Tebow Time or Pocket Peyton?
Fans always heard about Denver's excellent defense last year, led by Brian Dawkins, Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller and sack-happy defensive end Elvis Dumervil. However, when you really look beneath the surface, they're really not that good.
The Broncos ranked 20th in the NFL in total defense, 22nd in rush defense and 29th in takeaways. Peyton Manning, seeing his current state of health, needs a defense that can play well, and Denver just doesn't have what he wants.
Everyone who is a fan of the NFL knows Peyton Manning likes to run his own offense. Tony Dungy knew that, which is why he sat back and didn't interfere with his humming offense. He supplied Peyton with a good offensive line, good wide receivers and as much audible flexibility as possible. The result? One-hundred-forty-one career wins, a Lombardi trophy and a Colts dynasty.
However, Peyton won't get what he wants, when he wants it in Denver with coach John Fox calling the shots. Even in Carolina, Fox always ran the show, following a rigid offensive scheme which last year centered around running the ball early and often with Willis McGahee and Tebow. With Manning at the helm, there won't be a dual-option running threat, and Fox's scheme would break down.
Fox wouldn't give Manning as much flexibility as Ken Wisenhunt of Arizona, which would ultimately lead to confusion, strife and failure. Manning's style—pocket passer, not very mobile—just doesn't work with the type of personnel Denver has.
Seriously. Who would Peyton throw the ball to?
In Indianapolis, he's never had a shortage of quality options; he even had pairs underneath, over the middle and deep. Manning has had the benefit of throwing to eight-time Pro Bowler Marvin Harrison, five-time Pro Bowl selection Reggie Wayne and two-time All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark. Even the less recognized guys, like Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garcon, are above average NFL receivers.
Unfortunately, in Denver, they have no one of that caliber. Yes, Eric Decker has nice hands and Demaryius Thomas seems to be a blossoming young player, but none of those guys should be allowed to even exist on the same level as a Wayne or a Harrison. Peyton needs three things from wide receivers: smarts, consistency and great hands. Nobody on Denver has even two of those, much less three like his previous guys on the Colts.
And it's not like Denver can magically wave their wand and pick someone up in free agency. The only two No. 1-type receivers out there are Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace and Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe. Wallace is a restricted free agent, which means the Steelers would most likely match Denver's offer, and Bowe has already been franchised. The only other options are second-tier, most notable of whom are Mario Manningham and Jerome Simpson; I'll be surprised if either is let go by their 2011-2012 teams.
I know he's not widely regarded as an efficient, prototypical NFL quarterback, but even Tebow haters must admit that he is a winner. He turned what was going to be a 3-13 catastrophe into an 8-8 playoff team, and then compounded that by upsetting the Steelers in the Wild Card Round with an unbelievable performance. Tom Brady ended Tebow Time a week later, but hey, the guy still won a playoff game.
As much as John Elway dislikes Tebow, the town of Denver adores the guy. Broncos fans wouldn't forgive Elway, even if he brought in the perennial Pro Bowler Manning, just because Tebow is an inspirational story and a great leader.
In addition, it would be unfair to unseat a quarterback who went 8-5 as a starter, including leading the team to its first playoff win since 2005. He saved a dying franchise, and his unbelievable fourth-quarter antics are one of the reasons Denver puts butts in the seats every Sunday.