Pursue Peyton? Why Not?

DENVER – It wasn’t too long ago that the Broncos had arguably the most fractured fan base in the NFL.

Some wanted to stay the course with Josh McDaniels. Others wanted to end the experiment as returns rapidly diminished. Some wanted Tim Tebow inserted into the lineup immediately upon arrival; others thought the pick was a mistake.

That discord has largely evaporated; the warm feelings of a playoff win have a way of doing that. But questions over Tebow remain. The statements of John Elway and John Fox in January and again at the Scouting Combine serve as a reminder that Tebow’s bosses know how far he still has to go — and how nothing beyond the start of training camp is assured.

But the support of many fans for Tebow is so fervent — and, yes, religiously devout — that even if he struggles next September as he did in the three-game losing streak late last season, benching him will cause the loudest Colorado uproar since Kobe Bryant’s rape trial. The schism in the fan base that developed from 2006-10 would return.

In other words, if you’re going to go with someone other than Tebow for a reason other than injury — and you don’t want to anger half of your fanbase — it had better not be for a veteran with scant credentials or a second- or third-round rookie with unanswered questions of his own. It’s got to be for a no-doubt, slam-dunk, clearly-better option, one that everyone with even a thimble of common sense could agree upon.

Like Peyton Manning.

Assuming that Manning’s neck is healthy and his arm strength has returned, only the most devoted of Tebow supporters could cry foul. And if they did, they’d be putting one man ahead of the team.

Yes, Tebow’s end-game exploits helped make last year’s turnaround possible. But so did Matt Prater’s clutch accuracy, John Fox’s stabilizing sideline influence, Elvis Dumervil’s successful comeback from multiple injuries, Von Miller’s emergence, Willis McGahee’s renaissance and the return of Dumervil, D.J. Williams, Marcus Thomas and Champ Bailey from early-season injuries that kept the defense from its intended form until Kyle Orton’s final start as a Bronco.

The question some want to ignore: if the Broncos had more consistency from the quarterback position, would they have needed so many comebacks in the first place?

If Manning were the quarterback, would the Broncos have been held below 20 points in six of their last eight regular-season games? Would the offense have accounted for just 15.5 points per game in that span?

By the end of the season, Tebow’s negative play ratio (sacks + fumbles + interceptions / total pass plays + rushes) was roughly the same as Kyle Orton’s; Tebow’s was one every 9.5 plays and Orton’s was one every 9.4.

By comparison, Manning’s career negative-play ratio is one every 16.0 plays. Since 2006, it’s one every 19.5. That says nothing of his completion percentage, which is the highest all-time career mark for any quarterback with at least 1,000 attempts.

With a more accurate quarterback, perhaps Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker drop fewer passes. Perhaps McGahee and other Broncos runners — whoever they may be — don’t spend most of their carries slugging for yardage through eight-in-the-box defenses.

The Broncos have the cap room for Manning. After the recent playoff appearance, they have an influx of cash they haven’t had in six years.

Yes, Manning isn’t likely to come to Denver. He’ll have plenty of options, and the Broncos’ myriad needs make it unwise to throw all their cap room and cash budget at one player.

But if you’re Fox, Elway and Brian Xanders, it does no harm to take a look. Manning’s merely the best quarterback of his era, and for all the sound and fury he spawned, Tebow remains a work in progress.

Further, the Broncos would learn something about Tebow.

If he accepts the addition of Manning enthusiastically — seeing it as an opportunity to watch and learn from one of the five finest quarterbacks in the history of the sport while being motivated to push, match and eventually usurp the ex-Colt — then the Broncos know they have a keeper for the long term beyond what would likely be a relatively brief Manning era. If Tebow pouts and frets at the news, then they learn that maybe Tebow doesn’t have as strong a timber as they’d hoped.

It’s the NFL, and if you’re not in the top 25 percent at your role, you’re replaceable.

There’s no harm in checking into Manning — and if it can be done at a reasonable cost-to-risk ratio that allows for other needs to be addressed, there’s no harm in bringing him to Denver, either.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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12 Responses

  1. Can’t see it. The Broncos are far too cheap to fork over the kind of money that Manning will demand.

    • I don’t know that they’ll go cheap if it involved Manning. And God forbid if Manning’s just looking for a team to join with a good defense and young receivers… The Broncos might actually be in this thing…

  2. I think adding Peyton would strengthen the Broncos not only in the short term, but in the long term as well. If he’s healthy, I’d hope the Broncos would try to bring him in. Who wouldn’t want to come and play with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game? Even Tebow would benefit from watching Manning first hand.

    • Couldn’t agree more Bill. I think Tebow is humble enough to play his part for another year. He didn’t lose it when he had to take a backseat to Kyle Orton in 2011.

  3. TEBOW IS MY BOY YEAH HE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS, HOWEVER MANNING IS ONE OF THE BEST QB’S IF TEBOW TAKES A BACK SEAT FOR A YEAR OR TWO TEBOW WILL GROW TO A GREAT QB AS WELL……..GO BRONCOS………GO TEBOW

  4. Haven’t they learned anything yet??? I think it would be great if they could get Manning, that’s if he is albe to play. However, Tebow has proven over and over that he IS absolutely a TEAM player. He has never made it all about him. He has a huge fan base because of his character and his ability and the fact that he isn’t only about himself. He would be gracious and probably thankful that he would get the opportunity to learn from one of the best! He knows his day is not over and that he plans on being around for awhile. He knows in whom he trust in and therefore does not have to be petty or immature….I can never see him pouting or fretting, it’s just never been his way.

    • Yeah, I don’t get where the “pouting and fretting” thing came from. Teebs puts team over everything. This is the same guy that ran routes in practice and stepped in as a WR when needed, who took his demotion from the starting job with no complaints. I can name ten quarterbacks off the top of my head who would not have shown a fraction of the class Tebow did through that whole situation.

      • It came from last August, and the infamous “I felt like it was grabbed back away”
        quote
        to Woody Paige in The Denver Post.

        Do I think he’ll pout and fret if the Broncos make a successful play for Manning? Probably not, but if I had a crystal ball to tell you exactly how he’ll react — be it positive or negative — to a situation that hasn’t happened yet, I’d be holed up in Sedona, Ariz. as the wealthiest fortune teller in town.

        What we do know is that when Orton was installed as the first-teamer last summer, Tebow said those words, even though he attempted to back-track from them the next day. Thus, it’s fair to wonder how Tebow will react if a QB good enough to beat him out is brought into the locker room.

        Thanks for reading,
        Andrew

  5. The Denver Bronco’s would be crazy to bench Tebow, if they could learn anything from the Steelers– it’s that the fans are EVERYTHING! If you mess that up, that’s a mistake!!! Work on the recievers and keep Tebow where he is…you won’t regret it!!! You gotta believe!!!

  6. I do believe. I believe that Tebow is still a work in progress. The Broncos wouldn’t be replacing him with a ‘good’ quarterback. They’d let him learn from two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, Elway and Manning.

  7. Going after Manning would be short sighted.

    1. It’s not a given he’d win a SB. He’s only done that once in 14 seasons. In his prime, with a solid team.

    2. It’s not a given he’d stay healthy for 1 or 2 seasons.

    3. Then he retires. And our team is WORSE than it is now because we didn’t have the cash and cap space to significantly upgrade positions of need.

    4. McDaniels put us back 3-4 years by dumping draft picks and good players. There is no short cut to creating a winning system and quality roster.

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