On another glorious weekend in Colorado, the sun shone, the air warmed and the mountains majestically revealed their beauty.
Oh, and Tim Tebow remains the Broncos' quarterback.
Remember when the people here wanted Tebow more than Colorado itself?
When free agent Peyton Manning decided to leave this wondrous state Saturday night — getting dropped off at Centennial Airport by friend and former teammate and ex-Bronco Brandon Stokley — for the hot Arizona desert (80 degrees today, 86 by midweek), the frenetic buzz surrounding Broncos headquarters at Dove Valley was replaced by a somber silence.
"The visit was productive," a Broncos source said. "The team is hopeful and encouraged by the time spent" with Manning. Still, John Elway knows from all those millions he made in the car dealer business that once the customer leaves the showroom, the chances of closing the deal drop significantly.
Then again, there's no sense for the Broncos to drop their daubers. The Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks are trying to get in the Manning sweepstakes, and he hasn't visited them. As long as there's a chance to acquire a player of Manning's caliber, there is reason for optimism. Even though he missed the entire 2011 season because of neck surgeries, Manning has 399 career touchdown passes, 11 Pro Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title ring.
His release to free agency Wednesday by the Indianapolis Colts was expected and shocking to the NFL masses. His neck injury, coupled with a $28 million option payment that was due late last week and good fortune that resulted in the Colts having the No. 1 overall draft pick at a time when quarterback Andrew Luck is eligible for selection, were the primary factors in pushing Manning to Colorado for a 29-hour visit.
Manning had been with the Broncos since team officials — a group led by Elway, the team's former star quarterback and head of football operations, and coach John Fox — met him in Stillwater, Okla., at about 11 a.m. MST Friday. He and the Broncos' brass arrived by private plane at Centennial Airport at about 1:35 p.m. Friday and then made the short drive to the team's facility.
Manning spent his day visiting with owner Pat Bowlen, among others, and touring the Broncos' headquarters until about 7:45 p.m. Friday night.
Manning, Stokley, Elway and Fox then dined at the Cherry Hills Country Club and stayed late.
Manning stayed overnight and flew out of Centennial Airport at about 6:50 p.m. The source said the team "was in communication with Manning" on Saturday, although the two sides did not meet. Elway was in his office Saturday preparing for free agency that begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Manning wants to make his decision by then. With agent Tom Condon not accompanying Manning on his visit here, a deal was not expected to be struck. Still, the Broncos most likely tried.
Meanwhile, a source close to Tebow said the Broncos' incumbent quarterback is philosophical about his team's pursuit of Manning and won't comment until "after the smoke clears."
Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or email@example.com
Picking Peyton's place
NFL writer Mike Klis updates the current odds of teams to sign Peyton Manning:
1. Denver Broncos
The NFL reputations of John Elway and John Fox got Manning in their door first. Chances: 60-40.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Indoor stadium; game's best WR Larry Fitzgerald. Chances: 40-60.
3. Miami Dolphins
May have concern about management and fact Dolphins play in Patriots' division. Chances: 40-60.
4. Houston Texans
Team seemingly considers Matt Schaub less risky. Chances: 30-70.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Team wants to meet. So far the QB isn't listening. Chances: 20-80.
6. Seattle Seahawks
See Chiefs above. Chances: 20-80.
7. Washington Redskins
Traded for right to draft Robert Griffin III. Chances: 1-99.
8. New York Jets
Signed Mark Sanchez to an extension. Chances: 0
Courtship of Peyton Manning
Wednesday: After 13 seasons of starting every game for the Indianapolis Colts, and then a 14th season in which he never took a snap because of a neck injury, Manning is released. The move spares the Colts from paying him a $28 million bonus and allows them to use their No. 1 overall draft pick on Andrew Luck, who's considered the best QB prospect since Manning in 1998 or John Elway in 1983.
Wednesday afternoon: Manning arrives in Miami, where he has an offseason residence. The Broncos place a call to Manning's agent, Tom Condon, and state their strong interest in signing the quarterback. The Broncos are one of 12 teams who reportedly state their interest.
Thursday: The Broncos finalize details on their visit with Manning. The Kansas City Chiefs, according to a radio station report, are the first team to submit a contract offer.
Friday: A Broncos contingent of front-office boss John Elway, coach John Fox, general manager Brian Xanders and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy attend the Oklahoma State pro-day workout in Stillwater, Okla., where they watch QB Brandon Weeden, a projected second-round draft pick. Meanwhile, the private plane that dropped them off flies to Miami, where it picks up Manning, then flies back to Stillwater to pick up the Broncos' brass. Manning, Elway, Fox et al. then fly to Centennial Airport, landing about 1:35 p.m. Manning, Elway and Fox then ride by car to the Broncos' headquarters, where Manning visits until 7:45 p.m. Manning dines with Elway and Fox at the Cherry Hills Country Club and spends the night in Denver.
Saturday: Manning wakes up in Denver and continues to speak with Broncos officials, although there is no formal meeting. He flies to Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday night to begin his visit with the Arizona Cardinals.
Today: Manning will continue his visit with the Cardinals. He is scheduled to fly back to his Miami home tonight.
Monday: A visit with the Miami Dolphins is tentative but not yet scheduled. With free agency starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Manning is expected to make his decision on his second NFL team sometime Monday or Tuesday morning.
2 p.m. MDT Tuesday: Free agency opens. Will the Broncos have Manning in Denver to help them recruit other players?