By now, Archie Manning has his pre-Super Bowl Week routine down pat.
As anyone with a son quarterbacking one of the teams for the sixth time in the past 10 years should. Come to think of it, though, there isn’t anyone else who has ever been in Archie’s shoes.
So as usual, Tuesday was “Ticket Day,” the time Archie sets aside to procure the necessary number of tickets for family and friends.
“Peyton’s obviously able to lay his hands on a bunch, and Eli’s got his sources too,” Archie said on his first day back in New Orleans after watching Peyton and the Denver Broncos upset New England 20-18 in the AFC Championship Game, which punched their ticket for Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers. “I’ve got to get about 30, so I feel like we’ll come up with enough. But there’s a lot of people who want to come to this one.”
No surprise there.
No matter how it turns out, SB 50 has a valedictory feel about it.
Peyton’s remarkable career, one that’s put him on the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks, appears at an end, although all in position to know are carefully avoiding saying so.
But when on the morning of the Patriots game Archie told Olivia, “It’s been a great rodeo,” and afterwards Peyton told Bill Belichick, “This might be my last rodeo, so it’s sure been a pleasure,” one can draw the conclusion there’s been plenty of consideration made, and all that’s left is figuring out the timing.
“I’m sure he’s going to take a pretty good look at it,” Archie said. “During the time he was out, he probably thought more about it than he ever had before.
“I haven’t pushed him about it though. Peyton’s always been good at sitting down and evaluating things on his own.”
At least it didn’t end after last year’s divisional round playoff loss to Indianapolis when Manning’s diminishing physical skills where shockingly exposed despite his playing at an MVP level earlier in the season.
And it didn’t end with Peyton failing to get those skills back to an acceptable level so he could play this season, or the Broncos deciding to cut him loose, although they did make him take a $4 million pay cut, half of which Manning recouped by getting the team to his fourth Super Bowl.
And it didn’t end with Peyton watching from the sidelines after being benched just past midseason because of a torn plantar fascia and having to endure a ginned up story about how he had obtained human growth hormone during the 2011 season he missed with a neck injury that nearly ended his career then.
And it didn’t end with a divisional loss to Pittsburgh after Broncos coach Gary Kubiak restored Payton as his starter.
And most significantly, it didn’t end with a loss to the Patriots, not only meaning that Peyton would have once again lost to Tom Brady, but that the Broncos should have kept understudy Brock Osweiler as the starter.
No, it just couldn’t end like that, although it’s usually the way it goes for even the greatest players.
Maybe, as Cooper Manning said last week, Peyton’s legacy was intact no matter what the outcome against the Patriots was.
But no doubt, this mattered — a lot.
That’s why there was such emotion on the field after the victory.
Archie brought Peyton’s twins, Marshall and Mosley, onto the field. Cooper and his kids were down there, too.
Even the Patriots were heartfelt in their respect for their old foe, even if he’d reached his fourth Super Bowl at their expense.
“It was a pretty special moment,” Archie said. “Peyton has been through so much in the past year.
“I don’t think he enjoyed much of it until these last few weeks when he was able to work through the injury while still being the best teammate he could be to Brock and the rest of the team. And then to beat a team with a coach and quarterback he has so much respect for — that was something.”
It was actually a doubly special day for the Manning family.
At halftime, with Denver leading 17-9 thanks in large part to Peyton’s two touchdown passes, it was announced that Eli is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, won in 2005 by Peyton.
“We’d known for about a week, but it was still something to hear it announced,” said Archie, who was an unofficial finalist in 1982. “Eli has done so much in the community, both in New York and New Jersey but back in Mississippi, too.
“That kind of recognition really makes you proud as a parent.”
The Walter Payton Award winner will be announced on Super Bowl Eve.
So it could be another doubly special day next weekend in the Bay Area.
But Tuesday, Archie acknowledged that Carolina is the hot team, so beating the Panthers is going to be a tall order, probably more than beating the Patriots was.
“You never want to say that just getting there is the reward, even if you know it’s going to be a hard game,” said Archie, who never got to enjoy as much as making the playoffs during his otherwise distinguished career. “But we’re all going to enjoy the opportunity. And no matter what happens, we’ve all enjoyed the journey.”
Indeed we have.