Bron­cos stick necks out for Man­ning; will Te­bow stay?

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

DEN­VER | The spir­its of Colorado foot­ball fans soared a mile high when word broke Mon­day morn­ing that fu­ture Hall-of-famer Pey­ton Man­ning had de­cided to play quar­ter­back for the Den­ver Bron­cos. They just had one re­quest: Keep Tim Te­bow, too.

Even as Pey­ton-mo­nium was erupt­ing in Den­ver on Mon­day, Bron­cos diehards were find­ing it hard to loosen their grip on Te­bow­ma­nia, de­spite re­ports that the team would trade fan-fa­vorite Te­bow in the af­ter­math of Man­ning’s decision.

Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper summed up the feel­ings of Bronco Na­tion when he sug­gested Mon­day that Te­bow spend a sea­son or two learn­ing at the feet of the for­mer In­di­anapo­lis Colts sig­nal-caller, whose con­tract is ex­pected to be worth $95 mil­lion over five years.

“My imag­i­na­tion soars at the thought that Tim Te­bow would be will­ing — and ob­vi­ously he doesn’t have to do this, he’s proven he can be a starter — but if he were to stay a year or two un­der the tute­lage of Pey­ton Man­ning, and see where that goes,” said Hick­en­looper.

“That would be ideal. For Pey­ton Man­ning to take the raw tal­ent and char­ac­ter of Tim Te­bow and put them to­gether, is al­most too good to be be­lieved,” said the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor. “You can’t be in this job with­out be­ing pretty op­ti­mistic, so I’m hopeful.”

Those sen­ti­ments were echoed by the Suleiman broth­ers, who be­came lo­cal celebri­ties for run­ning pro-te­bow mes­sages last sea­son on their elec­tronic sign at Mul­ti­line In­ter­na­tional Im­ports at 58th Av­enue and Grant Street.

The broth­ers had a new mes­sage Mon­day — “Bron­cos Fans Wel­come New Man­ning On Board” — but at the same time, they said they sup­ported the team keep­ing Te­bow as a backup to learn from the four-time NFL Most Valu­able Player.

“It would be bet­ter if we could keep him,” said Ali Suleiman. “Te­bow could learn from Man­ning, be­cause how long is he go­ing to be able to play?”

The Suleimans re­cently con­ducted an un­sci­en­tific on­line sur­vey — Man­ning or Te­bow? — which found 59 per­cent of re­spon­dents fa­vored Te­bow. The poll drew more than 20,000 votes.

“It’s great to have a guy like Man­ning be part of the team,” said Tariq Suleiman. “[But] Te­bow was spe­cial. He brought some­thing spe­cial to Den­ver.”

Many Bron­cos fans said they were con­cerned that Man­ning’s age — he turns 36 Satur­day — means he only has a few years in Den­ver, af­ter

which the team will need an­other quar­ter­back.

And who bet­ter than Te­bow, who wowed the fan base in 2011 by lead­ing the team to its first play­off win since 2005 de­spite, as Den­ver-based ESPN colum­nist Rick Reilly put it, “toss­ing more dirt­balls than a Hoot­ers bouncer”?

“I think Pey­ton would be a great men­tor for Te­bow, but I think we need to keep Te­bow be­cause Man­ning’s only got so many years left,” said Doug Hale of Lit­tle­ton.

Other foot­ball-watch­ers said they would be re­lieved to see the Bron­cos trade Te­bow so that the team could fo­cus on win­ning a Su­per Bowl in­stead of deal­ing with never-end­ing pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the quar­ter­back.

“I think it’s a good move be­cause the team can get draft picks and we can say good­bye to the cir­cus,” said Ken Dob­son of Lit­tle­ton. “Be­cause with Te­bow, it wasn’t about foot­ball. It was about one guy. Now we can get back to foot­ball.”

In his 13 games as the Bron­cos’ start­ing quar­ter­back last sea­son, Te­bow be­came the most-rec­og­nized ath­lete in the na­tion and maybe the world, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of his throw­back run­first play­ing style, fourth-quar­ter hero­ics, sunny per­son­al­ity and un­abashed Chris­tian faith.

He in­spired the phe­nom­e­non known as Te­bow­ing, in which peo­ple strike a kneel­ing prayer pose in public set­tings, some­thing the quar­ter­back was known to do dur­ing foot­ball games.

The phone and text lines were jammed on Den­ver’s sports-talk ra­dio sta­tions as callers cheered the Man­ning deal and de­bated Te­bow’s fu­ture. Sports Ra­dio 104.3 The Fan switched its web­site logo to “104.3 The Man . . . ning” shortly af­ter the news broke.

“Holy cow, Pey­ton Man­ning is go­ing to be a Bronco,” said The Fan’s Nate Lundy. “For the next 90 min­utes, we could just play ‘Hal­lelu­jah’ and I’d be fine with that.”

At 102.3 FM ESPN, the web­site ran the mes­sage, “Pey­ton . . . Wel­come to Den­ver” even as callers and hosts ac­knowl­edged Te­bow’s role in res­cu­ing the 2011 sea­son and putting the fran­chise back on the NFL map.

“He brought an ex­cite­ment to the team,” said ESPN Den­ver ra­dio host Jojo Turn­beaugh. “For as good a day as this is in Den­ver, it’s not a very great day for Tim Te­bow.”

It was a great day for John El­way, the for­mer Bron­cos quar­ter­back who serves as the team’s vice pres­i­dent for foot­ball op­er­a­tions. Con­vinc­ing the leg­endary Man­ning to come to Den­ver was seen as a coup for El­way, who re­port­edly never has been en­tirely com­fort­able with Te­bow’s un­ortho­dox style.

“This is the smoothest way he could pos­si­bly move on from what he thought was a mis­take by [for­mer coach] Josh Mcdaniels,” said The Fan’s Dar­ren Mckee.

The Bron­cos are bet­ting that the ar­rival of a quar­ter­back with Man­ning’s pedi­gree will take the sting out of los­ing Te­bow­ma­nia. They may be right, es­pe­cially if Man­ning can lead them to a Su­per Bowl.

“Any time you can get a quar­ter­back the cal­iber of Pey­ton Man­ning, why not?” said Bill Sronce of Cas­tle Rock. “I’m a Te­bow fan. He’s a great leader, I love his in­tan­gi­bles. But this is Pey­ton Man­ning. Come on.”

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