This was never supposed to reach 1,000 words, but I've been reluctant to come out of my hole, only to find myself in the shadows of some twisted horror show where Manning and Tebow peacefully coexist, with Manning throwing a ball-toting Tebow forward six yards on each play, thus capitalizing on Manning's ability to play quarterback and Tebow's ability to politely piss me off while playing a position that I'm not sure how to categorize. But here I am, groggy from hibernation, ready to return to the only place where my nonsense seems to make sense.
One week ago I watched Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen both say that although the Broncos were an intriguing landing spot for Peyton Manning, we could all dismiss them as a legitimate contender based on what I could only assume was their evidence-based analysis of....I don't know. Chicken bones? The Mayan calendar? The roll of a 20-sided die that also changed Kyle Orton from a level 12 mage into a rabid were-bear? You know, something from their unending pool of "sources close to the situation."
You know who's close to the situation? Peyton Manning. Archie Manning. Possibly Peyton's agent. If things happen the way they do in my drunken hallucinations, Justin Timberlake's in on it too and is lobbying hard for the TItans while simultaneously trying to get a dejected were-bear to become the last piece in his quest to sex everything on Earth (I'm not well).
The virus that could not be contained in sports theater (or "journalism" if you are willing to still call it that), that rewards the "scoop" over the well-detailed story has infected Schefter and Mortensen's mucus membranes as much as any other nodding-head zombie on any other brain-eating network. There's no penalty for a false positive. Simply say "our bad on that one" and move on to the next guy with inside info. One scoop among fifty puffs of smoke that miss the mark more than Tebow's boyhood paper route is still a shining example of your network being the "Sports Information Leader." Plus now other networks have to say your name when they report that same pseudo-factoid! No accountability, plus free advertising! It's like a message brought to you by a Super PAC.
Correctly predicting that something isn't going to happen is still a feather in your cap, and if you're wrong there? Who gives a flying burrito! Just use another miss to hide the one before it. It's genius. Peyton Manning is simply not going to be a Bronc...wait, what? Albert Haynesworth just signed on to play Gary Coleman in "Dana Plato: The Musical"? The truth IS stranger than fiction. Even when I can't distinguish between the two. Thanks Mort!
Let me be clear: I want a healthy Peyton to be a Chief. It simultaneously gives us a QB and an Offensive Coordinator that I trust enough that I can pee during 2nd down and not fear that we're down 7 more when I get back than when I left. I might even go get another beer (Yes, I have DVR, and yes I would be wearing adult diapers and would have brought enough beer in a cooler to the couch to survive nuclear winter, but I'm trying to make a point here). Clearly I'm not listening to Mortenfer and Scheftensen. Is there anything meaningful in the noise? Is there any evidence of anything?
Here's what has been demonstrated time and time again: Peyton Manning values control. He's the puppet master on the field. He was a brooding Eeryore when he couldn't control his own body, let alone the outcomes between the sidelines. His PR machine writes the truth of him into my brain. He's affable, accessible, self-deprecating, probably a war-decorated Marine. From that thirst for control, what I should believe becomes more clear. Two things in particular continue to burrow their way out of my grey matter and tap me on the shoulder:
1) Peyton isn't healthy enough to be Peyton again. Not yet. Nerves aren't like ligaments or tendons or muscles. Bones heal faster. Nerves are unpredictable. They're the Martin Lawrence of soft tissue. One moment they're making another much-anticipated, buddy-cop, transvestite fat-suit film. The next they're directing traffic around the Dairy Queen with a glock nine while wrapped from head to toe in tin foil.
I wish I didn't have evidence to support this particular observation, but I do. About ten years ago I had reconstructive surgery to repair a gnarly childhood injury to my elbow. When I woke up from surgery my arm didn't wake up with me. Radial nerve palsy. Wrist drop. Absolutely terrifying. Wait and see. It might come back. It might not. There's no electricity to your muscles. It's like trying to control someone else's limb with your brain. I was cleared for full activity 6 months before I could lift my index finger against gravity. Eventually the muscles started working again, but my hand buzzes around the clock like a permanent version of The Stranger. Being structurally ok and having a supportive nervous system are far from the same thing.
Once a nerve is traumatized, it's also much more prone to further trauma. One innocent looking take down where that tiny electric wire is compressed and your prize horse is out to pasture. Same could be said for any down and any player in any game I suppose, but this was Peyton the Durable. His neck isn't made out of rejected tissue from Trent Green's knees. Peyton would say different things if he was Peyton-in-control-of-his-cannon. He's hopeful but not confident. He's waiting to see. You can't avoid him because of the uncertainty, but everyone should look that Colt in the mouth and find out how old he is.
2) Peyton is in control. I don't buy the "Aw, shucks, I'm just feeling things out in this crazy new situation, fellas." routine for a second. He's been thinking about this since the moment he knew he wouldn't play this season. Since the moment he himself realized he might be somehow disposable. And he knows precisely what he's doing. It's possible that we've been scooped out of the race for good reason. Perhaps he's only scouting out the places in person he has targeted. But, in the midst of all the crowd noise on this one, perhaps he's simply doing what he does best: demonstrating his control over all of us with a silent count. Perhaps he's taking a last look at the secondary and tertiary options with a wink and a smile just in case. Perhaps he chose the best target long ago and is just looking off the safety on this one.
And if we don't get the glass slipper, don't worry about it too much. Eric Berry will crush Manning's primary read over the middle. Instead, worry about Were-bear Orton. Timberlake simply will not be stopped.