It seems fitting that the person responsible for finally bringing John Elway’s successor to the Denver Broncos was John Elway himself.
The Broncos have had some success after Elway, including some great seasons with Jake Plummer, but for the most part they’ve had trouble finding Elway’s heir apparent. The list of those who have come and gone also consists of Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, and Tim Tebow. The Broncos have won only two playoff games over the past 13 seasons with these quarterbacks at the helm. Now it seems like the organization has found the guy who can take them to the next level.
When Peyton Manning signed with Denver this offseason, the franchise had their first truly elite quarterback since Elway hung up his cleats after the 1998 season. Now, two of the best to ever play the quarterback position have worn a Broncos jersey. It’s going to be a fun year in Denver to say the least. The national media will be all over this team once again in 2012, although for a totally different reason than in 2011. Tim Tebow may have been a fan favorite during his time in Colorado, but there is no doubting who is a better quarterback.
The decision to sign Manning was a no brainer. He is an all-time great, a consummate leader, and a guy who can take the Denver Broncos back to where we all want to see them go; competing for world championships. He’s going to make every player on the field better immediately. Guys like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Joel Dreessen are all likely to have breakout seasons, and the running backs and the defense are going to all benefit from having a technician like Manning at quarterback. It may take a little while for everyone to get on the same page, but when that happens I expect the Broncos are going to win a whole lot of football games.
Part of the reason Manning decided to sign with the Broncos was his connection to Elway and the fact that he has accomplished exactly what Manning wants to during the final years of his career. Not many people have gotten a chance to go out on top with back-to-back Super Bowl victories and a Super Bowl MVP trophy like Elway, but many in Broncos Country are hoping history can repeat itself in the Rocky Mountains.
Elway finished his career with 300 touchdown passes, 51,475 yards, and 148 wins in 231 regular season starts. It’s rare to come across someone who can measure up to him statistically, but Manning has been a stat machine during his career and has some ridiculous numbers himself. He currently has 399 touchdown passes, 54,828 yards, and 141 wins in 208 starts. Everyone in Denver, including Elway, is hoping that Manning adds so much to those numbers over the next few years that he will be the greatest quarterback in the history of the league when all is said and done.
One final statistic, however, suggests that Manning is right on track in regards to writing his own Elway-like fairy tale ending.
Manning turned 36 years old this offseason and has played for 13 seasons (he sat out year 14 due to injury). He will start playing for the Broncos in his 14th season. In comparison, Elway turned 36 just prior to the 1996 campaign after he had played for 13 years. Starting in Elway’s 14th year, Denver would win 13, 12, and 14 games over his final 3 seasons, not to mention seven playoff wins that included two Super Bowls. Over the 1996, 1997, and 1998 seasons, the Denver Broncos won more total games over a three year stretch than any other team in NFL history.
If the similarities keep on coming, the future with Peyton Manning at quarterback looks very bright indeed. Go Broncos!