Peyton Manning is a serious control freak who took hold of the entire situation regarding his free agent courtship.The Denver Broncos were able to sign Peyton because they fed his ego and only played by his rules.
Those are the biggest takeaways from Peter King’s behind-the-scenes look at how the Broncos landed Manning, featured in the April 2 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Although the Denver Broncos were early entrants in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, many were still surprised when the news about him signing with Denver broke.
We now know that the Broncos were always the front runners, but the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans looked like better fits. (It also helped that in Denver, the offence would be altered to fit Manning.)
Here are a few other juicy nuggets from the SI story:
- Peyton was in complete shock when the Indianapolis Colts released him, asking his longtime mentor and former coach David Cutcliffe, “What does a free agent do?”
- Manning was very annoyed with the O.J. Simpson-like media following. So when he was ready to hear Broncos executive VP John Elway’s sales pitch over dinner the team arranged for seven cars to leave the Broncos’ facilities at the same time with a few of them going to the wrong location. Peyton jumped in a black SUV with tinted windows and the Denver media didn’t notice.
- In the middle of dinner with Manning, Elway received a text informing him that the Washington Redskins had just traded up for the second overall pick in the 2012 draft in order to take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Peyton was “stunned” to hear the news, which told Elway all those rumours about Washington being in the running were true
- Manning met with the Miami Dolphins in Indianapolis of all places, because he knew the annoying media wouldn’t follow his every move there
- Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks flew in to Denver while Peyton was there in hopes of luring him to the Seahawks. Manning didn’t like the surprise and told the team he wasn’t interested
- When 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh flew to watch Peyton throw at Duke, the entire thing was kept under wraps. Harbaugh first only watched from inside of a car parked near the field and then he and his offensive coordinator came out of the car to get a better view, but kept their hoodies on to avoid being recognised
- In the end, Denver won out because they allowed Manning to dictate the terms from the get go and made him feel the most comfortable. Elway took a “What would I have wanted if put in a similar situation?” approach to luring Peyton and didn’t give him the “hard sell”
King’s entire piece paints the pursuit of Peyton as a clandestine chase worthy of a Hollywood thriller, but it goes to show just how coveted Manning was. Teams agreed to anything and everything just to get a seat at the table.
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