ESPN Writer Drops Truth Bombs About Peyton Manning

I've done my share of fisking in my Slant Pattern pieces before, usually because a hilariously wrong pundit has grabbed my attention. Ian O'Connor, in this piece about Peyton Manning, isn't really wrong about anything (at least not about Peyton himself), but gives us over 1,500 words to say he has nothing to say about Peyton Manning, and the result is comedy. Let's break it down.

DENVER — Peyton Manning's stall was stripped bare in the far corner of the Denver Broncos' locker room, a place of considerable Monday night merriment, when tight end Owen Daniels stood nearby and considered the one conspicuous hole in an otherwise special event. The Broncos had locked down a playoff berth in their overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, and yet something else was virtually clinched in the process:

The fact that Peyton Manning won't be the quarterback determining whether Denver advances to the Super Bowl.

He "considered" that, I'm sure, because reporters (maybe O'Connor!) were asking him about it.

Manning has no choice but to handle it now. He was all bundled up on the sideline for part of an ice-cold Monday night, and he had to be wondering how his endgame turned so ugly and cruel. If he's telling the truth about the Al-Jazeera report that he started shredding the other day to ESPN's Lisa Salters, then he deserves so much better than what he's getting now.

That report suggested that Manning took Human Growth Hormone, and I love the last statement in this paragraph, one of many where O'Connor states the obvious like it's a mind-blowing revelation: If Manning is innocent, then what he's going through sucks. Whoa!

His body has failed him. His team has moved on without him. His replacement has shown enough strength, poise, and youthful vitality to stay in there. And all anyone wants to discuss with one of the NFL's signature players and ambassadors — in his final football hours — is whether he once took a walk on the wild side to get back on the field. If this is Manning's final season, wow, it has been some retirement tour. The Broncos might still earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC, might still win the whole damn thing, and Manning might have to watch it all like he watched on Monday night.

Sheesh. If he does have to watch it all from the sidelines this year, it won't be because of the HGH accusations, but because Osweiler (as O'Connor says himself elsewhere) is playing reasonably well and certainly better than Manning did before he went down. Also, between this and the "empty locker" point, O'Connor makes it sound as though Manning has been released from the team.

In some ways, his contemporary, Kobe Bryant, has it much easier. Bryant is finishing out with a dreadful Lakers team and yet every road trip is defined by a well-earned celebration of his career. On Monday night in Charlotte, Bryant listened as a tribute from Michael Jordan played on the video board. Manning didn't receive any such pre-game tribute from John Elway at Sports Authority Field.

Ell Oh Ell. First, Bryant is going out like no superstar should, gunning his way to a historically bad shooting year as the Lakers rebuilding process is put on hold for him. But more to the point, since Manning HAS NOT ANNOUNCED HIS RETIREMENT, a Kobe-like sendoff ("Thanks for the memories!" "Uh, I'm not done." "Yes, you are!") would be really mean. Hilarious, but mean.

Though he said some awfully nice things about Osweiler, Kubiak wouldn't commit to him as his starter for the rest of the season. He didn't need to make it official, nor did Osweiler.


If Manning was always clinical in his approach, Tom Brady was always the angry one...

The Brady/Manning stuff goes on for three paragraphs, but let me save you a click. O'Connor somehow thinks that male model/Trumpian manchild Brady is some sort of scrappy runt compared to the pipe-and-robe charmed life of Manning. Yeah, I know.

Manning [...] might not play quarterback for the Broncos ever again. Is there a chance Osweiler gets hurt or stumbles or forces [Gary] Kubiak to recall that Manning did beat Brady in their past two conference championship meetings? Yeah, there's a chance. A small one.

It's more likely Manning will spend more time answering questions from league investigators in the coming weeks than he'll spend behind center. And if he's telling the truth about HGH, this all-time great deserved a much better goodbye than that.

In other words, Manning won't play again this year unless circumstances dictate that he plays again this year, and, in case you missed it the first time, O'Connor controversially believes that if Manning is innocent of accusations against him, then it sucks that he has to deal with this. Give this man a Pulitzer!

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