John F. Russell: Will Peyton Manning be a Bronco or always remain a Colt?

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— A few years from now, Broncos fans will wake up to a sad day, the day they pick up the local newspaper and read the headline, “Peyton Manning calls it quits, retires from professional football."

But like most Broncos fans, I am hoping to see a couple of other large front-page headlines before that day.

John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

They could read something like, “Manning magnificent in Super Bowl win” or “Manning multiplies Super Bowl titles in Denver." I don’t care what the headline is as long as it starts with Manning and ends with the Broncos winning another Super Bowl title.

But when the sad news of Manning’s retirement finally arrives in Denver, I can’t help but wonder which jersey he will choose. Will he wear the royal blue and white jersey of an Indianapolis Colt, or will he opt for the blue and orange that brings joy to the legions of Denver Broncos fans in Denver?

Personally, I would be thrilled if Manning retires as a Denver Bronco and someday becomes the second Denver Bronco quarterback to enter the hall in Canton, Ohio. However, as a fan of professional football, it might be more fitting if, when Manning is ready to retire, he signs a one-day contract with Indianapolis and retires as a Colt. Manning played in Indianapolis for 14 seasons from 1998 to 2011 and won a Super Bowl title there.

It’s a tough question.

On one hand, my heart would love to see Manning, who is one of my all-time favorite players, become more than a footnote in Broncos history. I want him to take his place in the Ring of Fame, and I want to see him in the Hall of Fame someday. I want to see him as a Bronco.

But on the other hand, one of the reasons I’m such a huge Manning fan, beside the fact that he wins football games, is his loyalty to the teams he plays for. In today’s world, loyalty is harder to find than an honest politician in Washington.

Players go where they can make the most money, and teams are looking for the fastest route to a title. Teams no longer have to spend years building a successful franchise. Teams with money to spend can put together a championship run through free agency in a single season.

It’s great for the game, but it’s hard to be a fan of any one team. It’s hard to get behind players who are here one day, gone the next.

But this hasn’t been the case with Manning. My guess is that he still would be playing for Indianapolis if not for an injury and some bad luck. The Colts had one bad season and were rewarded with the first-round pick a couple of years ago. Manning may have been loyal to the fans in Indy, but the Colts were looking to a bright future with Andrew Luck.

My hope is that Peyton Manning will have a couple of more seasons in Denver before he starts talking about retiring. My hope is that he will lead the Broncos to at least one Super Bowl, hopefully a title, during that run.

Then he always will be a Bronco, no matter where he retires.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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