On Wednesday evening, following the revelation of news that Peyton Manning would be released by the Indianapolis Colts, I wrote a column boldly proclaiming that Manning would be signed by the New York Jets, and why this was the right move for both sides.
Considering the lack of improvement that Sanchez has displayed in three seasons as the Jets’ quarterback, this was a very questionable decision to be made on the Jets’ part, but it made a clear statement that the Jets are comfortable with committing to Sanchez as their long-term franchise quarterback.
With the Jets out of the running for Manning, my focus now turns to which teams Manning actually may end up playing for in 2012. In less than 72 hours, a team that I did not even mention or consider in writing my first Manning column has emerged as the favorites in acquiring him: the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos spent most of the 2011 season in the spotlight thanks to the captivating play of another quarterback, Tim Tebow, making this potential destination as interesting as it gets in the Manning saga.
Tebow had a remarkable season for the Broncos, taking over after a 1-4 start and leading the team into the postseason, which featured a shocking overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card round.
In the process, Tebow became the most popular athlete in all of sports, with many fans (and Skip Bayless) falling in love with his clutch fourth-quarter performances, and many critics (especially Stephen A. Smith) continuing to question whether Tebow has enough ability as a passer to remain a successful NFL starting quarterback.
I personally became a big fan of Tebow’s play last season.
Tebow displayed that he is a tremendous leader and plays his best when the game is on the line, an important trait that has made many quarterbacks including Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana and John Elway legends at the position.
Tebow proved enough last season that the Broncos should commit to him as their franchise quarterback. That said, Manning would be a definite upgrade at quarterback if he is healthy, and if the Broncos have the opportunity to sign him, they should not pass it up.
There may be no quarterback in NFL history who has had better intangibles than Manning.
Like Tebow, Manning is a tremendous leader, and he should have no problems getting the Broncos’ locker room to rally around him. Manning is cerebral, possesses a tremendous intelligence of the game, and like Tebow, he steps up to play his best when the game is on the line.
The big difference between the two quarterbacks is that Manning is a much more skilled passer than Tebow.
Statistically, Tebow’s passing numbers have not been impressive at the NFL level, while Manning is as statistically impressive as any quarterback in NFL history. Manning possesses all of the same intangible traits as Tebow, but in his prime, Manning may have been the most purely talented passer that has ever played in the league.
Even if Manning is not quite the elite passer that he used to be after four neck surgeries, he should still be a much more efficient and skilled passer than Tebow if he is healthy.
From Manning’s point of view, the Denver Broncos would make sense for him. Manning wants to play for a team where he will have an immediate opportunity to contend for a championship, and the Broncos may be the only team who made the 2012 NFL playoffs that is actually in the hunt for Manning.
Yes, the Broncos made the postseason as the result of a very weak AFC West, and they have holes that need to be filled if they are to make a run at a Super Bowl championship, but the addition of Manning would make them favorites within the division.
The upgrade in passing ability from Tebow to Manning will immediately improve the offense. The Broncos’ defense had its struggles last season, but they are led by a young star in outside linebacker Von Miller, and are an improving defensive unit.
Compared to the other two teams rumored to be top contenders to land Manning—the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins—the Broncos are in the best position to win a Super Bowl within the next three seasons, the presumed window that remains in Manning’s career.
I must admit, Peyton Manning being a Bronco is somewhat hard to fathom.
Can three legendary quarterbacks—Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations and two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback John Elway, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in Manning and one of the greatest college football players of all-time in Tebow—all co-exist in one franchise?
While it is likely that Tebow could be traded if the Broncos sign Manning, I think that the three can suppress their egos and find a way to make it work in the interests of the team’s ultimate goal to win a championship.
Throughout the 2011 NFL season, when Tebow was a daily top story on SportsCenter, I never would have imagined that come March, we would be discussing the possibility of Peyton Manning being the Broncos’ quarterback in 2012.
However, with the Broncos being a potential contender and Manning being one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL, it is a move that makes sense for both sides, and one that I would not be surprised to see become reality within the next few days.
Thanks for reading!
For more coverage of the 2012 NFL offseason, follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.