Hello, Broncos Fans. I comment over at StampedeBlue and shared this with them, but since Peyton is now Denver's QB and surely a lot of you feel the same way about him as I did when he played for us, I figured I would pass this on as well. I have nothing but respect and admiration for everything Peyton did for Indianapolis and my imagination was running particularly wild when I wrote this, so yes it's a conspiracy theory story about Peyton sabotaging the Colts but please know it is entirely fictional and meant to make you laugh, nothing more. I hope you enjoy it.
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While the Peyton Manning Era didn't officially begin until 1998, our story goes all the way back to 1971. Cher had a number one single on the radio, Richard Nixon was President and good ol' Archie Manning was drafted to play quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. Archie embarks on a career that goes absolutely nowhere because the Saints never got him any help. Five years later, Archie's second son, Peyton, is born. By the time Peyton begins to develop cognition, his favorite team (the Saints) get rid of his favorite player (his dad) and it is at that very moment that the dream is born. Peyton resolves to become the greatest quarterback of all time. However, having witnessed firsthand that football is the ultimate team game, he realizes he's gotta have help and will need some kind of contingency plan if he doesn't get it.
Fast forward to 1998. Peyton is drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the No. 1 overall pick. Peyton knows the team is going to be bad at first, so he has to find a way to simultaneously lose enough games to get a high draft pick but also post the best season ever by a rookie QB. Astonishingly, he is able to accomplish this. Peyton is the "next big thing" and the Colts draft Edgerrin James with the 4th overall pick in 1999. This coincided with the desires of one Bill Polian, who had been curb-stomped twice by the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl when he was GM of the Buffalo Bills. Polian needed a team that was like the Cowboys, and now he had his own Triplets. Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edge James.
The Colts started lighting up scoreboards like it was nothing, and they didn't need Peyton to do everything. Life was good. But they still couldn't play defense. As the years went on, the Colts were winning more games with scores like 35-34 than 14-10. If Peyton was going to win the Super Bowl, he was going to have to do it by himself. That's why it's incredibly ironic that the one Super Bowl run Indianapolis went on under Manning is filled with nothing but defensive highlights. The one exception is the Patriots game, where Manning had so much to prove that he thrust the monkey off his back, bleeding thumb and all, and stabbed it repeatedly until everyone in the room looked at him like he was crazy. All of the other games he played like a game manager, or worse -- Tony Romo. He was voted MVP of Super Bowl XLI, but some would say he only got the trophy on name recognition and the true star was Rex Grossman.
As a Super Bowl champion, Peyton should have been able to get whatever he wanted. But he didn't. Why? This is where the reasoning behind things starts to become blurry. See, Bill Polian had been to the Super Bowl four times with Buffalo and got swept. All he wanted was one night in the spotlight, and he got that in February 2007 down in rainy Miami. After that, he turned over the reins to his son Chris and began his nepotistic ride into the sunset. He clocked out. But just because your dad sends five teams to the Super Bowl doesn't mean being a good NFL GM is in your blood. Chris was responsible for trading a 1st round pick for Tony Ugoh. He was responsible for drafting Donald Brown when the team had just lost Marvin Harrison for good and Hakeem Nicks was still on the draft board. Worst of all, he was responsible for Jerry Hughes. With a ring already on his finger, Peyton should have been given winners to start a dynasty. Instead he was given busts, and had to win games by himself. Then there was the 2009 season.
The 2009 season brings out a lot of mixed emotions for Colts fans. I can't possibly imagine what the Patriots and their fans went through in 2007 when they lost the Super Bowl at 18-0, but 2009 hurt me a lot and it's probably pretty damn close to what they went through. You see, the Patriots had a shot at immortality and choked. But at least they embraced their shot and gave it their best. Indianapolis had a shot at immortality and had it taken away from them by a douche bag named Bill Polian who made roster decisions from the skybox, where nobody could touch him. It's almost fitting that following this decision, he's been reduced to an ESPN analyst. Being an ESPN analyst means one of two things: You failed in the NFL, you retired from the NFL, or both. Nice going, Bill. However, for Peyton Manning, that benching was the straw that broke the camel's back. There he was, having led a franchise to the most wins in a decade, most consecutive wins, a Super Bowl championship, four MVP trophies, over
9000!!! 300 touchdowns and his very existence got that city's taxpayers to finance and construct a state of the art football palace. And your GM (not your coach) just benches you and the guys who helped you do all of that for what? So Dwight Freeney could get hurt in garbage time of the AFC Championship and not completely, but partially contribute to a Super Bowl loss? Week 16 of 2009 was the day Peyton Manning began to slowly kill the Colts.
His entire life, all Peyton wanted was to be the best. He could die of AIDS sustained from a gay sex addiction five days after he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the only 19-0 Super Bowl winner, with all of Favre and Marino's records beneath his and be completely happy. But Polian intervened and reduced that dream to being just another 18-1 Super Bowl champion. "But not an 18-1 loser like Tom Brady, right?" Peyton thought. That's what hurt the most for Peyton. . . That Brady, the guy he is forever linked to, failed to cash in on 19-0 and now he had a shot at it only to get benched for Curtis Painter. I don't think anyone, even Peyton, knew how bad Painter was. The loyal Colt inside of Peyton died slowly on the sidelines of Lucas Oil Stadium while watching Curtis Painter get strip sacked and seeing the Jets return the fumble for a TD, and the lead. The lead Peyton had worked so hard to obtain for the Colts, gone in a split second. Because Polian needed his arm in the Super Bowl. Only... he wouldn't get it.
The Colts lost to the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 and now had two losses. Still, a 17-2 Super Bowl win is a pretty dominant exclamation point to the season. And a 2-0 record in the Super Bowl would just about put Peyton on even footing with Tom Brady and his (then) 3-1 record. The Saints won the NFC Championship and the matchup was set for Super Bowl XLIV. Peyton's favorite team vs the son of Peyton's favorite player... Peyton himself. It couldn't have been more perfect. The Colts offensive playcalling in Super Bowl XLIV was uncharacteristically bad, and considering that from 2002 onward Peyton basically called his own plays from the line, you're high if you think the coaches called those plays. Peyton threw the game from kickoff.
The halftime onside kick was just a convenient wrinkle that helped him hatch his plan. Peyton Manning knew he was an accurate quarterback and trusted himself to throw a costly interception if he needed to. Down by 7 points with time running out in the 4th quarter, Peyton saw Reggie Wayne covered by Tracy Porter and threw him anyway. Six points the other way, Saints win the ballgame. There was still time left on the clock so Peyton would have to go back out there and try to save face. He had to prove that even after blowing the Super Bowl, he could try to win. With a valiant effort, he drove the Colts to the goal line and failed on fourth down. Luckily, Tracy Porter was high on himself and after the game said he had been
spying studying film of the Colts and knew that play was coming. Okay, so Peyton just got outsmarted. Doesn't happen often, but definitely possible, right? Legacy tarnish averted. You see, the Saints never got Archie Manning any help. But Archie's son got them some help. Peyton's favorite team now had a Super Bowl win.
Like any Super Bowl loser, the Colts scrambled to figure out why. For some reason, Bill Polian targeted the offensive line. Players were scapegoated and cut, yet Polian didn't address the line in the draft. Peyton noticed. Having had his shot at 19-0 immortality stolen by Polian, Peyton was no longer Mr. Colts. The 2010 season started and the Colts traveled to Houston, Texas for a Week 1 showdown with the division rival Texans. The line did a piss poor job of protecting Peyton and he almost didn't get up off the turf after one big hit. I like to think that while he was down, something like this occurred:
He had received his vision that he needed out of Indy. Even before the big hit in Houston, there were rumors about Peyton's neck being hurt. No one believed them because he was still posting 4,000 yard, 33 TD seasons, but they ended up being true. The talent was dwindling in Indy and if he wanted to achieve his dream of being the best quarterback of all time, he'd have to go to another team. No QB had ever won the Super Bowl with two teams. If he won with another team, he'd by default be better than Tom Brady and any other QB for that matter. But Peyton couldn't look like the bad guy. What point is there in being the best QB ever if you're also tagged as the guy who took a dump on the franchise that drafted you? He had to deflect the blame on someone else. Meanwhile, Jim Irsay got bored counting his billions and
became Batman discovered Twitter. . . .
It was the perfect out. As the Colts' owner posted tweet after LSD-flashback-inspired tweet, Peyton began to execute his contingency plan. In the
NFL minor league NCAA, Andrew Luck was lighting it up at Stanford. Draft experts everywhere had him as the No. 1 pick and the surest thing at QB since Peyton himself. As the NFL season went on, the Colts and Manning weren't playing like themselves. Per usual, half the roster was injured. Manning himself was injured but no one would admit it. However, on the strength of Peyton's talent alone, the Colts made the playoffs. They would play the New York Jets on Wild Card Weekend. After a terrible game, Peyton put the Colts in field goal range and Adam Vinatieri nailed a 50 yarder right on the money. Indianapolis just had to survive the end of the game. Only they didn't, draft busts like Jerry Hughes allowed a long kickoff return. Jim Caldwell called a timeout the likes of which had guys like Wade Phillips and Norv Turner laughing their asses off. The timeout enabled the Jets to run another play, in which they were able to complete another pass and get a closer field goal. Nick Folk split the uprights and the Colts were eliminated. With more free time on his hands, Peyton shifted his focus to his plan. He would gift the Colts with a quarterback worthy of taking over for him, sending the franchise into the toilet for a few years while he went somewhere else to win Super Bowls and possibly get another shot at 19-0. Peyton had known Andrew Luck for years since their dads played together on the Houston Oilers in the 1980s. They were friends. Speaking from a position of experience, Peyton advised the younger Luck to stay in school another year and in 2011 when Peyton Manning told you to do something, you listened. Luck remained at Stanford. Now all Peyton had to do was find a way to make the Colts the worst team in the NFL.
Following the 2010 season, Peyton definitely needed surgery on his neck. It was clear that he was still very good, and that an injured Peyton Manning is still one of the best QBs in the league. But everyone could tell he couldn't get the ball downfield the way he used to. Peyton had surgery on his neck. Four times. With that kind of work done, there was no way in hell he would be cleared to play. The Colts desperately clung to the hopes of having Manning return late in the season while the likes of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky lost game after game. Indianapolis finished 2011 an NFL worst 2-14 and was awarded the No. 1 overall draft pick. They had sucked for Luck harder than anyone else. With the No. 1 pick delivered, all that was left for Peyton to do was split town without looking like the bad guy. Easier said than done, until Jim Irsay intervened.
Someone had to answer for a football team not being able to win any games without its quarterback. The entire Peyton Manning era regime was canned. First to go was suprisingly the Polian clan. Next was an assortment of position coaches and other staff. Finally, head coach Jim Caldwell was shown the door. Many of Manning's friends and long-time coaches gone in an instant. "This isn't a good place for healing," Peyton said to the media. Conveniently, the Super Bowl would be held at Lucas Oil Stadium that year. Peyton would have the eyes and ears of every cameraman and sports reporter in the world. Peyton told the world he'd be down with an incentive laden contract because he knew he was coming back from injury, subtly telling Jim Irsay, "Trade the No. 1 for enough picks to make the team good again. I'll play for peanuts. We can do this" whilst knowing that with a player like Luck waiting in the wings, Irsay would cut Manning. On March 7, 2012 that became a reality. Manning was the $23 million dollar elephant in the room and was forced out by Irsay.
For the first time in his NFL career, Peyton Manning was a free agent. It seemed like every team wanted him. After a while Peyton narrowed it down to the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. If Peyton wanted 19-0, the 49ers seemed like a logical choice. They had just come very close to beating the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants and were done in by fumbles on special teams and an inability to convert 3rd downs from the quarterback position. Peyton could help one of those be resolved tremendously. However, he chose Denver. Some believe this is because he didn't want to have to face his brother, Eli, in a playoff game that wasn't the Super Bowl. But the truth is that he chose Denver because they have the best offensive line in the NFL. I mean, look at what Tim Tebow did behind that line! Tim Tebow is a joke who only gets NFL contracts because of what he did at Florida and because those contracts are paid by fat, white men who love Jesus. And since Tebow and J.C. are BFFs, of course NFL owners love him. Peyton could get back to the Super Bowl behind that line. He didn't need 19-0 anymore. He just needed a ring in a different team's jersey. He signed with the Broncos, and best of all, the media made it look like John Elway masterminded the whole thing. Exxxxxellent.
In the end, Peyton Manning pulled the biggest Keyser Soze trick of them all on the NFL and nobody knows about it. He changed the future of Indianapolis, Denver and Andrew Luck for a reason that isn't exactly unclear, but isn't carved in stone either. Who knows, maybe Peyton isn't done playing us all and there's still more to this. Only time will tell.