ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — To understand the impact Peyton Manning had during his four years with the Broncos, look at how the team struggled in the five years before he arrived, and five years since he retired.
During his term here, the quarterback led the Broncos to their winningest four-year stretch in team history, posting records of 13-3, 13-3, 12-4 and 12-4 from 2012-'15. There were five consecutive non-winning seasons before Manning arrived. There have been five consecutive non-playoff seasons since Manning hung it up.
Not surprisingly, a committee of Broncos’ past and present dignitaries wasted no time Wednesday electing Manning into the team’s Ring of Fame. It was Manning’s first year of eligibility for the honor and follows his first-ballot election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in February.
"He created a sense of urgency for everybody,'' said pass rusher Von Miller, who along with kicker Brandon McManus is one of only two teammates remaining from the Broncos' 2015 Super Bowl 50 championship team, Manning's final season. "Not just the offense and the defense but the janitors. And the coaches started coaching different. The cooks, they all had this sort of spark and it was the Peyton Manning Effect.''
Later Wednesday, Manning sent out a statement:
“I’m incredibly honored to be named to the Broncos Ring of Fame. Having been on the field when other members of the Ring of Fame have been inducted, you can tell what a special fraternity it is and how excited they are to join such a distinguished group. From Floyd Little to Karl Mecklenburg to Steve Atwater to many others, I’ve always looked up at the names around the stadium and admired the great players the Broncos have had over the years. I’m very humbled to now join them as a Ring of Famer.
“When I came to Denver back in 2012, it was exactly how I thought it would be—a franchise with a winning tradition and incredible fan support in a great community. There were a lot of unknowns coming off an injury with a new team. Once I got my confidence, we went on a heckuva run and never looked back. That’s a credit to the many great teammates and coaches I had during my time with the Broncos. The chemistry with D.T. (Demaryius Thomas), Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and all those guys on offense was special. Winning the Super Bowl in 2015, we had an all-time defense and a really fun group with Von (Miller), Aqib (Talib), DeMarcus (Ware) and some other outstanding players. It ended up being a great decision to come here not only to play for the Broncos but to be part of this special community. Denver is a destination city. Our family is proud to call Denver our home and live in this community even after football. I’m very appreciative and grateful for my time with the Broncos. It’s a tremendous honor to be named to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame.”
There were two books in Manning’s NFL career. The first was a 14-year stay with the Indianapolis Colts, where he won four of his record five league MVPs, led them to two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl title following the 2006 season.
But when Manning missed the entire 2011 season because of a neck injury that required three surgeries before he could get back on the field, the Colts were so bad without him they tumbled into the No. 1 overall draft pick at the exact time once-every-generation quarterback prospect Andrew Luck was coming out of college.
Manning was released to free agency and after a whirlwind recruiting process signed with the Broncos.
His four years in Denver cemented his greatness.
"We already knew his reputation around the league but when he got here, man, first time I seen him drop back and he threw a pass in OTAs, I said, 'Oh yeah, he's got it,''' Miller said via Zoom on Wednesday.
Manning and the Broncos took a few games to get rolling as they were 2-3 to begin the 2012 season and were trailing 24-0 at halftime at San Diego in Game 6. But Manning and the Broncos rallied for 35 unanswered points in the second half, igniting an 11-game winning streak to finish the season.
Although, the Broncos were stunned by Baltimore in their second-round playoff game, Manning bounced back in 2013 to record the best regular-season by a quarterback in NFL history.
Manning threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards that year to obliterate passing records that still stand eight years later. He picked up his record 5th MVP award, then guided the Broncos to AFC postseason home wins against the Chargers and New England Patriots.
Unfortunately for Manning and the Broncos, they didn’t have it in Super Bowl 48 as they were trounced by the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8, in a game played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Manning got off to a torrid start again in 2014, setting the all-time career TD pass record along the way, but a quad injury hindered him in the final two months.
Manning and the Broncos finished the job in 2015. He led the team to a 7-0 start but a heel injury suffered in a game 8 loss at Indianapolis rendered Manning ineffective the following week in a loss to Kansas City (That was the start of an 11-game, 5 1/2-year ongoing losing streak the Broncos have endured against the Chiefs. But that's another story.)
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak replaced Manning with Brock Osweiler, who played well through in the final seven games, posting a 5-2 record. But with the Broncos trailing and sputtering in the second half of the season finale against the Chargers, Kubiak in the third quarter replaced Osweiler with Manning, who entered to a thunderous, standing ovation from the Denver crowd.
The Broncos rallied to beat the Chargers to capture the No. 1 playoff seed, then won home playoff games against the Steelers and, for the second time in three years, the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. In the upset win against the Pats, Manning threw two early touchdown passes to tight end Owen Daniels and Denver’s terrific defense made it hold up.
An MVP performance by Miller and the Denver D, plus three McManus field goals, pushed the Broncos past favored Carolina in Super Bowl 50. Manning didn’t have his best game, but he started each half with field goal drives and to a man, the Broncos said they couldn’t have won it all without his leadership.
"We all knew we had a chance to go win it,'' Miller said. "We went to the Super Bowl twice, won one. Really should have been a little bit more than that but the Mile High Miracle (Joe Flacco's heave to Jacoby Jones to tie it with seconds left in overtime) got us.
"But we had a helluva run with Peyton and he motivated me on and off the football field. He showed me what it means to be a leader on and off the football field. He kind of saved my career as well. Seeing the way he operated, seeing the way he moved inspired me and set a blueprint for how I should do things."
Manning retired after the 2015 season but he and his wife Ashley and twin children Marshall and Mosley have made their home in the Denver area. He becomes the 35th member of the Broncos’ Ring of Fame and follows former head coach Mike Shanahan, who was elected into the ROF during the pandemic season of 2020. Shanahan and Manning will be formally inducted in separate ceremonies this season -- Shanahan during Raiders week on Oct. 17 and Manning prior to the Broncos' game against Washington on Oct. 31.
“I'm sure this was expected,'' McManus said of Manning's Ring of Fame election. "An incredible person, incredible family he has, just the dedication and everything he put into his career and his friendships outside as well and demanded excellence from his friendships.
"He was able to toe that line–I'm sure there's stories everyone knows about–toes those lines of friendship and also demanding such excellence from them as well, which made him a truly incredible leader.''
The Ring of Fame committee consists of team president Joe Ellis, former defensive coordinator Joe Collier, former general manager John Beake, former radio play-by-play and color announcer Larry Zimmer, current radio play-by-play announcer Dave Logan and former public relations boss Jim Saccomano.
With the ROF committee shining solitary spotlights on Champ Bailey, Shanahan and Manning the past three successive years, it is now free to review other potentially deserving players from yesteryear such as Riley Odoms, Steve Foley and Al Wilson, among several others.
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