Elway and the Broncos used Manning as an exit strategy from anything and everything Tebow. That wasn't the sentiment of everyone; Demaryius Thomas said he wishes Tebow could have stayed in Denver to learn from Manning.
How different might the Broncos be today if the Broncos kept Tebow?
Keeping Tebow as a backup would have meant that the Broncos believed in his ability to become a good passer if given enough time. Essentially, Tebow would be the developmental quarterback for the Broncos that Brock Osweiler is today.
Without the need for Osweiler, the Broncos would have used the 57th overall draft pick on another position. Perhaps LaMichael James would be a Bronco and not Ronnie Hillman, or the Broncos would have addressed a need at linebacker.
It's possible the Broncos could have ended up with LaMichael James and outside linebacker Demario Davis or Lavonte David and Hillman. David is currently projected to start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Broncos also traded their seventh-round draft selection with Tebow for the Jets' fourth and sixth-round selection. With the fourth-round selection, the Broncos selected center Philip Blake and with the sixth-round selection, outside linebacker Danny Trevathan.
Trevathan may or may not have lasted until the pick 232 in the seventh round, and the Broncos might have been looking at other players with their linebacker need filled earlier in the draft.
The biggest issue would be at center. Philip Blake appears poised to win the starting job. J.D. Walton is one of the league's worst starting centers. He was ranked 29 out of the 32 NFL starting centers by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
The Broncos would have had to use their fifth-round selection on Blake, if he was still available, and may not have drafted the talented, raw defensive end Malik Jackson. For the Broncos, keeping Tebow would have drastically altered their 2012 NFL draft class and, even if he never played another snap, the future of the franchise.
There wouldn't be a controversy for the starting position because Manning is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL when healthy. Tebow is the now the backup to below-average quarterback in New York. There is no comparing the two.
However, if the Broncos had kept Tebow, would they feel obligated to let him compete with Adam Weber for the backup job? Tebow's supporters would probably be upset if he wasn't even the backup, but Weber essentially beat out Tebow last season during training camp. According to Mike Silver, some people in the Broncos organization believed Tebow was the fourth best quarterback on the roster last year.
Even if the Broncos had kept Tebow and believed him to be a quarterback worth developing, he might not have been good enough to execute the new offense in Denver. What if Weber, a young developing quarterback himself, beat out Tebow?
It could range from pandemonium to hardly a blip on the controversy meter depending on Manning and his health. The backup does have to play when and if the starter can't play, and the fans could again start chanting TEBOW! TEBOW! TEBOW! in the event Weber were to struggle in relief of Manning. It wouldn't be a favorable situation for Weber.
Backups become starters too often, and the Broncos offensive line hasn't done a good job keeping the quarterback upright over the past two seasons. It is for this reason alone, even if Tebow was worth developing, that the Broncos may have decided to move on.
It's not often there is a legitimate controversy involving a backup quarterback, but with Tebow, all things are possible.
The Broncos offense will be much more pass-oriented with Manning running the show, but that doesn't mean Tebow couldn't contribute to the offense in other ways. Special packages just for Tebow could yield success. The Jets plan to use Tebow in the wildcat and in other formations.
Imagine Tebow lining up as a running back and taking a pitch or lateral pass from Manning. The defense would have to learn to stay in coverage as Tebow would be a threat to throw. If the defense didn't stay with their coverage, Tebow could hurt them over the top, but staying in coverage would give Tebow space to get yards on the ground.
Using a similar formation, the Broncos could have Manning fake the pass to Tebow. If the safety or linebacker takes one step in the wrong direction, Manning could make them pay down a seam. NFL offenses have hardly scratched the surface of what is possible with a running quarterback, particularly when that quarterback is the backup and not the starter.
Tebow also has a special skill; few quarterbacks were more effective in goal-line situations than Tebow. On running plays inside the five, Tebow allows the offense to put another rushing threat on the field. Manning would simply turn and hand it off and with Manning's neck injury; don't count on the Broncos running many quarterback sneaks.
The Broncos would even be able to start Weber over Tebow provided they added a few more looks for Tebow in special packages. The special plays for Tebow could actually take the pressure of a young quarterback like Weber.
By trading Tebow, the Broncos will not have this dynamic on offense, and the load falls more heavily on Manning to stay healthy. The Broncos are either not creative enough to maximize Tebow's talents or they don't believe they will need these kind of special packages, and Manning alone is going to do enough damage to make the Broncos a Super Bowl contender.
Tebow. Manning. Tebow. Manning. It was fun enough for a short time this offseason, but the Broncos would have continued to be the talk of the NFL.
Camp reports out of Denver would be featured stories on NFL Network, ESPN and across the sports landscape. If the Broncos were successful with the duo, there would be no shortage of coverage on how the two coexisted. If the team wasn't successful, some journalist would inevitably take a quote out of context and imagine a locker room rift.
The Manning-Tebow saga would be great television, great football and great drama. It's everything fans could hope it to be. It wouldn't take long for Nabisco to put together an Oreo commercial with Manning having to decide between his brother Eli Manning's double stuff Oreo and Tebow's Golden Oreo. Entertainment Gold.
Josh McDaniels obviously saw something more than a sub-package quarterback in Tebow. McDaniels is not without his flaws, but he's still a bright offensive mind. The Patriots obviously agree, because he'll be the offensive coordinator for New England for the second time and also be Tom Brady's quarterback coach.
Developing Tebow as something more than a sub-package quarterback would only make sense if the Broncos were to keep him around. It wouldn't have had to be a commitment to Tebow, but an effort from the team to give Tebow the chance to develop as a passer without the pressures of being the starter. Tebow should have sat on the bench for a couple years, but the Broncos unwisely gave into fan and media pressure when the team wasn't performing.
Allowing Tebow a year or two to be a backup and learn from Manning might have been the noble thing to do after the Broncos used and abused Tebow on and off-the-field last season, but this is the NFL and the nobility comes second to the football opinions of the franchise. Tebow wasn't the guy, but we'll never know if he could have been with a more stability and without the pressures of starting.