ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Forget about platitudes, plaudits and pundits. What does Peyton Manning’s arrival really mean to the Broncos?
It means …
- … the dawn of expectations unseen here in 14 years, since the second of the Broncos’ consecutive world championships. Even in the 13-3 season of 2005, the Broncos spent the regular season swimming in the wake of the Colts … and Manning, who had helped demolish the Broncos in consecutive wild-card games. The community didn’t have a realistic belief that the Broncos could make Super Bowl XL until the Colts were eliminated … and after the Steelers did that, you remember what happened next.
- … the near-certain end of the Tim Tebow Experiment. Forget about the perceived impact of Tebow’s most ardent supporters on Manning’s ability to consolidate his hold on the quarterback position, and look at the offense the Broncos are about to install — an offense that will be utterly incompatible with Tebow’s skill set and capabilities at this point. From play-calling and identifying a defense at the line of scrimmage to emphasizing mid-range, well-timed inside passes to tight ends and slot receivers, the Broncos will run a scheme that Tebow, at this point and for the foreseeable future, is ill-equipped to execute. And when one of the Broncos’ most crucial tasks is to find a backup quarterback who can run the offense well enough to keep the team afloat in the event of a Manning injury — something the Colts failed to do, which is why they finished 2-14 last year — Tebow might be a luxury the Broncos can’t afford in constructing a 46-man active roster on game day.
- … a change in what “Foxball” means. Carolina fans — and Broncos fans last year — knew it as a defense-and-run-first attack that minimizes risk and keeps teams in games they might not otherwise win. But the best of John Fox’s teams could also throw deep — the 2003, 2005 and 2008 Panthers clubs that finished a combined 34-14. Manning isn’t the same kind of quarterback as Jake Delhomme, the starter for those three successful Panthers teams; Delhomme gambled to stretch the field, while Manning is more measured in his shots. “I think balance is key,” Fox said. “Peyton will help keep that in balance.
- … that a defense built to play from ahead finally can. With a future Hall of Fame cornerback still playing at an elite level and two Pro Bowl edge pass rushers, the Broncos will likely be in position to uncork Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil to their potential.
- … a full-fledged return to the league’s spotlight. You don’t think the Colts made five or six prime-time appearances a season in recent years because they were based in Indianapolis, do you? It was all about Peyton Manning, which is why a team that has only been in its city for 28 years, and thus has a limited national following, became a national ratings powerhouse. And while Tim Tebow brought the same kind of attention, would it have gone away if he and the team had struggled this year — which was entirely possible, given that the Broncos face seven of last year’s 12 playoff teams?
- … that we’ll have plenty to discuss. Just like with Tebow. Just like with Kyle Orton. Just like with Jay Cutler and Jake Plummer. The Broncos are many things; dull they are not. So buckle your safety belts, return your tray tables to the upright and locked position and enjoy the trip — wherever it may lead.