By Todd Christensen, The Mtn. Insider
March 20, 2012
The Denver faithful are abuzz and justifiably so over the Peyton Manning sweepstakes in which they reigned triumphant over a variety of teams that coveted his services. Only Reggie White could be considered in the same breath in terms of magnitude where the history of free agents in the NFL is concerned. To get a game-changer and field general of this acumen - the odds in Las Vegas depending upon which hotel or betting establishment you pick had Denver at 100-to-1 odds to make the Super Bowl before the signing, 10-1 following - is hard to quantify but suffice it to say, the organization is more than happy to pay the five-year, $96 million dollar deal if he is even close to his former self.
Aye, but there’s the rub. Throwing on practice fields with no pass rush, no defensive back and essentially one receiver is clearly not the same as performing under the duress of an NFL game complete with the aforementioned defense and the concomitant collisions. No doubt he will be babied throughout the off-season and training camp while he’s implementing his offensive system, with a number of people counting throws like in baseball to make sure that he is not fatigued. There is uncertainty as to his health with four different neck operations, but judging by the number of suitors and the money garnered by Manning in a contract that will make him the highest paid player in the game, he must be worth the calculated risk.
Many feel that the reason for his coming to Denver was a solid defense and a team that led the NFL in rushing. But in truth, both are mirages. In this day and age of pitch-and-catch football with passing records seemingly broken every week, the Broncos were the worst throwing team in the league. As a result, they had to run, and in doing so shortened the game considerably, meaning that opposing teams had fewer possessions and fewer opportunities to score. If those were overriding factors, he would have certainly chosen San Francisco, who has a better receiving corps than Denver, and not to mention the fact that a return to Tennessee would have made him not just a football star but a cult icon, revered in perpetuity if the prodigal son were to bring the Titans their first title.
No, the reason for Manning to come to Denver was John Elway. As a Hall of Fame quarterback and a winner of Super Bowls at ages 37 and 38 (Manning will turn 36 this week), the former Stanford grad not only has the back of the former Colt great but will make sure that he has everything at his disposal, including implementing his own offense. To say that the Broncos are "all in" is no exaggeration. Peyton Manning will completely change the dynamic of this team on both sides of the ball. Last year, Aaron Rodgers sat out the last game of the year for the Packers and as a result Matt Flynn, the backup, stepped in and set a Packer record for yards and touchdowns in a game. A few years back, another franchise QB, Tom Brady, went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season. A collegiate backup by the name of Matt Cassel stepped in and led the Patriots to a record of 11-5, garnering a multi-million dollar deal from the Kansas City Chiefs. We all saw what happened to the Colts without Manning. The problem is that it is his offense, and the operation of it effectively is predicated upon his decision-making and "check-at-the-line” dexterity more so than an offense that is in place from week-to-week. If Manning were to be hurt for any length of time, it would be abnormally destructive to what the Broncos want to do, hence the reason why trading Tim Tebow immediately might not be reconsidered.
But if the status quo prevails, what is to prevent Denver from going a long way? They are in a very winnable division and it could be argued that four of the five best teams in the NFL reside in the NFC, thus making it easier to get to the Super Bowl. If Peyton Manning remains upright, the sky is the limit in the Mile High City!
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