The career of arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game is over, ending with a chorus of derisive boos reigning down upon him from Denver Bronco fans who only a few short years ago welcomed him with open arms in the hopes that he would lead their moribund franchise back to the Super Bowl.
And he did, winning forty games in three seasons, following five straight non-winning years for Denver in the process.
But not yesterday. Yesterday belonged to the Indianapolis Colts, his former team, whose quarterback, Andrew Luck, officially began his own pursuit of greatness. Luck may wear Peyton’s former blue and white, and he shows great promise, but he has hundreds of touchdown passes to throw and dozens of fourth-quarter heroics to perform before he’ll be raised to the heights of Peyton Manning.
Until then, Peyton will remain the only quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl for the Colts.
Manning was as well known for his self-deprecating sense of humor–who can forget his hilarious parody of that goofy locker room dance he did on SNL–as he was for pin-point passes settling into outstretched hands, goal-line bound. The epitome of a coach-on-the-field, it seemed he could bend any defense to his will, shouting out true and false audibles until the opponent didn’t know what the hell he was doing and simply lined up in the defense he wanted them in originally.
Can you say OMAHA?
But not yesterday. The tone was set early when a cheap shot at his knees dropped him to the ground. It was the only time all year I saw that happen, so respected is Manning by opponents.
For years the trademark of his career, long perfect spirals nestling into outstretched hands goal-line bound, yesterday landed on the ground a few feet ahead of his receivers. Seven times it happened. Short passes were thrown behind crossing Broncos. Even the usually dependable bubble screens went awry.
It followed a pattern of the last month of the season after Manning suffered a leg injury on December 14th against San Diego.
After the game, Manning fielded questions regarding his future. Non-committal answers from him convince me he’ll retire. Playing with the threat of recurring neck injuries should convince him to do just that.
I hope so.
Few athletes stir memories of greatness. Babe Ruth and Bill Russell and Vince Lombardi and Pat Summitt did. Joe Louis and Billie-Jean King and Mickey Mantle did.
In that pantheon of sports legends, Peyton Manning belongs.
Shame on Denver Bronco fans.
Ohio State took Oregon to the sideline wood shed, handing the Ducks a 42-20 thumping to win the National Championship, settling the question of who had the best college eleven this year. After beating Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon, scoring a total of 143 points in doing so, they validated having four teams play for the title rather than two.
Under the old BCS system, Alabama and Florida State, two teams that lost in the semi-final round, would’ve met for the crown, rather than the teams that beat them, Ohio State and Oregon, respectively.
The tandem of quarterback Cardale Jones and Ezekeil Elliott gained nearly 500 yards between them, running and passing Oregon crazy.
The massive Buckeye line superbly opened holes for Elliott and protected Jones in the pocket. But for four Ohio State turnovers, the final difference could have been even higher.
Following up on big victories on New Year’s Day from Wisconsin and Michigan State, the Big Ten stands once again as the top football conference in the country.