Dear Mr. Manning,
Your time in Denver was very much borrowed. Borrowed from the franchise you resurrected in Indianapolis, borrowed with help from the marvels of modern medicine and borrowed from that oh-so-relentless Father Time.
When you came to the Mile High City in March of 2012, some said your story had already been written. They said your neck would never heal. They said you couldn’t throw a football. They said you were done… How wrong they were to underestimate you.
In a way, your journey has been poetic. You’ve gone from a young Colt to a full-grown Bronco. You came, in the twilight of your career, to become employed by the only quarterback in NFL history to ride off into the sunset with a Lombardi Trophy peaking out of his saddlebag on the way to his new home in Canton, OH.
There was little question for Bronco fans that if you could throw a football you would break every record of significance that an NFL quarterback can hold. When you passed for 252 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers during your first game as a Denver Bronco, the records became a foregone conclusion.
You showed us the best offensive season in the history of this great game. You brought us four division titles and took us to two Super Bowls. You did your part to help continue the winning tradition that our beloved owner Pat Bowlen has brought to Broncos Nation and the great state of Colorado. But to many, you did so much more.
No one in the history of this league has ever shown more class than you have in your time playing the game. You showed humility in times of victory as well as defeat. When parents and coaches attempt to instill a sense of sportsmanship in the next generation, your legacy will be the one by which all others are measured. Your perseverance in the face of adversity has been exemplary.
What would appear to be the final chapter of your legendary story began with more elements of horror than fairytale. For the first time since your rookie season, you finished the year with more interceptions than touchdowns. You missed games during the season for the first and only time in your career with the exception of 2011. The road has been bumpy, but a No. 1 defense and a young, 6’8’’ backup quarterback have helped you to earn just one more opportunity at a world championship.
Some may have forgotten that early in the Bronco-Manning marriage you stood up, threw your arms in the air and told Mile High Stadium to shut up. You taught us that defense was the time for volume, but when you’re on the field we should sit on our hands, shut our mouths and enjoy the show… What a show it has been.
Now only one more objective remains for the most decorated quarterback in the history of the game. One last chance for you to prove that the title of greatest regular season quarterback of all-time does little justice to a player of your greatness; a man of your conviction. At 13-13 all-time in the playoffs, your legacy hangs in the balance. With a loss, you’ll end your career 13-14—1-3 in the Super Bowl. With a win, you’ll sit side-by-side with John Elway. You’ll make your ride, just as he did, to the final resting place of your playing career, a second Lombardi Trophy in your hands, and every ounce of greatness left in your battered body strewn amongst the confetti across that gold-painted football field in Santa Clara. The man that recruited you to play for Mr. Bowlen’s franchise will lift that Lombardi Trophy high above his head and proclaim, “This one’s for Pat!” He’ll then hand that trophy to you. You’ll know this is your final moment of glory; your proverbial ride into the sunset will be complete. A legend in Orange and Blue.
Thank you, Peyton Manning, for a four-year run of football that will go down as one of the greatest in the history of this game. If this is your last rodeo, it sure has been a pleasure. Take your ride. You deserve it.
An Eternally Grateful Fan