I've had really mixed thoughts on the signing of Manning, and the direction this offseason has gone. Here at MHR it seems that most people have gone off the deep end of either the pro-Manning pool, or the rabid-Tebow pool. I'm interested in hearing what the realists have to say on a number of issues that I've been thinking about these past few days.
My biggest issue with signing Manning, is the philosophical switch that seems to have taken place in the FO about how a SB contending team is created. I feel that we've tried bringing in older probowl FA, in the past (see Shanny era) and it never worked out very well. Many of the studs from our SB teams in the late 90s were drafted by the Broncos. A few holes were filled by bringing in elite FA in there PRIME (Romanowski). What's troubling to me, is it seemed like according to what the FO said at least, that we were going back to building through the draft. We were told it would be a 3+ year process. We were told be patient, because this doesn't happen overnight--I couldn't agree more. Our signing of a 36 year old castoff QB and spending 20mil a year to do so, seems to run exactly opposite to the stated direction of the team. This makes it feel like the FO doesn't know what their doing. I know this is PM we're talking about, but set him aside for a moment. Why should we ever believe what the FO says if they back pedal and change their approach at every whim? It happened with Orton, then Tebow, now Manning. It's a pattern IMO.
Because Manning is so expensive, it will be difficult to find the $ necessary to fill the holes that exist. Manning is a talent that should have won numerous SBs. I've always felt that because he demanded the salary he did, the Colts couldn't quite get the necessary pieces in place. This is why we sometimes read about QBs that want a SB will take a pay cut. Manning never did that to my knowledge, and as a result he's got only one ring. Using 20 mil on one person, when you have 120 total, is a handicap. Am I the only person that thinks so? You pair Manning with a top 5 defense and you'll get a SB. The only problem is you can't build a top 5 defense with Manning using all your money.
2. Offensive Identity.
What happens to building a run first, ball control offense? This is what Fox and the FO said we would be working toward, this is what Fox is known for after all. Manning runs a completely different ship. Indy's running game under Manning speaks for itself. 13 seasons/3.9 ypc. Ranked in the bottom 5 in the league 4 years, and bottom half of league 9 years/top ten 1 year. However, his offense still ranked in the top 10 in total yardage and scoring so what more could you ask? I can't gripe with that. I'm wondering whether Fox has it in him to completely change his philosophy and to get the personnel necessary for that change. I also remember when all we had was Elway and a passing game and we lost 3 SBs. It wasn't until we had balance that we won. I believe the lack of a dependable established running game hurts Manning come playoff time, and that is part of the reason he hasn't fared too well in the playoffs. I love a passing game, but I think balance is the key to winning in the playoffs, and Manning doesn't bring balance, quite the opposite actually because he's such a good passer. When Manning is done in 1-4 years, will we stay with a pass first philosophy or purge the system and go back to Fox ball? I for one am tired of purging.
Let's be honest for a minute, if Manning was a kid in the draft, coming off of 4 neck surgeries and not having played for over 12 months, he either wouldn't be drafted, or he'd fall considerably because of the perceived risk involved. The only reason he was sought after, is because he's PM. He is 36, and historically QBs start struggling with injuries at that age. See Elway, Namath, Favre, Montana, etc. PM isn't immortal, and while I look forward to watching him again, I dread being on pins and needles every time he gets hit. The neck is just one issue. He hasn't been knocked around since 2010. I don't like the prospect of his getting popped in the second week, and our season goes the way of the Colts without him. Once you commit to PM, he's irreplaceable (see 2011 Colts for proof).
4. Who's the backup?
See above. We need a good one. Not a backup, but a second starter. Remember Brister started 1/4 of the season in 1998 when Elway was old and gimpy. And no, Tebow won't be a good backup to PM, because he requires a completely different offense.
5. Super Bowl or bust.
I see a few options to how this all turns out:
A. Manning comes in, defies history and wins a SB XLVII.
B. Manning comes in and history catches up with him. Denver goes 13-3 but loses in playoffs.
C. Manning comes in, gets injured and rides pine the rest of the year.
D. Tebow goes to NE and helps them win SB XLVII or XLVIII.
E. Tebow becomes a backup and isn't heard from again.
The only acceptable scenario here is A. There is no room for error. B is ok if we win the SB the next year. E is only a moral victory and frankly is the least likely because of the level of talent at QB these days. C & D make us a laughing stock. I'm tired of being Raiders East. This has to work. I'm rooting for it to work. But I'm not a Manningite. I'm only rooting for this to work because I'm a Bronco.