So, Monday I was talking about following Peyton Manning through his football career at Tennessee. I didn’t see all of the games but I definitely kept up with scores and stats.
I watched the NFL draft drama play out between Peyton and Ryan Leaf. Peyton proved his work ethic when he showed up to the combine in shape and ready to play. In contrast, Ryan Leaf showed up “out of shape and overweight”* Leaf weighed in at the combine at 20 pounds over his playing weight, causing many experts to question Leaf’s pro-readiness.
As we all know, the Colts chose Peyton as their first pick and Leaf went to the San Diego Chargers. I followed Peyton and the Colts although we didn’t see a lot of games here in Arizona for the first few years. As the Colts played better, their games started being shown on TV in our area. It didn’t take long before I had become a huge Colts fan. I cried when they beat the Patriots to make it to the Superbowl in 2007. I spent the second half of SuperBowl XLI pacing behind the couch and of course, I cried when I realized they were going to win it. Then I grumbled when not more than 30 minutes after winning the game the commentators made the point of saying that he wouldn’t repeat. You’d think they’d give him more than 30 minutes to savor the victory before they started hacking on him but whatever.
Fast forward to last year, horror of horrors, Peyton is injured and can’t play. The NFL being on strike delayed treatment and surgery and we missed the whole season. Well, we missed seeing Peyton for the entire season. It was hard to watch and we didn’t get many of the games on TV.
Then in the off season Irsay cleaned house and I lost all of my favorite players including Peyton. Dallas Clark went to Tampa Bay, Jeff Saturday is with the Packers, Pierre Garcon is in D.C. with the Redskins. There are a few players that stayed like Freeney and Vinatieri but for the most part the team I’ve cheered for is gone. I know that it’s part of the game, it’s just business.
Here’s what I realized, I am a fan of the players. I am cheering for the players every week not the front office or the owner. Don’t get me wrong, I am not stupid I realize that tough decisions need to be made to keep the team successful on and off of the field. I just think that the Colts dropped the ball on this one. (Pun may have been intended but I am not sure.) The team relied on Peyton for so many years and then cut him loose when things got tight. He restructured his contract twice over the years to help them keep other players. Ugh, I could rant about this all night.
Jump to now, and Peyton is with the Broncos. I think it was a good pick, we all figured he would stay AFC to avoid direct competition with Eli and it seems like a good fit between Peyton and the coaches.
The Steelers vs. Broncos game was the featured Sunday night game on the opening weekend of the regular season. The Broncos had a slow start but Peyton had a blazing second half. There were a few passes that were so perfect, so textbook, so vintage Peyton, it was breathtaking. (Well, breathtaking to me.) There was a lot of talk about how he would perform, he had neck surgery, he’d been away for a year, he’s old, you name it, they were talking about it. His stats were good, completing 19-of-26 passes (73.1 percent) for 253 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 129.2 passer rating during the 31–19 win over the Steelers.. A 71-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas was his 400th of his career, moving him to third place behind Dan Marino and Brett Favre.
It was a good night, back to normal and seriously…
Better than ever!
*Big Lead Sports article from March 20th, 2012
**Sports Illustrated article from April 13, 1998