Mile High Monday: Manning Brings Big Expectations


Peyton Manning didn’t waste any time after he was introduced as the new starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. As soon as the press conference was over, Manning got a locker, changed into some Broncos gear, and got to work.

Ever since he arrived at Dove Valley to stay, Manning has been a fixture in the gym and the training room. He has been organizing workouts with other players and getting familiar with them. He has been going over his playbook. He has even been sleeping at the facility on occasion. Essentially, he has been doing everything one would hope their starting quarterback would be doing during the offseason.

Even though Manning used to tear up the Broncos as an opponent and drove me crazy, I always respected him because I thought he had every quality that I would want the Broncos next franchise-type quarterback to have. Never did I entertain even the slightest idea he would one day play for Denver, but in one of the wildest couple of weeks I can ever remember in Broncos Country, that is exactly where we stand today.

In the modern day NFL, there are 2 classes of organizations: The Haves and The Have Not’s. The franchises that have an elite quarterback are serious Super Bowl contenders and the others are not. An elite QB such as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning makes every person in the front office smarter and every player on the field better. In a day in age when the player turnover from year to year is at an all-time high, the franchise quarterback is the one constant and the one guy who can provide true consistency from season to season. They can cover up a lot of holes in an organization. From weak spots on the roster to draft misses by the personnel department, an elite quarterback can overcome all of those things and win football games.

I would rather the Broncos had found their next franchise quarterback via the draft so they would be set for the next 10-15 years, but landing an older version of an all-time great who hopefully has 3 or 4 good seasons left is still worth celebrating. In this league, you take a franchise quarterback when you can get one. They are the most valuable properties a team can have, and Manning makes the Broncos a “Have” in the hierarchy of the league.

There are two statistics worth noting that makes the Manning signing even more of a slam dunk. The first is that there is about a 50% turnover rate when it comes to teams making the playoffs from year to year. Can you guess what teams that return to the playoffs in consecutive seasons have in common? That’s right, they have the best quarterbacks. The second statistic is that the last 9 Super Bowl champions were quarterbacked by the following 6 players: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. If every person out there were to make a list of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now, those 6 guys would be at the very top of all of them. Now think about this: one of those guys plays for the Denver Broncos!

So, now that Denver has one of the best quarterbacks in the league, they also have the high expectations that comes with him. The franchise and their fans will no longer be satisfied by making it to the divisional round of the playoffs. The Broncos have a legitimate Super Bowl window opening up right now, but they may only have 3 or 4 seasons to take advantage of it. Signing Peyton Manning may have been the easy part. Now more than ever, the franchise needs to operate with a sense of urgency.

Yes, the 2012 schedule is tough, but it is tough for every team. There are almost no easy wins in the NFL. The “strength of schedule” is one of the most fictitious statistics around. With a playoff turnover rate of about 50%, there are playoff teams from last year that will regress, and there are poor teams from 2011 that will make great strides in 2012. The bottom line is that you should expect every football game to be tough, and you hope that at the end of the day your team is more talented than the opponent. Most of the time, the more talented players make the plays necessary to win a game. I like Denver’s chances with Peyton Manning at quarterback.

The good news is that I believe the Broncos are already closer to being a Super Bowl caliber team than most people think. Manning is far from alone out there. I expect receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to have breakout seasons in 2012. I think the Andre Caldwell signing is underrated and that he will make a big impact. Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme have the potential be a dangerous tandem from 2 tight end sets. And probably most important of all, Peyton Manning’s presence will make the defense better and gives Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil an opportunity to absolutely terrorize opponents.

All of this will take some time however. There are a lot of new people and a lot of moving parts. It will take a little while for everyone to get on the same page, but once they do I expect the Denver Broncos to look every bit like the AFC West favorites. With an elite quarterback like Peyton Manning coming to Denver, success on the football field shouldn’t be too far behind.

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