Sports

Diehl ’18: Why I will be rooting for the Broncos in the Super Bowl

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, February 5, 2016

Brett Favre and Peyton Manning were the first two NFL jerseys I ever had, even though my favorite teams were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Minnesota Vikings. Favre could just plain sling the ball; he willed some of his throws to reach his target. Of course, this gun-slinging approach led to more than just a few interceptions­. But Favre’s playing style spoke to his personality — someone unafraid to fail and try things that looked improbable. He was so fun to watch because his next throw could be a pick-six, or one of the best touchdown passes you had ever seen.

Manning, on the other hand, played with line-of-scrimmage savvy and deliberate placements of the ball that made him seem like the conductor of his own orchestra. Everything was so planned and flawlessly timed. He would recognize the weakness in the defense in seemingly every play and could audible to the perfect play to exploit these gaps. Maybe his style wasn’t as exciting as Favre’s, but it was certainly still a pleasure to watch. He was destined to ride off into the sunset as a Colt, with several titles on his resume.

Then came the neck surgeries — three in 15 months to be exact. Without Manning, the subpar Colts roster tanked its way to the number-one pick, stumbling into future franchise cornerstone Andrew Luck. These events led Manning  to leave Indianapolis feeling incomplete.

His tenure with the Broncos started off strongly. Manning was once again orchestrating a top-notch NFL offense. They went on to win the AFC before getting demolished by a superb Seahawks team in Super Bowl XLVIII. Even in the next season, few doubted his playing ability. This year, things have changed. Everyone knew Manning’s fragile neck would not last forever in the NFL, but the likely end to Manning’s career after this upcoming game has felt sudden to many.

I can’t imagine dealing with what Manning has gone through this past season: the revelation that he can’t feel his fingertips, the fact that he will need hip replacement surgery and Brock Osweiler usurping him due to injury and performance. With all of the courage he’s shown by remaining on the field and leading his team to two playoff victories, Manning has been credited with being a “game manager.”

Sometimes impact transcends playing ability on the field. Is it a coincidence that with Manning fighting to stay on the field, the Broncos’ defense recorded the most hits last weekend on a quarterback this season with 20 against Tom Brady? Don’t get me wrong, the Broncos’ defense has been the team’s superior unit this season. Wade Phillips deserves credit for designing the league’s most dynamic defensive strategies, but Manning will be the emotional force behind the Broncos in this upcoming Super Bowl as they face off against the Panthers.

But it’s the Panthers that have been the more underappreciated team. They have been picked apart for a relatively unimpressive point differential for a team of their stature. Critics have been harsh on their offensive line and wide receivers. Many jokes have been said about Ted Ginn Jr. being the “X” receiver on offense.

I am also divided on likely NFL MVP Cam Newton. On the one hand, he’s a superior dual-threat talent who gives out his touchdown balls to delighted little kids. On the other, he carries himself with an arrogance that borders on disrespectful and displays a self-absorbance level that registers very high on the Kanye scale. When you compare this to the on-field diligence of Manning, it’s hard not to see Newton as a jerk.

Being from Salt Lake City, I am surrounded by Broncos fans, including my brother. Naturally, this has always inclined me to root against the Broncos. Out here, I’m sure many non-Patriots fans can relate. But I am a Peyton Manning fan, and I have too much respect for him on and off the field to root against him here . To me, the Panthers seem like a team of Donald Trumps — cocky and inconsiderate —  and even if the other guy isn’t that appealing, the respect level is enough to have a rooting interest. If this is Peyton’s last year, let him go out on top. He’s given the game more than it’s given him, but the balance of the universe will slightly even out if he can go out as a champion.

This article is dedicated to Joe Diehl’s friend and rabid Broncos fan, Charlie Andrews. He hopes for the sake of Charlie’s health that the Broncos win. You can contact him at joe_diehl@brown.edu.

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