Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Manning to the Broncos

“I was really happy with his progress.  I know Tim is going to work hard this offseason, and we’re hoping that he’s going to be the guy for a long, long time.”

- John Elway, February 24, 2012

It appears that the new definition of “long, long time” is 24 days.  Various reports have indicated that former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has instructed his agent to negotiate solely with the Denver Broncos, spurning the offers from the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers.  I wasn’t shocked when the decision came down, despite my belief that Manning fit better with other teams.  It was clear the Broncos organization was offering everything under the sun to obtain him.  Within minutes of the decision being made public, my text messages and Twitter blew up with friends trying to contact me wanting my opinion.  Yesterday I just wasn’t ready to respond.  Today…I am.

First and foremost, I want it to be known that I am not arguing with bringing in an all-time great quarterback to hopefully lead the Broncos back to the Super Bowl.  I would be a fool to not want a player of that caliber on the team I have followed since birth.  Please keep that in mind as I continue because it may not seem like it at times.

I am disgusted by the total lack of loyalty within professional sports.  It has never been clearer that loyalty no longer exists.  The Colts cut Manning after 14 years with the franchise.  The Lakers traded Derek Fisher after 13 of 16 seasons with the team.  John Elway committed to Tim Tebow, after showing a complete lack of faith all season, then openly recruiting Manning weeks after thus finding a way to ship Tebow out.  It’s a business.  I get it.  I just find it wildly hypocritical that so many experts and front office executives complain about players not showing loyalty and staying with teams, but then refuse to look in the mirror and admit they are even more disloyal than the people they are complaining about.  Why couldn’t the Colts organization talked with Manning and asked him to restructure his deal, maybe just for a season, and still draft Andrew Luck to study behind him?  Why couldn’t the Lakers trade an equally worthless Steve Blake, showing loyalty to Fisher and asking him to retire at season’s end?  Why can’t Elway keep his word to Tebow that he’d have next season to improve?  If it didn’t work next season, then move on.  Loyalty and honesty seem like dirty words in the sports world nowadays.

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows that I am the furthest thing from a Peyton Manning fan there is.  I absolutely respect his skills and acknowledge the fact that he is one of the five greatest quarterbacks in history.  (My rankings: 1. John Elway, 2. Tom Brady, 3. Joe Montana, 4. Peyton Manning, 5. Steve Young).  There’s just something that annoys me about him.  It started during his senior year at Tennessee.  My brother was such a supporter of his Heisman campaign that when Michigan stud Charles Woodson won the award, he wore a black arm band in protest of the decision.  I still believe that Woodson was by far the best college player of that season.  Manning may have deserved it for a lifetime achievement, but that is not what that award is about.  Woodson led an undefeated Michigan team by playing shutdown defense, big plays and receiver and as a kick returner.  He led his team to a National Championship, something Manning was unable to accomplish (yet they won the season after he left under quarterback Tee Martin).  I don’t know why this sparked my distaste for Manning but it hasn’t left me…and it has been 15 years!  I’ve cheered against him at every level.  I will argue that despite all the records and talent he’s had around him, he isn’t as good as Tom Brady, who won rings with far less talent.  My distaste could come from the humiliating losses Manning handed the Broncos in two playoff games.  It could just be his goofy demeanor.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I am not a fan.  Never have been and never will be.  Just because he is in a Broncos uniform doesn’t mean I can flip a switch and cheer for him.  It has too much of a bandwagon feel to it for me.  Maybe I’ll launch a personal Broncos Boycott, simply because I can’t cheer for the guy.  I doubt I’ll take it there.  I’ve been a Broncos fan for 34 years.  I can’t change.  I was born right before the 1977-78 season, which was their first Super Bowl appearance.  I’m conflicted and I don’t like it.  So to answer a sarcastic question I’ve been asked many times, no, I will not be buying a Peyton Manning Broncos jersey.

From Manning’s perspective, I don’t quite understand the choice of Denver.  San Francisco seems like a great choice.  They have a top defense, a stud running back and a strong group of weapons.  Vernon Davis looks amazing with Alex Smith.  Can you imagine him with Manning?  They also just signed Randy Moss and could have been an amazing connection.  I truly think Manning would have made them Super Bowl favorites.  Arizona would have been a good choice, simply because throwing to Larry Fitzgerald sounds like a great option.  Add in their dome and you have a Manning-friendly environment to play.  Tennessee has a great running back and a solid defense.  The receiving options are somewhat questionable, but if Kenny Britt returned from injury at a high level, they could have been a great connection.  Miami, before the Brandon Marshall trade, would have made sense.  They would have had a top five receiver, a great weapon out of the backfield with Reggie Bush and a solid tight end in Anthony Fasano.  They have a top ten defense and could have contended with the Jets and Patriots for the division.  The choice of Denver is such an odd one, to me.  The outdoor stadium with tricky Colorado weather doesn’t sound like the optimum choice.  The aging running back and inexperienced receiving core doesn’t sound appealing.  They have a young and good offensive line, anchored by Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin, but they lapsed at times.  It just seemed like an odd choice.  Does this all boil down to hero worship?  Was John Elway’s presence really the deciding factor?  I can’t help but wonder if Elway begged Manning to come so he could relieve himself of Tim Tebow.  It’s not out of the realm of possibilities, is it?

I’m also shocked by the reported terms of the contract.  From everything that has been reported, the Broncos will be paying Manning $96 million over the span of 5 seasons.  If he was coming off of a strong season, I’d get it.  He’s coming off of four neck surgeries instead.  I know there will probably be provisions in the deal, but it is still a massive risk.  I know what your response will be; “It’s Peyton Freaking Manning!”  Do we know that it really is Peyton Manning?  Are the Broncos getting the record setting Manning or are they getting a depleted version?  If they are getting the strong, accurate and dominant Manning then the deal is great.  There’s a huge question mark, though.  It is one thing to throw the ball at Duke University but it is another thing to hear the footsteps of Tamba Hali, Jerome Harrison or any other defensive lineman coming from the blind side.  How does he react?  Does he panic and throw a bad ball?  He’s not the most mobile guy and we all saw how well an immobile Kyle Orton react to pressure given up by the Broncos offensive line.  One massive hit could end this whole thing and where does that leave the Broncos?  It leaves them with…

Here is where this plot thickens.  Within minutes of the report that Manning would sign in Denver, the second part of the story comes that the Broncos will try and trade incumbent starter Tim Tebow.  Wait, what?  Did Elway simply use the Manning name as a conduit to rid himself of Tebow?  It’s by far the easiest way to push him out of town and not upset the local love that Tebow has garnered.  This is where I get completely frustrated and angry at the Broncos organization.  I feel lied to.  I feel like they have been saying all the right things but more than willing to contradict themselves if the opportunity presented itself.  Is there a logical reason to trade Tebow, other than that Elway and the coaches did not want to follow through on their word to help make this kid a better quarterback?  I don’t comprehend why you wouldn’t keep a quarterback who has gone 9-7 as a starter, with the same group of players (minus their best receiver in Brandon Lloyd) that went 4-14 with Orton as a starter.  Tebow helped take them from a laughingstock to 2011-12 AFC West Champions and an improbable win against the Steelers in the playoffs.  If he’s the back-up, he gets a chance to learn behind two of the top five quarterbacks in history and has shown the ability to win games.  Why wouldn’t you want a winner on your team?

Last season the Denver Broncos coaches showed an ability to adapt and be creative with the offense.  It worked.  It took a horrible running game and took it to the best in the league.  Willis McGahee looked like he was fulfilling his potential at the age of 30.  I hate to break it to him but Tebow is the reason. Tebow put him in the right spots to succeed and he had his best season since 2007.  I would encourage the Broncos to keep Tebow and cultivate their creativity with a Manning-Tebow duo.  I can only imagine how effective a Manning run hurry-up offense followed by a Tebow led punishing running style could work.  Defenses would be tired and beat up quickly, especially in the thin Denver air.  They could line Manning up in the shotgun with Tebow next to him and let the fun begin.  Defenses would not know what to do.  Hypothetically, Manning could toss to Tebow and let him run or pass.  It could work with a fake pitch to Tebow and let Manning pick a defense apart.  They’d be on their heels!  There are so many options that we’ll sadly never see because Elway is too singularly focused on making sure he jettisons Tebow from the franchise. It’s sad.

I have found so many comments from analysts and “experts” interesting over the last 24 hours.  The one that sticks out to me is that, while questioning Manning’s decision, they are saying the Broncos receivers aren’t very good.  Hold the phone!  Are you telling me that the same receivers that Tebow had last season weren’t very good?  The same receivers that dropped multiple passes, yet the full brunt of the blame was on Tebow, are not very good?  So for Manning these receivers aren’t very good, but for Tebow they were good and he wasn’t getting them the ball?  Welcome to Hypocrisy and Inaccurate Reporting 101.  Your professors are sports journalists throughout the country.  Let’s just admit it right here and now.  The journalists and analysts who are so anti-Tebow dug in before he ever played a snap in the NFL with their “he can’t play” mantra and were never going to change.  Despite winning games, unorthodox as they were, they were always going to blame him for anything they could.  Dropped pass?  His left handed throwing puts a different spin on the ball making it harder to catch.  (Yes, that was a real comment I heard many times.  I don’t remember that problem with Steve Young or Mark Brunell.)  It’s just people looking for reasons to attack his game.  “He’s not getting the ball to his receivers.”  Now that Manning is signing, those receivers aren’t good.  Thanks for the consistent reporting guys.  Keep up the biased work.

I’ve also been shocked and saddened by how quickly fans have turned on Tebow.  Believe me I understand that it’s the name Peyton Manning.  I completely and totally get it.  How can these same fans that professed their belief by chanting and putting up billboards begging for Tebow, completely turn their back on him?  Let’s call a spade a spade, he took an irrelevant and joke of a franchise into the biggest sports story of the year.  We watched a real life Disney movie, but so far this sequel sucks.  The Denver Broncos went from the AFC Championship game in 2005 under Jake Plummer.  That offseason, Mike Shanahan developed a crush on Jay Cutler and forced Plummer to the bench despite being 7-4 and in control of their playoff chances.  The following seasons with Cutler resulted in failure to make the playoffs, Shanahan’s firing, Cutler being shipped to Chicago, McDaniels coming in, Spygate Junior, Orton’s mediocrity and a joke of a team.  Tebow came in and gave hope to a franchise and city that had been spoiled in the Elway era.  He was 9-7 as a starter in his first 16 games and put up stats that while not always pretty, were better than Brady, Young and Elway’s first 16 starts.  How quickly the fans and front office forgot such recent history.

I’m not going to blast Broncos teammates that have jumped up for joy with the Manning signing.  It’s hard not to get excited for a future Hall of Fame player joining your team.  However, there have been comments that didn’t sit well (looking at you McGahee), but I want to thank stud rookie linebacker Von Miller for echoing some of my views:

“I'm hoping that some way, or somehow, we can work it out and somehow keep Tim there.  If he could just learn one or two things from Peyton, I think Tim would be one of the best one or two quarterbacks in the league. I think with Tim's personality and Tim's work ethic, it doesn't matter who's going to come in. He's going to go out there and compete.  In my opinion, I think that it can be a co-existence."

It’s a nice thought that there can be co-existence, but unfortunately the front office appears set on sending Tebow packing so they can move forward with their prototype quarterback and carbon copy offense.

The crux of the Tebow problem is that NFL front office personnel and coaches live in a black and white world.  Things are done a certain way.  Quarterbacks look and throw in a certain way.  No other way could possibly work.  Yet Tebow showed in his first 16 starts that things aren’t always black and white, they can be seen in beautiful Technicolor.  I’m sure the first time a forward pass was unveiled the league went nuts.  The shotgun formation was a wild change.  The hurry up offense blew minds.  The 4-6 Buddy Ryan defense was revolutionary as was the zone defense.  There have been so many innovations and differences over the years.  At some point someone has to admit that football is not black and white.  For all we know, Tebow is to football what Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense was to the NBA.  We may never get a chance to know because so few NFL executives have the guts to try it.  My hope in all of this is that Denver trades Tebow (which kills me because I know he is capable of leading the Broncos, but I am tired of Elway’s disrespectful way of treating Tebow) to the New England Patriots.  I can only imagine the creativity of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels (yep, the guy who drafted Tebow) using Tim in great ways all while coaching him and learning behind Tom Brady.

I don’t think I’m asking for anything unrealistic here.  I want to see loyalty in sports.  I want people to speak words that can be believed.  I want coaches to coach.  I want players to improve.  I want to see creativity.  I want to see Tim Tebow learn the game from Peyton Manning and John Elway.  I want to see the Broncos offense utilize both players’ strengths making it difficult to plan for them.  I want quarterbacks who come from the state of Tennessee (Manning-UT, Cutler-Vanderbilt) to stop taking over for players I am a huge fan of (Plummer, Tebow).  I want to see an NFL executive realize that past the obvious marketability of Tebow, that the kid can play and win football games.  I want a team to commit to Tebow so that he can excel in a positive environment.  I want a million dollars.

Sadly, nothing above seems to be realistic.  We’re stuck in a black and white sports world where nothing is as it seems.  Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear when it comes to the daily press conferences.  You can’t listen to any of the analysts, journalists or “experts” as they know just about as much as we do.  They may have “sources” but who really knows what that means.  It could be his kid or it could be legitimate.  You just take it with a grain of salt and wait for something official to be said by the player.  At the end of the day, sports franchises fear what they don’t know and don’t understand.  I think they are afraid to think outside of the box.  Tebow will always be out of the box, whether coached or not.  He’s a quarterback, but also a playmaker.  I also believe that Elway didn’t truly want to work with Tebow, preferring to sit in his office or standing on the sideline not having to work.  Elway didn’t believe in Tebow from the start and now he gets to ship him out.  His actions clearly speak louder than his words.  So congrats Johnny Boy, you got your wish.

You know what?  I think I hate sports…

No comments:

Post a Comment