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Why Elway Stressing 'Balance' Is a Bad Sign for the Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 20:  Quarterback Peyton Manning (L) poses executive vice president of football operations John Elway (R) during a news conference announcing Manning's contract with the Denver Broncos in the team meeting room at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on March 20, 2012 in Englewood, Colorado. Manning, entering his 15th NFL season, was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7, 2012, where he had played his whole career. It has been reported that Manning will sign a five-year, $96 million offer.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Christopher HansenNFL AnalystJuly 20, 2012

John Elway is stressing offensive balance when talking about the 2012 Broncos (NFL.com). Elway thinks the Broncos should have a balanced offensive attack, despite the addition of Peyton Manning in the offseason.

Something about stressing balance in an era of the pass when you just signed one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in the offseason screams red flag. It sounds good, but why would a team with Peyton Manning need balance?

The Indianapolis Colts didn't have balance with Peyton Manning for years. It was Manning's show. Elway either knows Manning is going to need the running game or Elway himself hasn't realized that the league heavily favors the passing game and he's got a great one.

Perhaps Elway is drawing on his own experience and inability to win without the running game, and like a father that lives vicariously through his son, he believes Manning needs the same thing. A healthy Manning doesn't need a running game and won a Super Bowl with a rushing offense that averaged a mediocre 4.0 yards per carry and made it to another with a team that averaged an abysmal 3.5 yards per carry.

In the eight years since the Ty Law rule, only two teams that had good rushing offenses won the Super Bowl, and the NFL hasn't had one since they started more actively protecting the quarterbacks two years ago. One of the two teams that did win the Super Bowl with a good rushing offense was the 2009 New Orleans Saints, who could also be considered a pass-centric offense.

The other possibility is that 'balance' is Elway's fancy way of saying that neither the passing game or the running game are going go be able to carry the offense. That should be more than a little concerning when your quarterback is Peyton Manning and he's coming off a severe neck injury.

It could be that Elway is simply trying to motivate his running backs, but Broncos.com recently interviewed running backs coach Eric Studesville and his comments are in lock-step with Elway's,

Being able to run the ball effectively helps us, so there are times when we don't have to throw the ball. We can turn around and hand it off and be productive in the run game. That just makes our offense better. It's not one person, we're going to need everybody at different times so we're all going to step up at different times.

The Broncos simply don't need much of a running game if Manning is himself. Manning won 14 games twice and the rushing offense averaged no more than 3.7 in either season. The best rushing offensive during Manning's time in Indianapolis occurred during the worst season of his career, the six-win 2001 season.

When the Colts were above 4.0 yards per carry, the team won an average of nine games compared to 11 when the team rushed for 4.0 yards per carry or less, which included Manning's three-win rookie season. Remove his rookie season and the Colts averaged three wins more per season when the team didn't rush for more than 4.0 yards per carry.

The Broncos should want Manning to air it out and only use the running game to keep defenses honest. Taking the ball out of Manning's hands is one way opposing teams game plan against him, so stressing balance is self-sabatoge.

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