Imagine Peyton Manning wearing orange and blue, leading the Denver Broncos to consecutive 12-win seasons full of fourth quarter comebacks and abundant home playoff games in January. According to some analysts, the Broncos could have their elite leader under center as soon as next offseason.
And no, this has nothing to do with Peyton Manning’s neck injury.
Just two weeks into the season, Woody Paige of the Denver Post has put forth a bleak forecast for Denver’s prospects this season, at least in the short term. If John Fox and the Broncos do bomb it in their first year of post-McDaniels clean-up duty, they could have a shot at Andrew Luck, the player that some NFL scouts are calling the best quarterback prospect since Manning. John Elway loves him. But would he tank his first season in charge to have him?
The Luck dilemma is a touchy subject. Nobody in the NFL–especially not our beloved Hall of Fame legend–wants to lose. According to Paige and many others, though, the issue could creep up on Elway and Fox quickly in October. If the banged up Broncos lose in Tennessee on Sunday, they will be in a tough spot at 1-2. Their remaining two games before their Week 6 bye are at Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers and at home against Phillip Rivers, two elite quarterbacks themselves. It’s plausible to think that Denver could be 1-4 next month without having tried to tank anything. Then what?
For the Bronco fan who is quick to charge his fellow fan with treason, I can only reiterate that nobody plays to lose. But I will offer one scary scenario to consider: the second coming of Manning wearing an arrowhead on his helmet, tormenting the Broncos until 2025. How could that happen? Well, the injury-crippled Kansas City Chiefs are winless and have been outscored 89-10 in two games. At this point, they have to be considered a “favorite” for the league’s worst record and landing Andrew Luck in next April’s draft.
…Then again, anything can happen in the NFL. The Broncos could already have their quarterback of the future on their roster (cue the chants for Tim Tebow). Andrew Luck could go to the Chiefs next April…and prove to be a huge disappointment, a la the Chargers’ selection of Ryan Leaf (No. 2 overall, right after Manning in 1998) or the Raiders’ Jamarcus Russell (No. 1 overall in 2007).
If the scouts do turn out to be mistaken again, we can only hope that Denver is lucky enough to keep their win streak alive in Tennesse on Sunday.
The Broncos remaining schedule in 2011 (home games in bold):
at Green Bay
-Week 6 Bye-
at Kansas City
New York Jets
at San Diego