The two Hall of Fame quarterbacks embraced then sat down to dinner to finalize their plot to rid Denver of a quarterback who had become inexplicably more popular than them.
The waiter at Shula’s steakhouse prepped the dinner table around them, his hands shaking nervously as he refilled their water glasses.
Both legends waited for the server to leave the room before engaging in any conversation about the franchise, both of them experienced enough to know that when discussing such matters, you never can be too safe.
“So tell me, Peyton” began the suited Elway as he leaned back in his velvet-coated dinner chair and confidently placed a napkin on his lap, “what’s everyone else in the league offering you? Because you know I can beat it.”
“You mean aside from the usual, John?” Manning responded in his lisp-laden southern drawl. “They’re offering me the whole nine yards… but you know it takes ten for a first down.” This was Peyton’s feeble attempt at humor. The lights in the dining room created a surreal reflection of Elway’s teeth shimmering dimly off Peyton’s forehead.
Even the air in the room was nervous. After all, these two men accounted for over 100,000 career passing yards.
“But, you know we have a problem, right?” asked Peyton, shifting uncomfortably in his chair and finally exposing the 800-lb., bible-thumping gorilla in the room.
“Listen, Peyton. You’re our guy, and Tebow’s already been, ahem… taken care of.”
“Taken care of?” asked Peyton, shifting his right hand into the form of a pistol and putting it to his head.
“Peyton, don’t be silly,” Elway reassured. “Let’s just say he won’t be a problem anymore, if you know what I mean.”
“That’s good, boss, ‘cause you know where that little fucker went to school. Man, I simply cannot stand those Gators!” Peyton’s forehead throbbed suddenly, turning tomato red as he reminisced over his college losses to Florida. He’s surprised a tic didn’t develop.
“Peyton, I got this. So tell me. How’s the neck?” inquired Elway as one who had just dumped his life savings into a single investment would ask of his stockbroker. “You know I stuck out my… ahem… neck for you on this one” quipped Elway, and another sorry attempt at humor. Most comedians would be asnooze in their company.
Peyton responded resentfully “Top notch, boss,” still unsure himself, yet he managed a smile by picturing a dejected Tebow packing a suitcase.
“Well, this is your home now, son. Breathe in the fresh, mountain air. Waiter! More Coors Lights for me and my new helmsmen! It does a body good. And uh listen,” Elway turned his attention back to Peyton and whispered, “Don’t worry about that whole Eli thing. By the time you’re done here in Denver, you’ll have more rings than your little brother. If not, I’ll give you my two.” Elway winked.
“That’s a mighty fine gesture there, boss, but I’d rather earn it,” answered Peyton. He sipped from his beer. “And not to beat a dead Bronco but, you’re sure Tebow’s gone, right?”
“Peyton, Peeeyton, not to worry.” Elway raised his glass, encouraging his newest, prized possession to raise his in return, which he did reluctantly. “Here’s to a fabulous career in Denver, healthy and worry-free.”
Peyton clinked his bottleneck against Elway’s and they drank.