The decision has finally been made. Although less than two weeks have passed since his March 7 release, many have been watching and waiting for the fifteen-year veteran to make his choice.
While many teams initially had Peyton Manning on their radar, he ultimately spent the weekend mulling over three options, consisting of the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos. Reports have indicated that the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals were also interested.
Since finalized details are still being discussed between Manning and Broncos’ brass, the question must be asked: Why the Broncos? Why choose chilly Denver over beautiful San Francisco or the mild-tempered Tennessee?
The 49ers were a top ten QB and a deep threat receiver away from making it to the Super Bowl last year before losing to the Giants in overtime in the NFC Championship Game. With newly signed Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, there is little doubt that the 49ers would have been able to repeat their success with Manning. Again, for a guy who has played every home game since 1998 in a dome, what’s not to like about the sunny Bay Area?
On the other hand we have Tennessee who, while they struggled in both offense and defense last season, still has, when healthy, a very dangerous offense consisting of receivers Kenny Britt and Nate Washington as well as running back Chris Johnson. They also spent their first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on quarterback Jake Locker who would highly benefit by watching and learning from one of the best quarterbacks in recent history.
Denver’s defense struggled early on last season but played very well in the second half of the season (minus porous efforts against the Patriots and Bills). However, like the 49ers, they struggled in passing offense with Tim Tebow under center, while leading the NFL in rushing yards per game. The latter was due largely to Tebow’s unconventional style of playing the quarterback position, but running back Willis McGahee also contributed by putting in one of his better seasons.
Manning was reportedly interested in playing for a team that has both a good defense and run game, and all three teams have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. They are also all playoff teams, aside from Tennessee who missed out on playoff contention due to a tie-breaker against the Cincinnati Bengals. Needless to say, Manning would take any of these three teams to the playoffs in the 2012 season, but does Denver really give him the best chance at a Super Bowl?
When one looks at the Denver offense, they see a talented offensive line, a 30 year old running back, and a young but talented receiving corps. Peyton has historically made average receivers look great (see Austin Collie) and it would not be surprising to see Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both breach the 1,000 yard mark. There have also been mutterings of a possible reunion between Manning and free agent tight end Dallas Clark. If they look towards drafting a younger, change of pace running back in this year’s NFL Draft, the Broncos could have a very potent office come the start of the season.
The Denver Broncos will be a fun team to watch next season and much of the credit goes to John Elway, the Broncos’ Executive Vice President of football operations, for bringing in Manning. With this done, the next big headline becomes last season’s biggest headline: Tim Tebow. What will he do now that his team has found a new quarterback? The team will have to decide, but it would not hurt Tebow to learn behind Manning for a few seasons.