“…ultimately, what we saw at Gillette Stadium was a team that still isn’t going anywhere if Manning isn’t playing at an
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“I don’t usually stink,” Peyton Manning said in the aftermath of the Denver Broncos’ loss to the NewEngland Patriots on Sunday. “But I stunk today. I don’t make excuses, I don’t say it happens every nowand then. You don’t need to let it happen. You got to play better. You got to practice better.” For a lot of Broncos Country, this was enough. In fact, there were many after the Super Bowl whose response essentially amounted to ‘the team played their worst game on the worst possible game. What can you do?’
In many ways, this is the pragmatic response to an ugly loss. Emotions ran high after the Super Bowl and many fans were unable to accept such a simple explanation, but I’m sure that in a game against the Pats that will probably end up meaning very little in the grand scheme of Denver’s 2014 NFL season, people will be a little more accepting of the idea that the Broncos simply played a really bad game against a team that they couldn’t afford to play poorly against.
In fact, even Manning’s quote above is somewhat soothing to fans disgusted with the performance in Foxboro. Peyton took responsibility and assured everyone that he would be better because ultimately, what we saw at Gillette Stadium was a team that still isn’t going anywhere if Manning isn’t playing at an elite level.
For better or worse, we’ve sold our football souls to Manning. Generally speaking, fans are perfectly fine with this and generally speaking, the good that Manning brings to the franchise far outweighs the bad. But there’s another segment of Broncos Country today that isn’t seeing the world through orange- colored glasses; a segment that’s fed up with a 6-2 Broncos team that’s on its way to a third consecutive division title and still in play for their third straight top seed in the AFC.
I know a lot of people in this camp in my personal life, but shockingly few in the media world I live in. So without further ado, I present this totally unsolicited and unedited text I received after the game from a real, knowledgeable Broncos fan that I believe sums up perfectly the ‘Other Half of Broncos Country.’
Belichick will always outcoach Fox. And Manning. And Elway. Denver fans and front
office have amnesia. No one seems to remember that their last Hall of Fame QB got
clobbered in championship games until they had an RB that went for over 2,000 yards. I
never liked Peyton Manning when he was in Indy and I still don’t like him. He’s a prima
donna. In a game like this, he gets pissed at the crowd, the calls, his teammates,
probably even himself. Brady just gets pissed at the opponent. I don’t care about
individual records. Manning can’t carry Brady’s jockstrap.
If you read that and immediately started pointing out the flaws within the text, you’re missing the point. It’s not about whether his argument has any holes. The fact is that I could coherently argue the point he’s trying to make against anyone who skews the other way. More importantly, this is actually how a of Broncos Country feels. More than you’d think.
After Sunday, I was far more disgusted with John Fox and Denver’s coaching staff, but another friend of mine brought up a good point:
Considering the “baseline” performance level of this team as its currently constructed,
there are only a few games that should be contested if each team plays an average
game. I’d contend that when the Broncos do not play to that level, it’s more because of
Manning than it is on Fox…
… I think you’re right that you can look at coaching issues and
see how it might have directly led to Broncos losses, and a stronger head coach might
solve some of their problems, but you won’t convince me that Fox is more responsible
for reigning in the offense than Peyton is. Granted you are only seeing one side of this discussion, but it actually makes for enthralling debate. Where does one place blame (if you’re into that sort of thing – which I am) for the failures of the Broncos in the Peyton Manning era? And how do we quantify to what extent each answer is correct or incorrect?
As for myself, I’m not sure what I believe. Manning’s words make me want to dismiss the Patriots game as just a bad game at a bad time, but like anyone else, eventually the question of “when does this start becoming a pattern?” comes creeping into my head.
But more than anything, I’m sharing this viewpoint with you because it’s far more common than you think, and I think it makes for an incredibly fascinating discussion.
And unfortunately, we don’t get nearly enough of it from mainstream media.