Peyton paranoia is spreading.
When moving trucks arrived at the star quarterback's house a couple of mornings ago speculation ran rampant that he was plotting his escape from the Broncos. A silly idea considering the great one still stands to earn nearly $20M per season to stick around. Fueling the drama were media reports that Manning's ties to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (who was a booster at Tennessee) could mean an executive position for number eighteen within that organization.
Even though it has been well over two weeks now since Denver's now famous collapse in the Super Bowl, Broncos Country is still reeling. The Broncos are still the topic of choice on sports talk radio and the fans are still sorting through the rubble of a season that, in the course of one game, became a disaster.
The Johns, Fox and Elway, faced the music the Tuesday following the game in their obligatory post-Super Bowl press conference but the man folks most associate with Denver's success and / or failure has been nowhere to be found. Peyton Manning's silence in the wake of the worst loss in team history is deafening. Where has the quarterback been?
Perhaps Manning is not obligated by any NFL or team rule to sit down with the media once the season ends, but he owes it to Broncos fans to speak. We need to hear from him that he's in it to win it next season, that the loss hurt him, too, and that he feels our pain. He needs to say that he has embraced Colorado and that he is one of us. Even if it's bullshit. Manning's demeanor and body language throughout the Super Bowl communicated a lack of the leadership he is so famous for and his lack of culpability since has only amplified it.
The media is at Manning's beckon call. Any outlet in Colorado would happily push aside whatever it had on the docket to facilitate a Manning interview. He could sit down with Vic Lombardi or Drew Soicher. He could phone in and speak to Dmac or to Nate Kreckman. He could grant an interview to Mike Klis. Manning could do any of those things and probably quell the Peyton paranoia in a fell swoop. But he has done no such thing.
Peyton Manning is more than just a player - more than a quarterback. He is the piece around which the Denver Broncos are constructed. His face is the face of the organization, in the eyes of its fans and in the eyes of America. By not speaking to his failings in the biggest of big games Manning has shirked responsibility and that flies in the face of what he is presumed to be - a leader.