Things in sports can get really strange sometimes. For example, I didn’t know that Peyton Manning and John Elway had a relationship prior to Manning becoming a Denver Bronco. After reading Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy, I found out that Manning sought advice from Elway before being drafted by the Colts, and that Archie Manning thinks very highly of Elway, even considering him possibly the best quarterback to ever play the game. It was almost eerie to read about this after Manning signed in Denver. There were many experts out there saying he wouldn’t choose Denver and were actually quite shocked when he did. After reading about their relationship though, I really don’t think there was another choice for him. I highly suggest you read that book if you have the opportunity.
The similarities between the 1996 Denver Broncos playoff team and the 2013 Denver Broncos playoff team are eerie as well. Both Manning and Elway were 36 when they lost one of the biggest games of their careers. The record was 13-3 for both seasons and both teams were 1st in their conference and earned a first round BYE. Weird part about that? In 1996, the Broncos were tied with the Green Bay Packers for the best record in the NFL. In 2012, the Broncos were tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the NFL. Another interesting fact is that both teams lost the game by 3 points. Granted, the game against the Ravens this season ended in double overtime, but it was like deja vu all over again. Did that really just happen? Four months later I’m still in disbelief. Basically, both teams lost games that they should have won and although they might not be equally devastating, those losses are something that will not easily be forgotten. Obviously, neither team made it to the Super Bowl, which was played in New Orleans both seasons.
Hated rivals suddenly becoming a part of this team is difficult to take at times and a strange coincidence. I know that many Bronco fans struggled with Manning donning orange and blue not only because they didn’t want to give up on Tim Tebow, but because they held a huge grudge against him for beating us all the time, and I mean ALL the time! We could never win against him. The list of “used to be rivals” continues to grow, what with Wes Welker signing with us this year. I’m pretty positive that whatever we imagine our offense to be like in 2013 will not even come close to the actual thing. Welker was the enemy, that’s for sure, but what about AFC West rivals? What happens when they become friends?
On April 14th, 1997, defensive end Neil Smith, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, became a Bronco. Smith was a free agent and Mike Shanahan brought him in and never let him leave. I still remember how he had hoped that the Kansas City fans would welcome him back to Arrowhead with open arms, but the “boos” ensued instead. Similarly, on April 28th, 2013, free agent linebacker Shaun Phillips, formerly of the San Diego Chargers, became a Bronco. No fan will ever forget the scrap he got into with Josh McDaniels in 2009 before the Chargers beat us 32-3. Funnily enough, I think that Phillips might anticipate those “boos” upon returning to San Diego this fall; he might even look forward to them. At least with Phillips we can immediately imagine him sacking Philip Rivers and erase any doubt we ever had of his efficiency as a Bronco instead of a Bolt. A bonus of signing both of these guys is that they weren’t cost prohibitive. Smith signed a one year, $1.5 million dollar deal and won back to back Super Bowls with us. Phillips signed a one year, $1 million dollar deal (perhaps $2 million depending on his sack numbers).
Another strange similarity occurs with Manning’s Super Bowl run in 2006. In 2013, the Broncos will play the AFC West, AFC South, the NFC East, the Patriots, and the Ravens. Manning also played the AFC South, the NFC East, and the Patriots during the regular season in 2006, plus the Ravens and the Chiefs in the playoffs. Not only that, Manning played the Broncos in Denver that season and this season he will play his old team, the Indianapolis Colts, in Indianapolis.
To be honest, if one were to look closer into the 1996, 2006, or 2012 seasons, I’m sure there are plenty of other similarities that boggle the mind, but these are the glaring commonalities that seem impossible. What are the chances that Bronco fans are reliving an experience 16 years later? Or that Manning is playing similar foes 7 years after his Super Bowl win? Elway brought #18 in to win a Super Bowl, which is what every NFL team’s goal is every year, but nobody knew what to expect in 2012. The team actually was amazingly successful for the situation it was in. Nobody knew what Manning was going to be able to do after four neck surgeries and the team adjusted to it’s third offense scheme, and the most complicated, in two years relatively quickly. The loss to the Ravens just adds extra motivation to one of the most unselfish teams I’ve ever seen. There is a chance that these similarities mean nothing and a Super Bowl will not come to fruition. But I think there’s a bigger chance that it does because it seems like it’s written in the stars that the Broncos are going to win it all this year.