Peyton Manning’s expected arrival in Denver drove up Broncos ticket prices and improved their odds of winning the Super Bowl as one Mile High sports craze supplanted another.
Manning, the record four-time National Football League Most Valuable Player who left the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, began negotiations yesterday to continue his career in Denver, according to ESPN.com. He’d take over at quarterback from Tim Tebow, who spawned a fad known as “Tebowing” and became one of the most popular athletes in the U.S. by helping the Broncos win a playoff game last season after a 1-4 start.
The Broncos may be even more popular now as Manning, 35, prepares to sign with the team whose vice president of football operations is John Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback of Denver’s last two Super Bowl-winning teams after the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
The team has scheduled a news conference at its training facility for 1 p.m. Denver time today. It didn’t list a subject for the session in an e-mailed statement.
“Manning immediately becomes the biggest athlete and sports celebrity in Denver since John Elway, and will be a transcendent personality in Denver,” Steve Herz, the president and founder of New York-based sports and media talent agency IF Management, said in an e-mail.
News of the contract talks sent the odds of Denver winning the 2013 Super Bowl tumbling to 10-1 from 50-1 at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino’s sports book, Jeff Sherman, the book’s assistant manager, said in an e-mail.
“That’s a pretty darn good defense and with Peyton Manning making first downs and controlling the clock a little bit, that defense will be even better,” said former 49ers and Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who’s now an analyst for the NFL Network. “I think we’re going to see a similar offense to what we saw in Indy for 14 seasons.”
An hour after word emerged yesterday of Manning’s plan to reject pitches by the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans, the prices for season tickets at the Mile High city’s Sports Authority Field jumped about 25 percent at online ticket reseller StubHub.com, according to spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer.
Within 15 minutes, a person from Pennsylvania bought four Broncos season tickets for $750 apiece, Ferrer said in an e-mail. An hour later the cheapest on the site were going for more than $1,000 and at least 50 had been purchased.
Super Bowl Odds
Denver, which won the American Football Conference’s West Division title with an 8-8 record last season, now has the fourth-best odds of winning the Super Bowl behind the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, according to the LVH’s sportsbook. The Broncos’ Super Bowl odds were 60-1 less than a month ago.
Denver also has 5-1 odds of winning the conference championship after opening at 25-1 following last season.
Manning, who missed all of his 14th season in Indianapolis after neck-fusion surgery, was cut by the Colts a day before the team had to commit to pay him a $28 million bonus and a $7.4 million salary in 2012.
He met with the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, 49ers, Titans and Broncos before reportedly deciding on Denver, which last season won seven of its last 11 regular-season games and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs for its first postseason win in seven years.
Titans owner Bud Adams said in a statement yesterday he was disappointed when Manning called with his decision. While Adams didn’t say in the statement that Manning specifically mentioned the Broncos, the owner told the Tennessean newspaper that “he called me himself and told me he wasn’t coming, and he made up his mind to go to Denver.”
Tom Condon, Manning’s agent, didn’t return a telephone message seeking comment. Patrick Smyth, a spokesman for the Broncos, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
“The other teams that he was looking at, the 49ers and Tennessee, by record and on paper were better teams,” Mariucci said on the NFL Network. “So I think John Elway and coach John Fox did one heck of a recruiting job on Peyton Manning to say this is the best place for you, your career and your future with a great chance of winning.”
Denver will try to trade Tebow after Manning is signed, ESPN said, citing unidentified people.
Tebow, a 24-year-old second-year player, was named America’s favorite active pro athlete in an ESPN fan-based poll in January, taking three percent of the vote. Manning was fourth with 1.8 percent.
Sales of Tebow’s jersey from April 2011 through February were second only to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Manning was 18th, falling from fourth the previous year.
The move may boost sales of Manning jerseys. Brett Favre’s shirt was the No. 1 seller from April 2008 to March 2009 after he moved to the New York Jets from the Packers. He ranked third the previous year.
Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl title in February 2007 and was named league MVP in 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. His 54,828 yards passing, 4,682 completions and 399 touchdowns are third on the NFL career list, trailing Favre and Dan Marino in each category.
Tebow’s 46.5 completion percentage last season was the lowest among NFL starting quarterbacks. He was second on the team with 660 rushing yards for a Broncos offense that led the NFL with an average of 164.4 yards rushing a game.
“They’re going to have to change their mentality,” said Warren Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who’s now an NFL Network analyst. “That’s the challenge. They’re going from a ball control, running game-oriented offense to a Peyton Manning running the show in the thin air of Denver offense.”