Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos right about now must collectively feel like one of the few clean also-rans during Lance Armstrong’s seven-straight Tour de France wins, slapping themselves lightly on the forehead and saying, “I could have had a PED cocktail.”
This was supposed to the Broncos’ Super Bowl, but just like the Colorado Rockies got Man-rammed by the Boston ‘Roid Sox in 2007, the Broncos got deer-sprayed by Ray Ray and his Ravens en route to Peyton Manning’s second coronation. At least those Rockies, including Peyton’s good buddy Todd Helton, made it to the big dance before getting rail-roided.
True, Manny was just being Manny when the juiced-to-the-gills, beer-guzzling BoSox bullied the Rockies in ’07, but Ray Lewis got away with murder and already has one Super Bowl ring. He doesn’t deserve another one after allegedly bathing in deer-antler extract and recording 17 tackles as his Ravens upset the Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs last month.
Doesn’t the dude recognize destiny in the making when Manning recovers from four neck surgeries, rattles off 11 straight regular-season wins and secures the home-field playoff advantage all the way to his hometown of New Orleans? Really, you gotta rely on reindeer resin, Ray Ray? God must have shown you that particular light.
The Broncos, meanwhile, were caught like deer in the headlights of “Deer-spray” Ray and his really, really lucky Ravens. Down by seven with 31 seconds left, some statisticians put the chances of Baltimore making the Super Bowl at 1.4 percent.
Broncos’ safety Rahim Moore whiffed on Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco’s pop fly and made it 100 percent certain that Broncos’ coach John Fox, who lacks the slyness of his namesake and boasts a style more conservative than Rick Santorum, would derail Denver’s destiny.
That may have been the 36-year-old Manning’s best, most realistic shot at capturing his second Super Bowl. He’s proven to be “the best regular season quarterback of all-time,” according to a blowhard on ESPN who has a Manti-like man crush on Tim Tebow. And Manning is a very mortal 9-11 in the playoffs, including 0-4 when the temperature is below 40 degrees.
Next year’s Super Bowl? New Jersey, where frigidity is a foregone conclusion. Even another great sibling-rivalry storyline like the Harbaugh coaching clash – a Manning-bro reunion in the Big Apple – would be spoiled by the fact that Peyton just can’t play in the cold, glove or no glove. So that means Broncos’ fans have to wait until Phoenix hosts the big game in 2015, when Peyton will be 38.
That’s how old Broncos’ Vice President of Football Operation John Elway was when he won the second of his back-to-back Super Bowl rings. Not saying lightning can’t strike twice, but Elway was the oldest starting QB to win a Super Bowl. The trend in the NFL this season is youth at the position, not age and robotic immobility.
For instance, Colin Kaepernick, the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, is just a second-year player. There’s a chance the dynamic new superstar, whom the Niners acquired with a pick conveniently provided by Elway in his first ever draft-day trade, may make Ray Ray look like Bambi’s mom on Sunday.
There are some who say Bronco Nation needs to get over its collective hatred of Pat Bowlen’s near-franchise-wrecking miscalculation known as Josh “Mistake” McDaniels, the youthful, hoodied coach who inexplicably selected Tebow in the first round of the 2010 draft.
Seriously? I say McDiapers cost the Broncos a shot at some of the truly talented young quarterbacks who electrified the NFL this season. While watching in slack-jawed amazement as Tebow redefined the position for three quarters (then started playing OK in the fourth), Broncos’ fans became addicted to football’s equivalent of Marx’s “opiate of the masses.”
By subjecting Denver to the Cult of Tebow, McDaniels forced Elway to play Gator Boy in 2011, and when Broncodom finally woke up in a slavering post-Tebow quasi-coma, it was too late. The first and second picks in the 2012 draft – Andrew Luck and RGIII – had slipped through Elway’s fingers. Of course, like Kaepernick, Elway still could have also had Russell Wilson.
Regardless, the Tebow Era, brief as it was, really only gave us the “Is he dating Lindsey Vonn?” storyline that now seems quaint compared to “Is she dating Tiger tale?” And in the end, all the Manning Era is likely to give us are bunch of inflated, Favre-esque regular-season stats that don’t result in anymore Lombardi trophies at Dove Valley.
Unless Beltin’ Helton – a De Niro-like deer hunter from way back and Peyton’s backup at the University of Tennessee – busts out his stockpile of antler velvet and really gets the party started at Broncos’ HQ. Until then, Elway, Manning, Fox and Moore will be wearing goat horns from this season, and those don’t really do much for you. Just ask Ray Ray.