John Elway just pulled off what may be his greatest football accomplishment yet. And that's saying a lot.
Elway, a two-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer, managed to rid the Broncos of Tim Tebow without turning a legion of rabid Tebow fans against him and the franchise. He did it by signing former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to a five-year, $96 million contract.
Elway never embraced the idea of Tebow as Denver's long-term solution at quarterback, and it put Elway in a difficult spot. Fans had made Tebow's jersey the league's top seller, his unexpected success dominated the airwaves and broke a record on Twitter and, most importantly of all, the Broncos were winning.
There was no way Elway and the Broncos could walk away from Tebow, not during the peak of Tebowmania. The Broncos knew if they were going to cut ties with the third-year quarterback, they would need a solid contingency plan.
By bringing in Manning, Elway not only found his best excuse for moving on from Tebow, he also greatly improved his team. Manning is a four-time MVP, a Super Bowl champion and he brings instant credibility to a Denver offense that ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards. He is a significant upgrade for a team that won its division in 2011 and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.
While Elway's feelings about Tebow haven't always matched the same level of emotional fervor as most Broncos fans, not even Tebow's staunchest supporters can't be mad about his departure. Bittersweet maybe, but not angry.
Elway has 169 career wins in Denver, but this victory may be his finest.