Simp