Denver Broncos quarterbacks (from left) Adam Weber, Peyton Manning, and Brock Osweiler participate in training camp practice on Sunday, July 29, 2012. (Kyle Montgomery/BroncoTalk.net photo)
The last time Peyton Manning was quarterbacking an NFL team, True Grit was topping the American box office.
(Granted, it was the 2010 remake, not the 1969 original, but you get the idea.)
“Tighten Up” by The Black Keys topped the rock charts. Call of Duty: Black Ops was dominating gamers’ televisions. The Colorado Rockies had finished 83-79, hopeful to return to professional baseball’s postseason the next year.
U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was tragically among 19 people shot in Tucson, AZ. Osama bin Laden was still alive.
Today, at least as fat as pop culture is concerned, we find ourselves in the Land of Sequels. The Black Keys are in the Top 10 of the rock charts again, but with a different song on a different album. Call of Duty released Modern Warfare 3 since then and is on the brink of Black Ops II.
And Peyton Manning starts a new chapter in his career, on a different football team.
January 8, 2011 — the last time Peyton played in an NFL regular season game.
Almost to the day, it will be Manning’s first game in a new football uniform in 14 years. No longer an Indianapolis Colt, Manning is a Denver Bronco. It’s Peyton Freaking Manning: The Sequel. And we all have John Elway to thank for it.
The quest for the greatest free agent of all time was epic, spearheaded by Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway as Manning traveled and visited between NFL suitors in Denver, Arizona, Tennessee, and Miami. Sports media — including and especially this here sports blog — tracked Manning’s every move.
Never before had a four-time NFL MVP been available for the taking, and teams were interested in the take. Elway and the Broncos landed him.
But is 20 months too long? The neck is healed, but is the rust off?
Indeed, the Broncos are now seeing if their $90 million investment in the 36-year-old Manning will pay off. The offseason impact has been great. The Broncos are on top of the sports media landscape. They went from middle-of-the-league odds to reach Super Bowl XXLVII to third in the NFL, almost solely based on that one free agent signing.
But those are paper results. The Broncos want on-field results.
“Through all of the hype we’ve been through since Peyton has been here, it’s time now to start playing football, which is the fun part,” Elway said.
Somewhere in between paper and on-field results is Manning’s notable preparation for each and every NFL opponent. It’s an effect that his teammates have noticed and felt, and that work ethic is trickling down the Broncos’ roster.
“He’s a different type of quarterback,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “He came in and changed the system.”
That system — one implemented for the young, unorthodox Tim Tebow — has been abandoned for the detailed passing game of Peyton Manning. The Broncos are betting that age and injury don’t catch up to Peyton Manning in 2012. They’re betting on Manning to repeat the success of John Elway, a Super Bowl winner at age 36 in a Denver Broncos uniform.
But they’ll focus on this Sunday Night against the Pittsburgh Steelers for now. Just Manning seeing the field again is remarkable, and a testament to Elway’s gamble paying off so far.
Said Jim Leonhard, “Peyton Manning coming in, it doesn’t get much bigger than a Sunday night, opening week. It’s going to be a huge game.”
One 610 days in the making.
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