With the Denver Broncos set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers, is it possible that this will be the last charge of Peyton Manning and his Immortals?
There is no denying that, for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, this feels like one last ride. It started to feel like that one last ride at Elitch’s after too many hotdogs and beers. Broncos Country was getting a little queasy watching the Sheriff look more like Barney Fife than Andy (Google it). And the sun had seemingly set on the Hall of Fame career of one of the greatest to play the game.
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Manning’s struggles during the season are well documented. Brock Osweiler filled in admirably. He was better than Bubby Brister. Even with all of his steadiness, Denver erupted when The Sheriff strode out onto the field to take over against San Diego. His return was just like a well scripted movie, and Manning was the inspirational lift that helped push the Broncos to the number one seed in the AFC.
Sure, it has been a great ride, but without hoisting a Lombardi Trophy, Peyton’s days in Denver will always feel a little empty. I hate to use the word “failure,” but is that not why John Elway went out and signed Manning? Is one more chance at Super Bowl glory the only reason PFM went through rehab hell? And so, without an interview with Jim Nantz on a stage with confetti raining down, won’t we have to call the Manning experiment a bust?
What is Manning’s legacy going to be? That Lombardi trophy looms large.
The final journey begins on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Manning will lead the Broncos out onto the field, and Broncos Country will hang on every play. The excitement is palpable. Butterflies are building in the stomach of the fans. It feels like 1997. John Elway had to do it the hard way that year, but every game of the playoffs felt like it could be the last time we got to see the greatest quarterback of all time. He gave us an encore performance.
There is no reason to think Peyton will be coming back next year, which gives even more urgency to the story. Manning has been great for the Broncos. Colorado has embraced him like a long-lost son. John Elway will never be replaced in the hearts of Broncos Country, but Peyton Manning can cement his legacy with one last run.
That’s a tricky word, “legacy.” What is Manning’s legacy going to be? That Lombardi trophy looms large. Sure, he has a victory in the Super Bowl, but Manning’s story will seem incomplete without bringing a Super Bowl to Denver. He was given a mission when he was signed by Denver. His job was to win it all and ride off into an orange and blue sunset. The script is written, can Manning and the Broncos get the job done?