Keeping Score

Hey, Peyton, Why’d You Have to Kill Tebowmania?

Peyton Manning's decision to sign with Denver could damage Tim Tebow's football future. Has a football legend squashed a cultural phenomenon?

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Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Peyton Manning, of the Indianapolis Colts, leaves the field against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 26, 2010 in Oakland, California.

With his decision to sign with the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning’s employee-demoralization tour has come to an end.

Here’s Peyton, working out for the San Francisco 49ers, even though that team’s incumbent quarterback, Alex Smith, led the team to the NFC championship game; were it not for an overtime fumble, Smith might have won a Super Bowl. Tennessee also embraced Peyton’s flirtation, even though its current quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, signed a three-year, $20 million contract last off-season, and backup Jake Locker, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, is itching for a shot.

These guys have a right to be peeved. Imagine your bosses parading your potential replacement around the office. Smith is so sour, he’s talking to Miami and might sign with the Dolphins or some other team.

(MORE: Where Will Tim Tebow Go?)

But at least they’re not Tim Tebow. The guy who captivated the nation, rescued Denver from irrelevance and won the Broncos a playoff game is now pretty much done in Denver.

Manning’s decision is somewhat curious (although the five-year, $96 million contract offer helps make sense of it). He is trading the comforts of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and the relatively temperate climates of his other two finalists, San Francisco and Nashville — not to mention Miami, who wanted Manning badly — for the Sports Authority Field at Mile High snow.

All year, we heard that Tebow wasn’t surrounded by great receivers. But maybe Demaryius Thomas, Tebow’s favorite target, was more responsible for Tebow’s heroics than the quarterback’s left arm was. Manning is blessed with a sharp football mind. Don’t be surprised if he scouted Thomas’ talent when he was sidelined last season and would feel comfortable playing with him.

(MORE: The Business of Wooing Peyton Manning)

Given some of the psychodrama surrounding the John Elway–Manning–Tebow troika, the Broncos are the most intriguing choice for football fans. Elway, the Broncos’ president, hired a player who can finally replace his memory. Never mind that Elway retired 13 seasons ago. And that Manning is about to turn 36, is recovering from a career-threatening neck injury and has so much to prove to himself, to Broncos fans and, heck, maybe to little brother Eli. I’m going to win a second Super Bowl too!

And what about the treatment of Tebow? Does Manning not have any compassion for him? He’d never trump Eli like that. (During Denver’s courtship, you could almost picture Elway and Manning, two of the best ever to play the game, smugly dissecting Tebow’s skills: He’ll never be like us, poor kid.) When some of Tebow’s most fervent supporters saw TV shots of Elway cringing at Tebow’s throwing motion, they thought Elway was a little jealous of Tebow’s success. He must be, they said: how can you not commit to a guy who led you on such an incredible run? What more can he do to prove his worth?

“I don’t like how Elway has handled Tebow from the beginning,” Nathan Shackelford, founder of the Pray for Tim Tebow page on Facebook, tells Keeping Score. “At first, he was saying, ‘He’s not our guy, he’s not our guy.’ Then when he made the playoffs and got better, it was like, ‘You are our guy.’ And now he’s not your guy again?”

(MORE: Giants Quarterback Eli Manning Has Thrown Off Peyton’s Shadow)

On the Web, Tebowmaniacs exploded with indignation. “Tebow is our future — Manning has maybe 2-3 years. The Broncos are NOT thinking,” wrote one person on the Tim Tebow Fan Club page on Facebook.

Wrote another fan:

“Tim inspires me, because he believes in God’s ability to see him through, even when the circumstances and human opinion says, “it won’t work out, you aren’t good enough.” So be it then, I will trust God even when it looks impossible and my back is up against the wall! No matter what in Christ, everything WILL be alright.”

Let’s not be depressed about Peyton signing on with the Broncos! be happy for Tim to be able to succeed somewhere else! Besides we all know Denver will regret this… (:

Come on, this is Peyton Manning we’re talking about. Tebow may indeed be all right. But we suspect Denver won’t regret a thing.

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