The Denver Broncos were unquestionably the talk of the NFL during the 2012 offseason. They landed the biggest free agent prize in the game, future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, and then quickly jettisoned controversial quarterback Tim Tebow to the New York Jets for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks.
When Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway was asked what the team's plan B for Peyton Manning was, he famously said, "Plan B? We don't have a plan B. We're going with plan A."
On the surface, it looked as if Elway's comments were a bit misleading as the team signed former Colorado State Rams' quarterback Caleb Hanie just a few days later and then drafted Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler in the second round with the 57th overall pick, which was a surprisingly high pick for the Broncos at the time.
However, here is why neither Hanie, Osweiler, nor Adam Weber is a true plan B:
First and foremost, Peyton Manning is incomparable, pure and simple. Manning didn't get to where he is with great arm-strength or superior athleticism, like his two Broncos predecessors. Jay Cutler has a very powerful arm and Tim Tebow's greatest asset is his athletic ability.
Manning's game is all about his football intellect, which is arguably the best the game has ever seen. Manning is is true on-field general and can cerebrally dissect defenses and call audibles and make plays that will expose the weaknesses of his opponents.
With the game that Manning plays, you can't really have a plan B. No other quarterback is going to be able to step in and do what Manning does in his system. Ask the Colts.
Being a second round draft choice, Brock Osweiler will certainly be the heir-apparent to Manning and will get his shot as a starting NFL quarterback, but he is not ready yet. He is a talented quarterback with a good arm, but he is certainly not ready at this point to be thrown in the fire of NFL action and be expected to succeed.
A work in progress, Osweiler will have to learn the pro game over the next few years, and then he will get his chance to shine. It certainly won't hurt that he will get to learn from two of the all-time greats in Manning and John Elway.
However, if Osweiler were to be the de facto plan B now and he is forced in to game action, he will more than likely struggle, and that could ultimately retard his growth. Most quarterbacks need time to develop into true NFL quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three years and is now one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Sure, there are the occasional quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Peyton Manning who thrived their rookie seasons coming straight out of the draft, but more often than not, uninitiated rookie quarterbacks will struggle and ultimately fail (Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, and perhaps even Tim Tebow).
Speaking of Timothy Richard Tebow, questions were asked why the Broncos hurriedly shipped him out of town after landing the man who has become known as "PFM" (Peyton Freaking Manning) in the Mile High.
Despite his shortcomings as a traditional pocket passer, Tebow certainly had some impressive results last season. Kyle Orton led the team to a 2-6 record and Tebow came in and guided the Broncos to an 8-8 playoff berth.
Elway initially said that Tebow had earned the right to enter training camp as the Broncos starter but that was before PFM became available. After that, all bets were off.
But why not keep Tebow as Manning's backup? Although John Elway and head coach John Fox have not publicly come out and said it, there are certainly several reasons as to why they wanted Tebow gone.
First of all, Tebow was drafted by the old regime, former head coach Josh McDaniels, who got off to an impressive 6-0 start for his head coaching career, but then quickly ran the Broncos into the ground, finishing an abysmal 4-12 during his second and final season at the helm. He was fired in early December, before the season even ended.
Manning and Osweiler were both brought in by John Elway. As the man in charge of the Broncos and a Hall of Fame quarterback, Elway wants his guys, especially at the quarterback position.
Tebow is also a very nontraditional quarterback. He had impressive results last season, leading the Broncos on a 6-2 run and a playoff win against the favored Pittsburgh Steelers. Elway wanted a more traditional quarterback however, and certainly could not pass up the opportunity to bring in a player the caliber of Peyton Manning.
Osweiler was selected to learn from Manning for hopefully several years and hone his game as a backup and student under Manning. With Tebow's unorthodox style of play, he would not be the prime candidate to be Manning's protege.
Tebow is also a lightning rod for controversy. Due in large part to his outspoken views and beliefs, people either love or hate Tim Tebow, and I think Elway and company wanted the focus on the Denver Broncos on-field performance, not on a polarizing backup quarterback.
Although I'm sure he'd like to come right out and be the Broncos' No. 2 quarterback from the get-go, it is certainly possible that Caleb Hanie will be the second string QB while Osweiler will officially be third. This would simply be due to the fact that Caleb Hanie has three years of NFL experience and Elway will not want to risk rushing and hampering Osweiler's development.
Denver's final option at quarterback is Adam Weber, who spent last season on the practice squad and may be headed there again this year. There is also the chance that Weber is picked up by another team before he is officially on the practice squad again.
The Broncos may also decide to cut Hanie and just go with Osweiler and Weber, but make no mistake, Osweiler, Hanie, or Weber are not Plan B options. We're going with Plan A!
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