We were right in the middle of trying to size up young prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft, then a legend steals the show with his decision to retire. After 18 seasons, quarterback Peyton Manning will call it a career Monday.
And an amazing career it was, one that redefined much of the criteria that was thought to be essential at quarterback. His timing, as it was so often on the field, is perfect.
Manning will be 40 on March 24, and if he stayed with the Broncos, it would cause an expensive traffic jam at quarterback. The team reportedly offered 25-year old backup quarterback Brock Osweiler a three-year contract worth more than $45 million. If Manning stays, Osweiler has the option to test the free agent market.
And then there was Manning's spinal fusion surgery in 2011 that led to his release by the Indianapolis Colts so he could join the Broncos in 2012 and take them to two Super Bowls.
If it weren't for the fact that his name was Peyton Manning and his accomplishments were already historic, his comeback in Denver would have been unbelievable.
But now, as he leaves the game for good, we are left to struggle for words that adequately describe his impact on the history of pro football, if not the definition of a quarterback. Assessing Manning's legacy is almost as difficult as it is to describe the possible potential of those untested draft prospects whose careers have not yet begun.
At once we are struck with the realization that maybe words rarely properly define the measure of a quarterback, whether they are going into the draft or going into retirement after 18 seasons. And that is especially so of Peyton Manning.
If we were to analyze video of his last few years and treat it as we do that of this year's draft prospects, it would be a daunting task to accurately describe his abilities as a quarterback or, indeed, to project him as a star.
What is it we see?
From an athletic perspective, he is robotic, stiff and an easy target for a good pass rush and absolutely no threat to run with the ball.
What about his arm? That is always a primary concern for a quarterback. Yet for this quarterback, for Peyton Manning, the ability to throw the ball the last few years was less than spectacular.
We would question if he has enough mustard on it to throw a medium range out to the sideline without danger of an interception. His long ball wobbles like a gyroscope gone awry. His ability to throw over the middle into small windows would cause a coach to wince.
Obviously, what we see in that respect is not the true measure of this man. And it makes one wonder if the criteria we use on these draft prospects offer valid insight into how we can expect them to fare in the NFL.
With quarterbacks, and especially with this quarterback, Peyton Manning, the critical factors are those you cannot see, cannot measure.
We cannot measure preparation. We have no statistic for his mental grasp of the game. We cannot quantify his will to win or his heart or his acutely focused gamesmanship. Yet those are the very things that make Peyton Manning one of the very best quarterbacks ever to play the game.
Even in these last years when his ability to throw the ball was questioned, he still had a surgeon-like manner, and timing, of passing that was still amazing.
If throwing the ball were really the prime issue, then JaMarcus Russell would be at the height of a Hall of Fame career and Jeff George would already have a gold jacket.
But passing is much more than throwing. It involves a ridiculous equation that includes speed, trajectory, geometry, touch, timing as well as an understanding of your own offense and the opposing defense, and more.
Hell, if merely throwing the ball were the primary issue, then Peyton Manning might not have been the No. 1 pick, out of the University of Tennessee, in the 1998 draft. After all, as odd as it may seem now, the big curiosity going into that draft was whether Manning or big-armed, gun-slinging Ryan Leaf, of Washington State, would be the better NFL quarterback.
Those questions were answered quickly when Leaf's career flamed out by 2001 and his life went into a horrible spiral. After bouts with drugs and alcohol that led him to a felony burglary conviction, Leaf is now trying to regain some dignity after being let out of prison in December 2014.
Looking back, it is almost embarrassing to realize that there was even a question when comparing Manning to Leaf.
Meanwhile, Manning led his team into the playoffs an NFL-record 15 times during his 18 years.
After 14 years with the Colts, Manning joined the Broncos as a free agent on March 20, 2012. He is the only five-time Most Valuable Player in NFL history. No player in league history has earned more Pro Bowl appearances (14) than Manning, a 14-time team captain.
The NFL's career leader in combined regular-season and playoff wins by a starting quarterback (200), Manning is the only QB in league history to lead two teams to a Super Bowl victory. His Super Bowl 50 win came nine years after he earned his first Lombardi Trophy with the Colts in Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.
During his four years in Denver, Manning helped the Broncos to the most wins (55) and highest winning percentage (.764) of any team in the NFL while becoming the first quarterback in team history to be part of four consecutive AFC West titles. No player threw more touchdown passes (151) in the regular season/playoffs combined from 2012-15 than Manning, who ranked third in the league in overall passer rating (99.6) as well as fourth in both overall passing yards (19,062) and completions (1,639) during that period.
In 2013, Manning posted the most prolific season of any quarterback in NFL history en route to earning his fifth MVP award and receiving Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award. Manning, who helped the Broncos to their first Super Bowl appearance in 15 years, set NFL single-season records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477) while leading the highest-scoring offense in NFL history (606 points -- 37.9 points per game).
During his regular-season career, Manning played in 266 games (265 starts, 186-79 record) and completed 6,125 of 9,380 passes (65.3 percent) for 71,940 yards with 539 touchdowns and 251 interceptions (96.5 rating). He added 667 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing.
Manning started 27 postseason games (14-13 record) in his career and completed 649 of 1,027 passes (63.2 percent) for 7,339 yards with 40 touchdowns and 25 interceptions (87.4 rating). He also had three rushing touchdowns.
And Manning is even much more than all that to the NFL. As the league goes through crisis after crisis, Manning seems to be the only happy face the NFL offers, several times a day in funny commercials for pizza and insurance and other products that tap into his engaging wit.
It is doubtful Manning will fade away from the NFL scene. He would be a natural on television. Or his insight into the game and competitive nature could be put to use in management or even ownership.
We can only hope to still be a part of the Hall of Fame selection process five years from now when Manning becomes a first ballot enshrinee. Meantime, if he has the time in the next few weeks, maybe he can help the rest of us evaluate this year's disparate crop of quarterbacks.
--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 26th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.