As Peyton Manning proceeded to shred the Denver Broncos during the 2003 wildcard playoffs, I sat there in amazement.
Frustration, no doubt, but amazement...
How could one man completely decimate an entire defense? How could he make professional athletes look so foolish? He didn't even have to challenge Champ Bailey, who had given Broncos fans reason to hope for something great. He destroyed the Broncos with Dallas Clark. A tight end. Brandon Stokley, too. It didn't really matter. He just avoided Champ Bailey and picked apart the Broncos defense. It was beautiful, yet painful, yet amazing, yet frustrating to watch. I wasn't even mad, I was impressed... but I was mad.
The Colts had this "hit 'em where they can't defend us" style offense far sooner than Bill Belichick unleashed his Gronkowski, Welker offense.
Oh, how I hated Peyton Manning. It oozed from my blue and orange veins. A hot rage welled within me. Little did I know that this was the first, but not the last time Peyton Manning would cause this level of rage within my bones. He did it the following year, in similar fashion.
Today is March 19th, 2012... all is forgiven.The circumstances with which the Broncos have arrived at today's news are quite interesting. In 2003, we were killed by the Indianapolis Mannings. Mike Shanahan, bless his heart, always thought that the Broncos were one offseason away from a Lombardi Trophy. We went through corner after corner, trying to find that glass slipper that would push us over the Colts and Patriots. We had Boss Bailey, Hamzah Abdullah, Marquan Manuel and Marlon Mcree... do you remember the M & M's? Manual and Mcree. I do.
The late, great Jake Plummer helped the Broncos to the AFC title game. We lost. Jerome Bettis wouldn't be denied. Whatever.
Jay Cutler came along. Finally, another gunslinger that could take us to the promised land. Along with Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, this was a trio we could depend on for the future. We were going to become a year-in-year-out favorite in the AFC West. But then things fell apart.
Mike Shanahan was fired after the Broncos dropped a 3 game lead in the AFC West with 3 games to play. Scheffler said some thing he shouldn't have about wishing the season was over before it actually was. Josh McDaniels was hired.
One phonecall later, Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels are butting heads. There are months of he-said-she-said, concluding with a huge trade to Chicago. Brandon Marshall does some things along the way that starts the ball rolling for his departure, but McDaniels keeps him around because... well... I'm not sure.
Kyle Orton comes along. Poor guy. He was the red-headed step child of the Denver Broncos. He wasn't Jay Cutler and that frustrated a lot of fans. We had just gotten over a bad breakup and we really needed some alone time. We rode a 6-0 start and began to believe, but then the wheels fell off and the Broncos quickly discovered that they weren't playoff material.
Along came Tebow.
The chosen one. The savior of the Broncos. Sure, he wasn't the prototypical QB, but he wasn't Orton. McDaniels continued to start Orton despite investing so much into Tebow because... well... I'm not sure.
McDaniels is fired.
Now what? We've got this Tebow kid who we spent a 1st round draft pick on. We've got Orton who's nursing an injury or maybe he isn't, but he probably is. Eric Studesville, the interim head coach, has nothing to lose. He unleashes the Tebow.
What a rush....
We lost 2 of the 3 games, but MAN... that was something, wasn't it?
John Fox is announced the head coach. He apparently liked Tebow coming out of college. As a fan, I thought, "hmmm, this will be interesting. He liked Tebow. I like Tebow. Let's do this."
Yikes. This experiment won't last long.
Tebow starts. All of a sudden, the Broncos have life. Yeah, he doesn't throw very well. There are a ton of missed passes, but by golly, we're winning games. We're all having fun.
Before you know it, the Broncos are in the playoffs. Then the Broncos win a playoff game, something we hadn't done since the famous AFC Divisional game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A game in which Champ Bailey intercepted Tom Brady in the end zone and had the longest interception return in the history of the NFL that was not a scoring play.
But now, Peyton Manning has been signed by the Broncos. Now, for the first time in my fandom, I'm confused. It's a bittersweet day in Broncos Country. I told people on twitter that today feels like I won the lottery and had my dog die. That's how it feels, in my opinion, and that's how some of you feel, according to the feedback I got today on twitter. It was a business decision when Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall left the Mile High City. This feels different, though. I truly hope that Tim Tebow understands that it's nothing personal (at least I hope it's not personal). This is the NFL and results matter. Apparently, heart, drive, and determination don't mean much. If they did, Tim Tebow can provide that in spades.
But it is Peyton Manning. The man who started it all. He put the Broncos in their place in 2003 and 2004, starting the perpetual carousel of Shanahan Free Agent signings. Today, he comes to help lift the Broncos over their AFC foes.
We've been given an incredible gift, Broncos Country. We have a future hall of fame QB. For the first time since John Elway, we have someone behind center that can live up to the Elway name.
I'm happy for the Broncos. I'm happy for Broncos Country because I know what we've been through. I've been through it. It hurt when Peyton Manning beat us in 2003 and 2004. It hurt badly. 2005 was a pain. I never did like the Steelers and I never will. The offseasons sine that point have been nothing short of exhausting. This year is no different and that pains me...
But maybe... just maybe... this will be the final offseason of hoping for the second coming of Elway.
A Lombardi Trophy will cure all the wounds that Broncos Country has suffered over the past decade. Give it to us, Peyton Manning.
Broncos Country needs it.