The Denver Broncos have chosen Peyton Manning over Tim Tebow as their quarterback for the foreseeable future, and in doing so have set the expectations a mile high.
After all, they are replacing a young quarterback who has a pretty good resume with a veteran quarterback who already has Hall of Fame credentials.
Tebow helped rescue the Broncos last season after their 1-4 start. His play at quarterback may have been inconsistent, but he created a winning culture in Denver that ultimately resulted in a first-round playoff victory.
But after making the move for a Super Bowl champion and four-time MVP like Manning -- a move that is expected to cost the Broncos around $95 million over five years -- one-and-done in the playoffs probably isn’t going to cut it anymore in Denver.
Sure, there may have to be an adjustment period for Manning, who has played for the Indianapolis Colts all 14 years of his professional career and will be attempting a comeback from the multiple neck surgeries that kept him out the entire 2011 season.
But Manning turns 36 on Saturday, so there might not much time for a honeymoon. By the way, team executive vice president of football operations John Elway was 36 when he won the first of his two Super Bowl championships as quarterback of the Broncos. No pressure there or anything.
Writers from around Tribune Co. will be discussing what the expectations of Manning and the Broncos should be this season. Check back throughout the day for their responses. And join the conversation by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.
[Updated at 8:29 a.m.:
Dan Pompei: Chicago Tribune
Really, there should be two sets of expectations for the Broncos in 2012. The first set of expectations assumes Peyton Manning is healthy and as able as he was earlier in his career. If that is the case, they look like the best team in the AFC West and one of the best teams in the conference.
Even if all goes well with Manning though, predictions of a Lombardi Trophy may be a bit optimistic. This still is a young team with holes, and there will be a learning curve for Manning.
The second set of expectations takes into account the possibility that Manning will not be able to throw like he once did, or that he will miss time because of his neck issues. In that event, the Broncos will be a below-average team.]
[Updated at 9:42 a.m.:
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
Ask the Broncos and they’ll tell you their expectations are nothing short of winning the Super Bowl. (Of course, the Browns would tell you the same thing.) But realistically, providing Peyton Manning is throwing the ball as advertised, Denver is perfectly capable of going deep into the playoffs and more. With a talented young defense that at times was exceptional last season, an offensive line that’s a good blend of youth and experience, and a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, the Broncos will be imposing in a lukewarm division.
Does that mean they’re a lock to win the AFC West? No. The NFL is too unpredictable to make any absolute judgments in March. But this is a franchise that got to the second round of the playoffs with Tim Tebow, began free agency with $40 million of usable cap space, and even after the Manning deal has the ability to keep shopping. Denver’s odds of winning the Super Bowl have dropped from 70 to 1 without Manning, to 7 to 1 with him. This signing gives the Broncos a legitimate chance.
Mike Berardino, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Why, Super Bowl, of course.
Vegas oddsmakers certainly didn’t waste any time lowering the betting line to as low as 10 to 1 in the hours after Peyton Manning revealed his choice in the Great Quarterback Bakeoff. Only the Packers, Patriots and Saints are deemed better choices to win the next Lombardi Trophy than the Broncos, who pre-Manning were rated at 50 to 1.
That’s how much one personnel change can mean in this league, provided he’s a former Super Bowl champion, four-time NFL MVP and play-calling savant. And provided he’s replacing a scatter-armed Tim Tebow.
Whether Manning’s neck holds up after four surgical procedures is another matter. (I fear it won’t.) But adding him to a team that knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs and has rising young stars such as Von Miller and Demaryius Thomas certainly ups the ante.]
[Updated at 11:45 p.m.
Chris Korman, Baltimore Sun
Tim Tebow turned the Broncos into a playoff team last year, with his gutsy find-a-way style. But now he’ll be replaced by a player much his opposite: a cerebral, precise quarterback who has cultivated a whimsical off-the-field persona. Obviously the Broncos’ front office expects nothing less than a deep playoff run, but Peyton Manning will be tossing to possession receivers, not game-changers, and he’s not going to take off and run the ball the way Tebow did.
In Indianapolis, Manning played in a system built for him on a team built around him. Denver executives say they’ll create a similar environment, but it will take time. Manning has got to first prove that he’s healthy, and then that he can mesh with a new team. It seems like the Broncos will have to make another late push for the playoffs, but could peak -– thanks largely to a strong defense -– in time to push through. One thing is for sure: The Broncos’ season will provide some of the best evidence yet for the age-old question of whether a quarterback can really elevate the pedestrian players around him.]