Back in The Saddle Again

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payton

Left Field

(ISN) – As a long-time Denver fan and a quasi-objective journalist, Peyton Manning’s decision to saddle up with the Broncos for at least one more rodeo leaves me with mixed feelings.

A blend of angst and enthusiasm is probably the best way to describe my reaction to Manning’s decision; a splash of jubilation peppered with a heaping spoonful of trepidation. The Left Field part of my brain wants Manning to ride off into the sunset with another Super Bowl trophy tucked into his saddle bag, while the right field section of my battered frontal lobe shudders at the thought of his legacy stampeded by another poor playoff performance.

Although memories of the meltdown in the snow against Baltimore three years ago were tempered to a degree by his record-breaking performance the next year, the thrashing at the hands of the Seahawks in the Super Bowl two years ago is still fresher than the wound from a Colt 45 at close range. And speaking of Colts, don’t get me started on how bad Manning looked against Indianapolis in last year’s home on the range debacle.

While it’s strictly Peyton’s place to decide when it’s OK to corral a career that puts him at the top of the Hall of Fame heap based on regular season performances, I hope that he can rustle up one more championship and retire with his head held high. That final year on the rodeo circuit will be a lot tougher to tolerate if he goes out in dismal fashion one more time.

Manning has endured three procedures in his neck and experimental stem cell treatment to get back into the game when most sane people were pleading for him to retire, so no one can question his courage. And no one would have a negative thing to say about his resume if he hung up his spurs for good instead of coming back for a shot at another ring.

Unfortunately, if he comes up short of another Super Bowl, he’ll drop to a dismal one and three on the big stage, not the way fans would want the final act to play out.

My sense is Broncos president John Elway, no stranger to Super Bowl collapses, believes Manning can get it done or he wouldn’t have ponied up $15 million in salary for Manning this year. Elway had to get slapped around in the big game three times before he finally grabbed a couple of rings at the end of his career, and I’m sure he believes Peyton can finish his in similar fashion. Elway knows it took a strong posse riding shotgun with him to finally get ‘er done, so he’s invested heavily in surrounding Manning with a strong supporting cast on both sides of the ball. Putting up another $4 million in bonuses if Manning gets there and wins the Lombardi Trophy this year has to provide some extra motivation. While that’s the kind of cash working stiffs like you and me might consider a downright obscene chew to swallow, at this point for Manning, it’s not about the money. It’s about pride, misguided, ornery or otherwise, and a stubborn refusal to go off onto the night quietly. Even money says he gets it done this year, and his pride doesn’t steer him wrong.

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