After hanging my head in shame for the past week, I’m going to stand up like a man and admit that I don’t blame Peyton Manning for the worst loss in Denver Broncos history. It was popular to bash the talented quarterback for his performance in Super Bowl XLVIII, and even more popular to defend him like a film nerd defends Woody Allen. But while Manning deserves some of the blame for what happened in New York well over a week ago, I don’t blame him for the loss. I just blame him for being such a dick about it.
John Fox and his coaching staff deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the humiliation the Broncos and its fans were served up by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. The first play aside, it was clear the Seahawks had the Broncos number (Richard Sherman admitted they knew the plays) and Fox and friends made NO ADJUSTMENTS WHATSOEVER. Or at least none the viewers could see through splayed fingers over the face. So if anyone should take the brunt of the blame for the atrocity that was committed at Met Life Stadium, it should be John Fox. And I feel so strongly about that, I think the Broncos should fire him immediately.
But that, is a debate for another day.
Manning is now the face of the Denver Broncos. Not John Fox. Whether he likes it or not he, along with John Elway, define the team publicly and when you represent the Broncos, on the field and in Papa John’s ads, you assume the bulk of the blame. As stated, Manning was just a small part of the problem and had he gotten any support at all from his offensive line and defense, we could be singing a different tune about his legacy and hard work in coming back to reach the NFL’s highest stage.
But Manning’s refusal to accept blame for any of it should leave a sour taste in even the most diehard Broncos fan’s mouth.
After being asked if he was embarrassed by a game that was mortifying to every Bronco fan on the planet, Manning refused to say he was embarrassed. He went the route of scornfully claiming that everyone playing was a professional and there was no embarrassment necessary for athletes who came so far. Fair point. And I understand what he was getting at, but to deny it was embarrassing, was frankly, embarrassing. Did he not see the game? I watched it, and as a long-time fan of the team, it was shit-your-pants-in-front-of-an-ex-girlfriend embarrassing. It was humiliation personified on a football field and to not accept it as such, speaks volumes about the character and motivation of Peyton Manning.
I used to dislike Manning because he routinely dismantled all of those Mike Shanahan led Broncos teams back when he played for the Colts. I appreciated his talent and always counted him among the best, but I never liked his golden boy affectation that everyone seemed to gobble up. I rooted against him when he beat up on the Rex Grossman led Bears in Super Bowl XLI, and certainly was thrilled the Saints won in Super Bowl XLIV. But like all typical fans of sports teams, I welcomed him with open arms when he signed with the Broncos. I didn’t know if he was bringing the Broncos back to glory, but it certainly was a start I was on board with.
Peyton became OUR quarterback and he even admitted as much during Media Day during the Super Bowl. He stated how he wasn’t exactly comfortable his first season but now had found his groove and was a Denver Bronco. I believed it just like you. But Manning isn’t a Denver Bronco. Ray Borque was way more of a Colorado Avalanche than Manning is a Bronco simply because he won the Stanley Cup – also in his second season with the team – when he hadn’t done it before.
Manning has already won a Super Bowl so it’s not like this is new territory for him. His motivation is not to win another Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos, but another Super Bowl for the supposed greatest QB of all time. And if it was for the Tennessee Titans or the Arizona Cardinals, it wouldn’t have mattered because all that concerns Manning is that it goes on HIS Hall of Fame bust. I do believe this loss had to have been deeply personal to Manning – some would have called it embarrassing - but if you think he cares one lick about what it means for the Denver Broncos and its fans, you drank too much orange kool-aid and should have your stomach pumped.
Peyton could have stepped up and put the blame on himself – no one would have believed it and he would have been hailed as a hero for deflecting the heat from his awful, awful head coach. But he didn’t. He stayed the course as he usually does in these situations and acted like a father who refuses to accept the sexuality of his gold lamé wearing, figure skating son. Or football playing son. Shout out to Michael Sam!
And because of that attitude and the fact that the Denver Broncos have set course on a one way trip with Peyton Manning, the team has now achieved what I would have otherwise thought impossible: making me not give a shit anymore.
I’ve typed the word “embarrassing” many times throughout this piece but it doesn’t do justice to how I actually feel. The day after the Super Bowl I saw dozens of people wearing Broncos gear like grinning morons who send their pension checks to televangelists. Wearing anything Broncos related is the farthest thing from my mind right now. I’m so ashamed of the team’s performance that putting on anything with the logo and having someone talk to me about it, seems like a fate worse than death. So yeah, Peyton may not be embarrassed but I am to such a degree I may never wear anything with the team logo again. I don’t want anyone to know I put so much of my time and energy into a team that failed so spectacularly. Call me “not a fan,” but if you’re not questioning that loss with the bitterness of a million Fox News viewers, maybe you’re the one who needs to reevaluate your grip on reality. And if Peyton Manning’s time in Denver ends up being just a giant flame out, the organization should be very concerned that that feeling will start to spread to other fans like a stomach virus in a lousy daycare.
The sad part is the Broncos were a battered team who were obviously living on borrowed time when they met up with the Seahawks on that day. A healthy Denver Broncos team may have fared far differently had some of the injury bounces went their way this season. But as a fan, and I’m sure as an organization, you can’t dwell on that. But while most of us bowed our heads in shame and accepted our fate on that Sunday in New York, all we wanted was for Peyton Manning to have done the same with us.