Broncos win the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes
Not to get carried away, but Super Bowl XLVII for the coming season will be played in the Superdome. More specifically, in New Orleans, hometown of star quarterback Peyton Manning.
Denver is Manning's home now. Considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Manning notified Broncos front-office boss John Elway and coach John Fox on Monday morning that he is heading West.
"Gave me a little jump-start," said Broncos receiver Eric Decker. "See if we can make the most of this thing, huh?"
There still was one more step. Manning's notification meant the Broncos had exclusive negotiating rights to tweak and structure a contract that started with parameters of five years and $90 million. Once all suitors agreed in principle to contract terms, money was not an issue in Manning's decision.
Meanwhile, Manning called the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, the other two finalists who were trying to sign the NFL's only four-time MVP, to tell them he had picked the Broncos.
"I tried to look at it objectively and not try to be biased towards my team, the Broncos," cornerback Champ Bailey said of the multi-team, 12-day-long Manning courtship. "But as I was putting it together I always thought we had the best fit for somebody like him."
Why is that? Bailey said the Broncos had the most salary cap room. The defense is promising, anchored by bookend pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. The offensive line is a mix of youth and experience. The team led the league in rushing last season.
"And it doesn't hurt that Brandon Stokley lives here, John Lynch lives here," Bailey said, referring to the former Broncos and friends of Manning.
San Francisco? Its coach, Jim Harbaugh, runs a West Coast offense, and Manning is not a West Coast-type of quarterback.
Fox told Manning during his visit to the Broncos' headquarters on March 9 that the quarterback would be in total control of Denver's no-huddle, pass-moving offense. Fox will worry about the defense.
Tennessee? Manning played his college ball there and his wife grew up in Memphis, but that wasn't enough to sway him.
"The only thing that kind of worried me was the whole Tebow thing," Bailey said. "But I assumed Peyton never got caught up in that."
The Tebow thing. Truth is, there is not all joy in Broncoville. Manning's arrival almost certainly will mean the end of incumbent quarterback Tim Tebow. A rare athlete who became a pop culture sensation in 2011 because of his outspoken faith, linebacker-like playing style, and incredible knack for pulling out wins in the final seconds, Tebow lifted the Broncos from the worst slump in more than 30 years to a playoff team in a span of eight weeks.
"Boo, Elway!" wrote one emailer Monday. "I'm finished with the Broncos!" wrote another.
Manning's history of success, though, is much more substantial. Manning alters the perception of the Broncos from a franchise that had won only two playoff games in the 13 seasons since Elway stepped away from his Hall of Fame playing career to one that is considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Las Vegas Hilton and Casino moved the Broncos' odds of winning the Super Bowl from 60-to-1 in February to 10-1 on Monday. Only three teams Green Bay, New England and New Orleans, have better odds.
From 2002-10, Manning led Indianapolis to an average record of 12-4. They were 10 for 10 in playoff appearances. He was the MVP of the Colts' Super Bowl victory after the 2006 season and he led them to the Super Bowl in 2009.
Then Manning got hurt, missed the entire 2011 season, and the Colts fell to the worst team in football.