Denver Peyton Manning stood next to John Elway, holding up a bright orange jersey with the No. 18 on it.
Yes, that could take some getting used to.
And now if Manning’s surgically repaired neck cooperates, these two quarterbacks — one in the Hall of Fame, the other headed there one day — think they might be taking a similar photo together, only next time they’ll be holding a Super Bowl trophy.
Manning was introduced as the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, the four-time MVP taking the spot once held by Elway, who as Broncos vice president engineered the deal to bring the NFL’s most sought-after free agent to town.
It’s a deal that could also mark the end of Tim Tebow’s days in Denver — a bold move, for sure, but one Elway was more than willing to take.
“Plan B?” he said. “I don’t have a Plan B. We’re going with Plan A.”
After his photo op with Elway and owner Pat Bowlen, Manning answered many of the questions that have been bouncing around since March 7, when his old team, the Indianapolis Colts, released the quarterback and set in motion one of the most frenetic free-agent pursuits in history.
On the neck injury that kept him off the field through 2011: “I’m not where I want to be. I want to be where I was before I was injured. There’s a lot of work to do to get where we want to be from a health standpoint.”
On his potential role in being the man who could bring about the end of Tebow’s popular stay in Denver: “I know what kind of player Tim Tebow is, what kind of person he is, what an awesome year it was. If Tim Tebow is here next year, I’m going to be the best teammate I can be to him. He and I are going to help this team win games. If other opportunities present themselves to him, I’m going to wish him the best.”
On Elway’s role in leading him to choose Denver over other suitors, the most serious of which were the Titans and 49ers: “I’m seeing him as the leader of a franchise. I really liked what he had to say. Everyone knows what kind of competitor he is as a player. I can tell he’s just as competitive in this new role. That got me excited.”
And so, the deal was sealed.
Manning has a five-year, $96 million contract and plans to retire in Denver. His familiar No. 18 was actually retired — a tribute to Denver’s first quarterback, Frank Tripucka, who was more than happy to let Manning bring it back. The Broncos, meanwhile, have some protection in the way the contract was formulated. There’s no signing bonus. Manning will get $18 million guaranteed for next season, but must pass a physical before each season, starting in 2013, to get paid.