As they’ve done five times before, Archie and Olivia Manning flew to their Oxford, Mississippi, condo Monday for some post-Super Bowl decompressing.
When you’ve had two sons twice each quarterback their teams to the top of the football world and play for the title two other times, it’s a pretty wild ride, even if you’ve gotten the routine down by now.
But this one, Archie said Tuesday, felt different from the rest.
And it’s not just the all-but-confirmed acknowledgement that Denver’s 24-10 victory against Carolina on Sunday was the last game of Peyton Manning’s illustrious career.
More on that later.
It’s the rush of good feelings — from even before the game — that have made it so rewarding.
“We were in San Francisco for five days, and everybody, unless they had a connection to Carolina, felt the same way: They wanted the Broncos and Peyton to win,” Archie said. “Usually it’s pretty mixed emotions.
“But this time, you felt like the overwhelming sentiment was with the Broncos because people knew what it probably meant for Peyton.”
On top of that, there was Peyton’s ability to embrace the moment — while not sacrificing from his legendary attention-to-detail planning.
That was helped along not just by the presence of his family, including brothers Eli and Cooper, but also the large turnout of former teammates, going back to Peyton’s days at Newman more than 20 years ago, along with ones from Tennessee and the Indianapolis Colts.
“We had a little party after the game, and Peyton enjoyed seeing everybody so much,” Archie said. “It was just very special.”
Peyton’s only game-day regret, Archie said, was not being able to take part in the pregame salute to the other MVPs, including two-time winner Eli.
Monday’s trip to Disneyland, something Peyton passed on after being the MVP of Super Bowl XLI, was another special moment, especially since he and Ashley didn’t have the twins then.
There was the postgame exchange with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the first Manning Award winner to play in the Super Bowl, the graciousness of which was in contrast to Newton’s petulant postgame appearance.
There was also the message posted Monday by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, whose team defeated Peyton and the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, that included a picture of Wilson at the Manning Passing Academy several years ago and said in part, “If this is it, there’s one moment I won’t forget — 10th grade, Louisiana. At your quarterback camp.
“You inspired the kid in the green shirt. You inspired me to work hard. To be disciplined. To be respectful. To take notes.
“To love the sweat. To love the tears.
“But most of all … you inspired me to love the game.”
And there was Broncos linebacker Von Miller, the MVP of Sunday’s victory, who credited Peyton with changing the culture of the Denver locker room after coming to the team in 2012. The Broncos are 51-15 with Manning starting.
Both, Archie said, were very meaningful to Peyton, especially Miller’s saying that he was more than just a great player.
And there was Tuesday’s parade in Denver, one that allowed Peyton to acknowledge to the fans the embrace he received when coming to the team in 2012 after missing the previous season with a career-threatening neck injury that led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts after 15 seasons.
Of course, there wouldn’t have been a parade without a victory.
That, Archie said, was truly the icing on the cake.
In the lead up to the game, the fact that Peyton’s return for this season after the quadriceps injury and other ailments had made the previous one’s conclusion cast high doubt on his future — then his recovery from a torn plantar fascia in time to help the Broncos to playoff victories against Pittsburgh and New England to get to the Super Bowl — had seemed to be enough, especially going against the favored Panthers.
“When you get to the Super Bowl, it means you’re one of the best two teams in the league,” Archie said. “So you expect to win.
“And when you don’t, like it happened twice before with Peyton, it just takes everything out of you. Winning and to experience all of the happiness that goes with it, sure beats losing.”
But now, it’s over.
Peyton will turn 40 next month. Few see any reason for him to play another season, including Olivia, who said Sunday she hopes her son retires.
Archie maintains he and Peyton haven’t talked about what lies ahead but that when Peyton’s ready, they will.
A retirement announcement probably won’t happen until next week at the earliest. Nothing has to be done until March 9, when Peyton’s 2016 contract — worth $15 million — would be guaranteed. But it’s clear that at the least Manning and the Broncos are amicably parting ways.
“It’s been a long year,” Archie said. “And we know all of our lives are going to be different after this.
“Everybody’s sure enjoyed how it turned out though.”