I didn't think Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos would end up consummating their courtship. The two sides just don't fit. But even if they did, I never imagined Denver would give a 36 year old QB who missed all of last season and had neck surgery a 5-year $96 million deal. That's a big gamble. Supposedly the contract will have injury waiver clauses, and some of the money will only kick in after passing a physical each season, but Manning will get $18 million guaranteed this season regardless of playing time.
A 5-year deal on an aging player whose health is stil in question is quite a gamble for a young team full of potential who already has a QB that led them to an underdog playoff victory. I'm assuming the driving force in this decision is VP of Operations John Elway, who has yet to prove he knows how to run a team. Elway wants a pure passer in the lineup, not a run threat with questionable accuracy like Tim Tebow. Maybe Elway forgets that he was know to take off running from time to time too, and he himself struggled with accuracy early in his career. Honestly, Tebow and Elway are much more similar than either and Manning.
I still say the two sides don't really fit well together. Peyton isn't what Denver needs, and Denver isn't what Manning needs. I honestly don't see Manning doing very well playing there for several reasons: the altitude, the run first system, a diminished receiving core, an improving division, receivers who are now used to playing Tebow-style ball, a group of mediocre running backs, a domineering VP who used to play his position on that same team, etc. Manning really needed to step into a more established team, and Denver really needs a younger QB that Elway can mould into what he wants. I see the two egos clashing big time, as Elway struggles to realize it's not Peyton's team, and Manning struggles to make the offense his.
If Manning struggles at all, the hardcore Denver faithful, who bought 100% into Tebow Magic and bought up his jersey like it was going out of style, will turn on him like a pack of wild dogs. Just ask Kyle Orton. You'll see signs of "Bring Back Tebow" and even the slightly blasphemous "Tebow's Second Coming".
Manning is missing out on stepping into prefab Super Bowl favorite San Francisco, where he has the best chance to win a second ring. He's straying much further from home than Tennessee, where he already has tons of loyal fans. He's stepping into an organization that isn't quite ready for a Super Bowl run, and will have to completely change the offense that got them to the second round of the playoffs last season, taking a step backwards in the maturity of their young team. He's going to a team he has no ties to, and taking over a spot that was promised to a very popular and much younger QB, where he'll be lorded over by a Hall of Fame QB.
The Broncos reportedly will attempt to trade unseated QB Tim Tebow. Having no better option at QB, the Miami Dolphins would be wise to pony up whatever scant resources it would take to gain Tebow's services, giving their waning fanbase an exciting player to watch, and surely filling the seats with Florida Gators fans. If the Jacksonville Jaguars were smart, they'd take a page from the Denver Broncos' front office playbook, and trade for Tebow, despite already having a young QB they've committed to. Just as Manning is an obvious upgrade from Tebow other than in mobility and age, Tebow would be a huge improvement over Blaine Gabbert. Jacksonville has a new owner and a new head coach, and are desperate for an identity to draw in an uninterested fanbase. I'm not saying Tim Tebow is a guy you build your team around, but he's certainly an exciting player to draw in fans and stir up interest. Plus he's a hometown boy, who'll bring in the same fans who watched his high school and college glory.
People tend to think of Tebow as an 8-8 QB, but remember, Kyle Orton was 1-4 before Tim took over, making him 7-4 and 1-1 in the playoffs. Plus at 28.6%, Tebow had the highest redzone TD percentage of any QB in the past 2 seasons. Wherever Tebow ends up, he will add an exciting flare and late game heroics to the team that gets him, whether they use him as an every down QB or a special weapon.
Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow, a veteran gunslinger and a young sparkplug, are two NFL QB's at opposite ends of their careers, both facing a change of scenery. It'll be fun for us football fans to watch their 2012 seasons, in hopes they'll both dazzle us by continuing to add to their respective legends.
(Kudos to my friend Jarrod, who boldly predicted Manning would sign with Denver.)
©2012 Denim McDemus