What a day it had been. John Fox sat at his desk, considering the turn of events. Less than twenty-four hours ago, Peyton Manning had held his farewell press conference to say goodbye to the Indianapolis Colts. And just a few minutes ago, Fox had heard that Manning had some interest in the Broncos.
Fox hadn't been seriously considering approaching Manning. Denver's offensive staff had been preparing for the offseason under the assumption that Tim Tebow would continue to be the quarterback in 2012. Mike McCoy and his offensive staff were studying up on the finer points of the zone read, the pistol, the spread, and the many other offensive concepts that were a good match for Tebow's skill sets. They knew that they had only scratched the surface of what could be done with that offensive style, and were looking forward to a full off-season.
But Peyton had floated some interest, and it was worth considering.
Fox gingerly stood up - he had to protect those hamstrings - and walked to John Elway's office. Elway was perusing personnel files as usual.
They enjoyed playing this game every time they saw each other, to see who would crack first. This time, it was Elway: "WHAT?"
"Let's go after Peyton."
Elway also knew that Manning had expressed some interest. "Yeah, that's definitely a thought."
"What do you think?"
Elway leaned back in his chair. "Well. On the one hand. We've got a quarterback. He's a great leader, and he's highly committed to the team. He knows how to win a close game, the fans love him, and it's clear that he's working to improve his skills. I like the guy. On the other hand, Peyton Manning is a certain hall-of-famer. He is definitely worlds better than our existing quarterback, at least with where our QB is in his progression right now."
"Yeah, I'm thinking the same thing. I really like our quarterback, and I'd be sad to see him lose his starting position. But for Peyton Manning... How do you not explore the possibilities?"
"We should at least explore it. There are some possible problems. For one, we don't know Manning's health situation exactly. We'll need to know that."
"Well, he's getting old, and he's either already at his peak or on the way down. Our other quarterback is young, and is getting better - who knows what his ceiling is, and how long his career could be? So there is some opportunity cost we might be giving up on there."
"So it's a matter of how much time it gives us."
"Yeah, if we think there's a good shot of getting more than a couple years out of Manning, then it seems to be a no-brainer."
"Let's go for it."
"I agree. I'll talk to Pat."
Two days later, the news was everywhere that Peyton Manning was visiting the Denver Broncos. Tim Tebow was sitting with his brother Robby as they read the news.
"Huh, what do you think of that, Tim?"
"Huh. Peyton Manning to Denver. That'd really be something."
"But you're the quarterback of the Broncos."
"Well, I probably wouldn't be if they got Manning."
"What do you think would happen?"
"Yeah, that was good of them. You're not upset?"
"Not really - I mean sure, it's disappointing, but I'll either get to learn from Peyton Manning, or I'll most likely be quarterback somewhere else. Maybe I'll get to play right here in Jacksonville."
"Wow, that'd really be something."
"Let's get going - they're waiting for us at the club, and I don't want to disappoint them."
"The press will probably ask you about this."
"Yeah, that's too bad - I don't have any answers anyway. Maybe we shouldn't take questions this time."
"Sounds like a good idea."
Some time later, Peyton Manning met with John Elway and the medical staff. Elway was straightforward with Peyton.
"Obviously, we're very interested. What we'd really like is for this to be something that makes sense for both sides. I'm a quarterback and I feel like I can relate to the feeling of wanting to stay with one organization for your entire career, since that's what I did. This must be a strange experience for you. I can imagine you want stability. We want to give you that stability, while we also want to be protected in case things don't work out."
"I understand completely," said Peyton. "I've prepared my full set of medical records. I'm obviously not comfortable with sharing these with every team out there, so that's why I'm limiting my search only to teams I'm legitimately interested in. I want to make sure that you are as comfortable with me as I would be with you. I don't even want to talk finances right now, I just want to get a good sense of my options and then come to a gut feeling about it all."
"Sounds great," said Elway.
Over the next few days, there continued to be a lot written in the press regarding the twists and turns of the story. The reports that the Broncos were upset mystified John Elway because they knew Peyton Manning was taking the time he needed. The reports that Peyton was practicing a leverage game mystified Manning because he was overwhelmed enough just trying to feel into what would be the best decision for his family - he had no room left over to play power games. And the reports that Tebow was angry mystified Tim Tebow, because he knew that it was out of his control, and knew that Manning would be a huge acquisition for the Denver Broncos.
Finally, Peyton Manning selected Denver. Elway and the front office were overjoyed, because of what it meant for the franchise's future. The joy was tinged with a bit of sadness because they knew what it meant for Tim Tebow, who they genuinely appreciated. Soon, John Elway called Tim Tebow.
"Hi, Timmy. It's John Elway."
"Hi, Mister Elway."
"It's been a heck of a week."
Elway heard laughter at the other end of the line. "Yeah, it has!"
Elway smiled. "Look, Timmy. I'm sorry about how this has played out. You know that we all think the world of you. The impact you had on this team last season was tremendous. I was hired though to make every decision I could to make this team championship-ready. We've brought Peyton Manning in to be our quarterback. It's not that we don't believe in you - we do believe in your commitment and your effort, and I have been looking forward to working with you. It's just... " here, Elway trailed off, having run out of words.
"Mister Elway - it's okay, I understand. I mean, it's Peyton Manning!"
"Yeah. It's Peyton Manning."
"Mister Elway, I respect what you're doing for the organization. My goals are to be the best teammate I can be, and the best quarterback I can be. If there's a way that makes sense for me to stay on the team, I would be happy to. If it makes sense for me and for the Broncos if I were traded, I am open to that to. All I want to do is play football and be an NFL quarterback."
"Thanks, Timmy. We'll explore that, and we'll keep you in the loop. We're interested in finding a solution that works out well for the Broncos, as well as for you - and we'll find it."
"I know you will. Thanks again."
"Again, sorry about how this played out."
"Don't you worry about me, Mister Elway! I'll be fine!" Tim laughed. "God bless."
Okay. I know that this was a little bit boring and dry compared to the various theories that have gone on out there. But that was kind of the point. Sometimes, what appears to have happened is exactly what happened. Sometimes, there isn't any psychodrama. Tebow might not be feeling "betrayed". Elway might not "hate" Tebow. The front office might not feel it was a "circus". Manning might not be some cold calculating businessman.
They might all just be men, doing what's best for them while respecting what is best for other people.