Crossing the Rubicon at QB?

Brandon Weeden

WEEDEN: ... had an enjoyable dinner with Broncos officials Thursday night in Stillwater, Okla.

DENVER – Not long ago, my wife gave me a book I’ve come to cherish: Endangered Phrases: Intriguing Idioms Dangerously Close to Extinction. Only a writer or English teacher could appreciate a tome like that.

“Albatross round one’s neck” … “Great Unwashed” … “Take one for the team” … these are considered “endangered.” Perhaps the fade-to-oblivion of that last phrase is endemic of larger cultural and societal problems, but I digress.

“Crossing the Rubicon” is not in the book — and perhaps for good reason.  That hoary phrase is alive and well, as the Broncos’ search for quarterbacks makes one wonder whether the Broncos have done that with Tim Tebow.

Consider the travelogue of John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders at the end of the week:

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Board a private plane for Stillwater, Okla.

THURSDAY NIGHT: Dinner meeting with Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, according to The Oklahoman. “We just kind of BS’d, listened to Coach Fox tell some stories and laughed,” Weeden told The Oklahoman. “It was a good time.”

FRIDAY MORNING: Watch Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Markelle Martin and other Oklahoma State prospects work out at Boone Pickens Stadium.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON, 1:15 P.M. CST: Return to Stillwater Regional Airport, where their private jet now includes Manning, who was picked up from Miami International Airport that morning.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON, 1:45 P.M. MST: Fox, Xanders, Elway and Manning arrive at Dove Valley. Manning spends the next five and a half hours touring with the facility and meeting with Broncos officials.

FRIDAY NIGHT, 7:17 P.M. MST: Manning and the Broncos’ top brass decamp for dinner.

The allure of Manning is obvious, so there’s no need to belabor that point. But the focus on Weeden is intriguing, especially since he said he talked with Broncos officials at the Senior Bowl and The Denver Post reported that he met with the Broncos at the Scouting Combine.

The team that drafts the 28-year-old Weeden isn’t doing so to sit him on the bench for two years and play him after his 30th birthday; to get optimal long-term value, Weeden needs to be in the starting lineup during this rookie season.

Fox made it abundantly clear at the Scouting Combine that the Broncos would seek two quarterbacks this offseason, so the intense investigation and conversation with quarterbacks comes as no surprise. And he’s met with players before drafts in previous years and hasn’t picked him; he had dinner with Tebow in the run-up to the 2010 draft, a meal at which Tebow famously tried to pick up the check for the then-Panthers coach.

But on Thursday and Friday, Fox, Elway and Xanders devoted nearly all of their waking hours to studying and meeting with two men who could fundamentally change the dynamics of not only the quarterback position, but the offense in general, since their frames, strengths and skill sets bear scant resemblance to Tebow’s.

That doesn’t sound like a team completely content with the quarterbacks it has. It also sounds like a team that will extend its quarterbacking search if the Manning pursuit is a fruitless one.

Whether it’s Manning or Weeden or someone else the Broncos target, what happens if they come up empty-handed and can’t add a passer who can reasonably push or surpass Tebow in training camp and the regular season?  How do they assure Tebow that he’s the man after such a public pursuit of a four-time MVP coming off a neck injury — and with the knowledge that the quarterback corps will be altered, even if Manning opts for another club?  And how would Tebow himself handle any of the possible situations, whether it’s returning to understudy status behind Manning or having a young, early-round pick with a more traditional skill set breathing down his neck?

At least one of these questions will help shape the Broncos’ 2012 season.

The sentiments at the end of the 2011 season can’t be recreated now, or in the future.  That’s what it means to cross the Rubicon.  Caesar started a civil war by doing so.  The fallout for the Broncos won’t be that severe, but will define their fortunes all the same.

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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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