Prince Peyton’s Story Comes to An End: A Quarterback’s Fairy Tale [OPINION]
So, it's the fairy tale ending we all hoped for. The hero snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, saves the day, and rides off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
Of course, the hero in our story is a prince named Peyton Manning. Who rode into the Bronco Kingdom four years ago with aspirations of leading the Big Orange to a Super Bowl title. And giving the fans of Bronco Country something to cheer about for the first time in a long time.
When Manning came to Denver, we all knew that it was only the beginning of the end for Prince Peyton who had conquered every mountain, defeated every foe and won a championship. Ultimately, he would own virtually every passing record known to man.
For four thrilling seasons, #18, with his infamous "Omaha" battle call, helped make the Broncos relevant in the NFL again. The first time in the last century when another prince, Prince John, led Denver to back-to-back Super Bowl Championships.
For Broncos fans, Sunday afternoons became fun again. More often than not resulting in a Denver win. In fact, in Prince Peyton's four seasons, the Broncos tasted defeat just 15 times, while drinking from the cup of victory 50 times.
Through a long and successful career, Prince Peyton demonstrated a winning formula for scoring points and winning games. During the 2014 season, the last for Head Coach John Fox, the Broncos grew tired of Peyton's passing ways and decided running the ball would make the Broncos' offense better. It didn't.
The Broncos offense limped to the finish line of the regular season. Though they claimed another AFC West Division title, they would make an early exit in the playoffs for the second time in three years.
A head coaching change after the season would inspire a tougher, meaner, play-making defense. The new head coach, like his predecessor, was not interested in Peyton's passing ways. Insisting rather that running the football was the way to success.
While the aging Prince, was not as capable as his younger days, the real reason for the decline in his performance had more to do with the change in philosophy of the Broncos' offense. Along with the completely inadequate pass protection provided by the offense line. Unfortunately, the Broncos did not run the football as well as they had passed the ball under the direction of Manning. Yet, the cry was “what’s wrong with Manning?”
Never mind that many of his weapons were gone - weapons named Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Brandon Stokely.
Manning's hurry-up, no-huddle, fast-paced offense, calling plays on the fly had stymied defense after defense, season after season, victory after victory. But, then, out came the handcuffs. The "Sheriff", as he became known, was no longer calling the shots. There was a new sheriff in town, and he was going to do things his way - and the rest is history.
Yes, the story had a happy ending. Prince Peyton and his band of merry men triumphed in Super Bowl 50 and became champions of the NFL. The climax to a fairytale season filled with dramatic comebacks and victories, ferocious defense, and injuries ended with a win in what would be the final game of Manning's storied NFL career.
But, Prince Peyton was not the hero of the big game or even the playoffs. We won in spite of him, not because of him, "they" said. Ready to move on from the future hall-of-famer, the cry from Bronco Country was get the prince out of town, and the sooner the better. How quickly they forgot how fruitless the years had been since the last Super Bowl win.
Remember what a dramatic change occurred when Manning donned a Broncos uniform for the first time, at long last bringing hope to the Denver faithful?
Sure the story has a happy ending, and it was most certainly time for the story to end. But the last few pages of the story could have played out better. The Prince deserved better. He deserved trust but got none. Unfortunately, in this fairy tale, there are no re-writes. No do-overs.
Prince Peyton now rides off into the sunset, behind him a career that is likely to never be matched by anyone- ever. Yes, some of the records will be broken, but there will never be another Peyton Manning.
Five years from now, the way the story ended will be but a distant memory. The legacy of Prince Peyton will remain untarnished when the doors of Canton receive him into the shrine. He will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.
The magical fairy tale in Denver is over. There goes Prince Peyton riding off into the sunset...on a Colt. Hmmmm……it’s an orange sunset, though…..and everybody lives happily ever after.