Manning: Super Bowl or super bust?

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning answer's reporters' questions after signing a...

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning answer's reporters' questions after signing a five-year contract with the Denver Broncos. (REUTERS)

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:09 AM ET

The king is dead; long live the king.

Peyton Manning is coming to town. Good-bye and thanks for the memories, Tim Tebow.

Tuesday provided a gusher of praise for Manning and Denver vice-president of football operations, John Elway, after the two agreed to a $96 million contract.

As media tried to find new adjectives to describe Manning’s brilliance, analysts are already predicting the Broncos have just become Super Bowl candidates.

Bill Williamson of ESPN called it the “biggest day in Denver Broncos history since John Elway won his second straight Super Bowl 13 years ago.”

Elway is Denver’s golden boy. An icon. He never believed in Tebow’s potential like he believes in Manning’s legacy. And, his word is gospel. So Manning is in.

“John Elway is a baller,” writes Ashley Page, on ESPN.com. “He was as a player and he has proved to be in just 14 months as the executive leading the Denver Broncos. He tolerated Tim Tebow. He coveted Peyton Manning.

Real recognizes real ... Elway got his guy.”

In Denver’s training facility, Manning stood next to John Elway and team owner Pat Bowlen and held up a No. 18 Broncos jersey, a number retired ever since Frank Tripucka, the team’s first quarterback wore it in 1963.

”We didn’t try to sell him hard, we wanted him to feel comfortable here,” Elway said. “We’re so fortunate to have him here. My goal is to make Peyton Manning the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He’s already made his teammates better ... he’s going to be a tremendous effect on the Denver Broncos.”

He certainly had an effect on the media, which seems to be all in on this decision. Woody Paige, in the Denver Post, pretty much describes this as a love-at-first-sight marriage.

“Manning ultimately decided the overall fit was perfect. He liked owner Pat Bowlen and coach John Fox, the city of Denver, its people and a quality of living for his family. He liked the football environment, the franchise’s tradition, the weather, the team’s promise, a stadium where he has not lost in three appearances, the sellout crowds, the nearby mountains and the small-townlike similarities to Indianapolis, and maybe the return to orange jerseys — as he wore at the University of Tennessee.

“When he chose Tennessee, he went with his gut. He has done that again with Denver,” Paige wrote that a source close to Peyton told him. “And he went with Elway.”

Never mind the cold. The wind. The open stadium. On this day, everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid.

Manning said the usual. He’s “thrilled.”

He’s “excited.”

He’s “looking forward to meeting my new teammates.”

Actually some of those new teammates might be old teammates. His centre for a dozen seasons in Indianapolis, Jeff Saturday, is expected to follow him to Denver. So, too, is former Colts’ tight end Dallas Clark.

Manning’s contract, while humongous if he ever completes all five seasons, actually reflects some of the health concerns that resulted in his departure from Indianapolis. It is reported to include $18 million guaranteed. After that, it’s a series of one-year deals that require him to pass physicals every year.

He reiterated at Tuesday’s press conference that he’s healthy — or, at least as healthy as a 36-year old who has had to regenerate the nerves in his damaged neck can get. “Could I play a game this Sunday? Yeah, I could,” he said. “I don’t know if I could play as well as I would like, but yeah, I could go out there.”

Elway was equally dismissive of any downside. “I don’t consider it much of a risk,” he said.

Unless your name was Tebow, for one day, it was all good. Concerns over whether Manning will last longer than the first sack were swamped by wild optimism. “He has the potential (to take us to the promised land),” veteran running back Willis McGahee told NFL Network. “He should. I’m hoping.”

Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil told the Denver Post that having Manning makes “everybody better. He makes me want to work that much better. To have that type of leader in the locker, to have that type of talent on the field, we’re all ready to share. He’ll have to share with Batman and Robin, baby!”

Manning said he will stay in Denver this week and start learning the Broncos’ offence. Meantime, when the euphoria of signing a four-time MVP dies away, there will also be another reality. That reality is that Elway has taken a huge risk.

One of the few dissenting voices is from former linebacker, Bill Romanowski, who believes the Broncos made a mistake, predicting Tebow will become better with another team and eventually take them to a Super Bowl.

Ultimately, nobody can predict the denouement of this little soap opera. Elway has Peyton Manning, future hall of famer. But the dark cloud looming behind this silver lining is that Elway also has a Peyton Manning who doesn’t know himself what will happen the first time a linebacker treats him with all the respect of a tackling dummy. Elway has a Manning who is 36 years old, a Manning who hasn’t played a down of consequence since Jan. 8, 2011.

If this doesn’t work, this Rocky Mountain High, is headed for some vintage Rocky Mountain Whine.

 


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