As we embark on another Broncos campaign, a title defense in fact, I first need some closure. Before I emotionally invest in another 16 plus games and ride the invigorating orange wave of Broncos fandom, I am compelled to first say goodbye to an era that I will never forget.
With the recent announcement of Trevor Siemian saddling up as the next starting gunslinger for the Broncos, the reality of Peyton Manning not being our quarterback has officially set in. I know. He’s been retired for months. I need to move on. But I first need to type some feelings before I truly turn the page.
So before I ride or die with Siemian , Lynch, or whichever field general is at the helm moving forward, I wanted to write a quick thank you note to the sheriff. On behalf of all of Broncos country, thank you for the last four years Peyton, because it truly was a golden age of being a Broncos fan.
Thank you for signing as a free agent with the Broncos. How awesome was that feeling as a Broncos fan when you heard the news? Christmas in the middle of summer?! I’ll never forget when I found out. I was driving to a Great Clips in deep Aurora (a suburb of Denver) to get a value hair cut ; I had a coupon. It honestly felt like I had just won Powerball when the news became official. I ran into Great Clips, and boisterously announced to all of those in the waiting area, “THE BRONCOS JUST SIGNED PEYTON MANNING. “ High fives all around and for sure some awkward looks. Best haircut of my life, and not just because it was only $7.99 with the coupon!
When Peyton Manning became a free agent, I also specifically remember talking with my co-worker at the Kona Grill. My buddy asked, ‘Bro, what if we get Peyton Manning? “ I responded. Bro, if we get Peyton Manning, (Insert outrageous claim here.)” Two days later, John Elway was already wining and dining the prized free agent. The courtship of Manning ironically began a few football fields away from the Kona Grill. Down the street at Elway’s, boss man John had already sunk his teeth into the most sought after free agent in the history of the league, by letting him sink his teeth into a delicious filet mignon. Props to Elway for aggressively pursuing Manning immediately, putting that big piece of bait in the water – by selling our program and city – and landing the biggest free agent fish of all time.
Thank you for instantly making the Broncos a Super Bowl contender. The second we got Manning was the second we were a viable Super Bowl threat. Manning instantly thrust us into the upper echelon of elite teams. We were knocking on the Super Bowl door every year. Speaking of which…
Thank you for taking us back to the Super Bowl. Twice. Two Super Bowl trips in four seasons. That’s real sick. Just getting to the Bowl is unbelievably tough, and Peyton had a .500 batting Super Bowl batting average with the Broncos.
Thank you for being a magnet for solid free agent signings during your entire tenure. Pro Bowlers flocked to us like teenage chicks to a Justin Bieber concert. Elway was plucking pro bowlers like it was his job, which it was. Demarcus Ware, TJ Ward, Aqib Talib, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez. The list goes on and on, but those were the crème of the crop. Elite players want to play with Manning. Who wouldn’t want to play with Peyton? I do. If I was an NFL player, I would have signed with the Broncos too.
Thank you for being the classiest player in the league. Pure, genuine, unadulterated class. A classy winner. A classy loser. I remember a media report about Peyton that personified class. After the gut wrenching playoff loss to the Ravens in the freezing cold, Peyton waited outside the Ravens locker room to congratulate fellow future hall-of-famer Ray Lewis after the game. I wanted to gauge out my eyes and punch myself in the kidney after that game. Peyton still had the sportsmanship to pull off that move. Wow.
Thank you for always being so accessible to the common man. Always spoke to the media. Always said the right things. Never turned down an interview. Treated everyone as equals and genuinely created relationships with people in all walks of life. I’m not saying he was my friend, but he appears to be a very likable fellow. I wish he was my friend. Sigh. Wait a second?! His wife’s name is Ashley, and my wife’s name is Ashley. That makes us blood brothers right?
Thank you for that legendary season in 2013. A statistical masterpiece. It was like Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Dr. Dre’s Nuthin But A G Thang. A master-class of quarterbacking, if you will. Creeping up on the ripe old age of 40, Peyton obliterated league records and put up mind-boggling numbers. Seven touchdowns in the first game of the season. A record. 12 touchdowns through the first three. A record. Finished the season with 55! A crazy record! Threw for a league record 5,477 yards. Four receivers had double-digit touchdowns, another record. Broncos scored 606 points, an obvious record. Guess what else was obvious? That he won the league MVP, his fifth. Naturally, another record.
Thank you for going to the extra mile for even the common fan. Quick story. I have a couple good friends who got married a few summers ago. I won’t give you their real names to maintain their anonymity, so we will call them bride and groom. The bride was born in Denver so is a naturally a Broncos fan. Without her knowing, the groom reached out to Peyton Manning and invited manning to his wedding. Manning did not attend. I WOULD HAVE FREAKED OUT IF I DID THE CUPID SHUFFLE WITH PFM!. But instead of just ignoring the groom’s request and going on with his busy life, Manning took a moment and filmed a short video for the bride. On camera, he recorded a message for the bride, apologized for not being able to come to her wedding, and wished her and the groom a lifetime of happiness. The groom gave the video message to his future wifey on the morning of their marriage. Imagine waking up on your wedding day, and getting a video gram from PFM? Well done groom and well done Peyton Manning. What a nice fellow.
Thank you for having the nickname PFM. Peyton Fucking Manning. Wow. I have never cussed in a Cohn Zone article before. But it felt right. It felt good. Sorry Mom, but I had to do it. PFM. Coolest nickname ever. Ironic, that this wholesome role model, an ambassador of the league, has an F-bomb in the middle of his nickname. That’s legit.
Thank you for changing the way the quarterback position is played. I’m no historian, but I am going to attribute the hurry-up offense to Mr. Manning. Also, he did more pre-play diagnoses of defenses than any other human being that has ever lived. He already knew where he was going to throw it before he snapped the ball. The Miss Cleo of the quarterbacking world. A tactical surgeon. Dissecting defenses like I dissected a frog in the fifth grade. That was memorable biology class. So was watching Peyton’s artistry on the field.
Thank you for placing the Denver Broncos smack dab in the middle of the national spotlight. When Peyton is your quarterback, the football world takes note. And he was ours. He chose us. He rocked a Broncos jersey for four years. My goodness he will be missed.
Thank you for winning us another championship. First quarterback EVER to win a ship as the starting QB for two different franchises. That Super Bowl 50 W felt good. Holy moly, that was a great day. And lets be real. Peyton didn’t even play good in the Super Bowl. Worst statistics ever for a starting quarterback that hoisted the Lombardi trophy. But it was perfect to be honest, because his performance was a microcosm of the entire season. Manning was sub par all season. One of worst quarterbacks in the league. That’s weird to say, but he was not vintage Peyton. But the Broncos didn’t need him to be vintage Manning, and that’s why it’s so beautiful. The team that was built around him, was built to win, and the Broncos didn’t need Peyton’s all time best. He is perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time , and in a season when he was not his greatest, he was still able to ride off into the sunset, and retire a Super Bowl champion. Thank you Peyton. These last for years were a great ride, and I will never forget what you did for the Denver Broncos. Thank you.