What if Peyton Manning had come to Denver sooner?

What if Peyton Manning had come to the Denver Broncos sooner than 2012?

There are few people in the football world that would argue that Peyton Manning retired too early. In fact, it’s likely that you wouldn’t find a single person who would disagree on that topic.

Peyton Manning retired at the perfect time – at the top of the world, a Super Bowl trophy in hand. The perfect ending to a storybook career of one of the best to ever play the game.

Sure, Manning could have stayed another year and tried to win another with the Denver Broncos with a historic defense, and a stellar receiving duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. In fact, there would have been something even poetic about Manning retiring the same year as the beloved head coach, Gary Kubiak, who would coach just one season after Manning’s retirement.

However, that just wasn’t meant to be. After missing a chunk of his curtain call season with plantar fasciitis, not returning until Week 17, he did what he does best – made fans believe again. He would lead the Broncos in a comeback win against the Chargers to secure the #1 seed and played just well enough for the Broncos to bring a third Lombardi back to Broncos Country.

Although one still would not have counted out a Peyton Manning-led team, Manning just did not look the same. He had even struggled prior to the diagnosis of his foot injury, and it was clear that his arm strength was fading. No, Manning could not have retired at a better time.

There have been a few “what if’s” surrounding his retirement. What if Peyton Manning had played the 2016-2017 season? Could they have made another run? While the Broncos did manage to go 9-7 under Trevor Siemian in 2016, it is unlikely that Manning would have yielded a much different result. His time had come to hang up his helmet.

It is easy to wonder “what if”, considering the Denver Broncos have struggled to find their identity since the day The Sheriff rode off into the sunset.

Manning is enjoying his retirement, participating in charity golf tournaments, enjoying a Nationwide endorsement, has his own feature ESPN+ show, and is surely getting the family time he didn’t before. We would never have wished a longer career on the man who gave so much to the league.

However, one can’t help but wonder what a longer career for Peyton Manning in Denver could have been like.

While we know that Peyton Manning suffered a season-ending neck injury in 2011, and hit the market as a free agent in 2012 as a result, what if in some way, Peyton Manning had joined the team in 2010?

Perhaps he never would’ve gotten hurt.

While this is just imagination, consider if Peyton Manning had had an extra two seasons with the Broncos.

With the dynamic offense that Denver entertained, there’s a good chance Denver could have made another Super Bowl run. In fact, if the team had entertained stronger chemistry by 2012, there is a good chance that the Broncos could have beat the Ravens outright in the playoffs, and would have gone on to beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl that year.

There’s a strong possibility that Peyton Manning would have finished his career with at least three Super Bowl victories.

However, there are two strong drawbacks to this scenario, as amazing as it may sound.

  1. If Peyton Manning is on the roster in 2010, the Broncos would have not finished the season 4-12. As a result, they would not have had the second overall pick, and would never have drafted Von Miller.
  2. We would have missed out on the Tim Tebow era, which would have meant losing an electrifying season of Broncos football that we will not be forgetting anytime soon.

Overall, Broncos Country was extremely lucky to have enjoyed four seasons of Peyton Manning. While it is fun to speculate what could have been if he would have found his way to Denver, it is just as well that things went the way they did.

Any other way and Denver would have missed out on a generational player in Von Miller, and perhaps the best player in franchise history.

We can always imagine what two more years of Manning could have been like, but keep this in mind: next year, when Manning is surely elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a first-ballot selection, we will have an opportunity to relive the amazing memories all over again.