One of the biggest stories in the NFL off-season this year was what was going to happen with Peyton Manning. Forced to sit out the 2011-12 season with a neck injury, the Indianapolis Colts went from playoff contenders to the worst team in the league, putting them in the position to draft the best new QB (Andrew Luck) for next year. There were questions about whether Manning would ever play again in Indianapolis — or play football period. Twitter was all a-twitter in January when actor Rob Lowe sent a tweet saying that he heard Peyton would retire (weird source for a sports story, but Lowe is reportedly friends with Colts’ owner Bob Irsay). That didn’t come to pass, but the Manning era in Indianapolis ended on March 7th when the team let him go. Peyton was officially a free agent.
I’ve been following all of this with heightened interest because I love Peyton Manning, which is not to be confused with the way I love Tony Romo. This is purely professional. I think he is an amazing quarterback. He made football in Indianapolis relevant again. The fact that the team fell apart when he was out is no coincidence. He WAS the Indianapolis Colts. He’s just a guy you pull for. When he finally won a Super Bowl ring in 2007, everyone seemed happy that he had finally gotten over that last hurdle. He was no longer in danger of suffering Dan Marino’s fate: an outstanding QB who never won the ultimate prize.
I think part of Peyton’s appeal is that he seems like a nice, regular, down-to-Earth guy. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and appears to have a good sense of humor. As far as I know, he’s never been involved in any scandal and he enjoys a sterling reputation among his peers. He transcends sports; even if you don’t follow football, you probably know who Peyton Manning is. He is in a ton of commercials, which speaks to his universal appeal. And unlike many other athletes, he was actually really funny when he was the host on Saturday Night Live. This is still one of my all time favorite shorts.
In a perfect world, Manning would wind up on my Buffalo Bills and my life would be complete. I’ve dreamed of seeing Peyton play in person and came close in 2010, until Mother Nature intervened (when the good people of Buffalo warn you of dangerous winter conditions, you know it is serious). But the world isn’t perfect and I realistically knew it was not to be. Buffalo put their faith (and money) in “the Amish Rifle” and weren’t on the market for a Quarterback. When you’re a Bills fan, you get used to disappointment.
Monday all the speculation as to where Peyton would play came to an end when he agreed to a deal with the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately the Bills don’t play the Broncos this year, so I’ll have to continue to be patient. However, a whole new type of speculation has begun, as the Manning signing raises questions about what will happen to the Broncos current QB – a man you also may have also heard of who goes by the name Tim Tebow.
Though he lacks Manning’s skills or experience, Tebow became a phenomenon last season with his inexplicable ability to frequently pull out a come-from-behind win in dramatic fashion. I didn’t totally buy into the hype, but even I have to admit that Tebow was fun to watch. You just never knew what was going to happen, but you knew it was probably going to be exciting. His devout faith raised questions of whether there was divine intervention involved. Tebow became a household name so quickly that in his first year in the NFL he inspired a memorable song on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, a hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live and the fad that became known as “Tebowing:”
Even Peyton didn’t do that.
So as Manning settles in with his new team in Denver, Tebow is considering his options after this fairly public demotion. Several teams are rumored to be interested. If all else fails, there’s always The Bachelor.