Denver Broncos: Why the Offensive Balance Elway Wants Won't Happen

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIJuly 21, 2012

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 20:  Quarterback Peyton Manning (R) shakes hands with executive vice president of football operations John Elway 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

John Elway, the Denver Broncos' vice president of football operations, recently stressed the importance of a balanced offensive attack to a successful season.

"You always want to have good balance," Elway said in an interview with "That's the key to winning a Super Bowl. You look at the teams who have won championships, you got to have balance. So, to be able to run the ball effectively and throw the ball effectively is what gives you the chance to win a world championship."

Great idea, John, but that's not going to happen.

Elway has good backing for his claims about balance being the key to winning Super Bowls.

Consider the importance of Terrell Davis in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. Davis combined for 259 yards and three touchdowns en route to back-to-back Super Bowl wins for the Broncos.

A strong ground game was essential in the late 90s. Since then, the prevalence of a rushing attack has declined as football has adopted a more spread attack.

In 2011, nine of the top 10 scoring offenses in the league were also in the top 10 in passing yards per game. The Carolina Panthers, fifth in points, finished 13th in passing yards per game.

In 2010, it was a similar story with seven of the top 10 scoring offenses also being in the top 10 in passing yards per game.

John Elway Era

What about in 1998 with John Elway?

Six of the 10 best scoring offenses were in the top 10 in passing, including the Broncos.

Were they balanced? Yes, 525 total rushing attempts to 491 total passing attempts.

Then, in 1999, the Broncos started to get away from the balance, 465 rushing attempts to 554 passing attempts.

Even last season with Tim Tebow, who couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat with his passes, the Broncos threw 217 times and rushed 546. That's not exactly balanced.

The Manning Era

This offseason the Broncos brought in one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, Peyton Manning.

Manning, with all of his audibles and checks, is one of the best mental quarterbacks in the game, but he has never been one for balance.

In 2009, Manning, with the Indianapolis Colts, threw 571 passes compared to 366 rushing attempts.

2008: 555 Manning passes, 370 rushes

2007: 515 Manning passes, 446 rushes

2006: 557 Manning passes, 439 rushes

Trendy, right?


The game of football has changed drastically over the last couple of decades. Pocket quarterbacks are becoming less of a commodity than mobile, Michael Vick-like quarterbacks.

The power sweep of the old Green Bay Packers has given way to five wide receiver formations and 99-yard passing plays.

Running the football is seemingly only done to set up play-action passes. And, there are very few quarterbacks better at setting up play-action than Peyton Manning.

Regardless of how good the Bronco rushing game is, the Broncos will not have that balance that Elway wants.

That's not Manning. That's not football, anymore. And that's not happening.