The addition of Peyton Manning, and jettisoning of Tim Tebow, has brought the level of expectation for the Denver Broncos in the next couple of seasons to levels that have not been seen for a very long time, if ever. The instant predictions here on MHR have covered most of the spectrum, from multiple Super Bowl victories to Peyton being old and stiff, being one hit away from the Broncos being assured of the 1st overall in the draft. The real outcome will probably be somewhere in the middle, but there are many who feel anything short of a ring will be a failure. Hell, a few even feel that a ring won't cut it as we would have merely bought it at the price of the future. What I am trying to determine is what do the greatest fans in the world (MHR of course) feel must be accomplished in the next 3-5 years in order for this whole thing to be "a success"?
Personally, it is hard for me to envision a version of Manning playing for the Broncos that would be anything other than the brilliance we are used to seeing from him. But apparently he is 36 years old and has had 4 neck surgeries that have required the nerves in his upper right arm to regenerate. That, and he won't be playing in the system he is used to, that he won't have many familiar faces looking back at him in the huddle, he won't be playing many games indoors, the color of the jersey he's throwing to will be different, etc. At any rate, yes it is not reasonable for me to assume that his time here will be unrecognizable from his time in Indy.
So, what will it take for this whole deal to be worth it? For my assessment, I will not be taking any consideration for what TT may do in the future. In my opinion, it doesn't matter what he does with the rest of his NFL career because it won't be in Denver; the scenarios will now be different wherever he ends up playing compared to what would have been if he stayed here.
This will be a failure if the Broncos do not win a title. While I will very disappointed if we don't win a title with Manning, I'm also disappointed that we didn't win a title in the last 13 years. But you will have a very hard time convincing me that there is only 1 team in the NFL every year that is successful. Sure, you can say that every team's goal is to win it all every year, and 31 of them will fail in that goal. But you can't convince me that the Patriots, 49er's, or Ravens were failures this year. In fact I think the Broncos season was a success. The Ravens are an interesting example; they have won a playoff game every year since Flacco and Harbaugh have been there, seemingly getting better every year, yet they have not been to the big game. I think they have been successful, and will always view this era of the Ravens as a successful team even if they don't ever get there. The rest of the teams remaining are usually not too bad either. It's hard to win a title. There are 4 teams in the NFL who have NEVER been in the Super Bowl in the 46 years it has been around.
This will be a success if the Broncos win a title. This is the goal, but don't count me as one to call it a success just like that. Let's assume that Manning will be able to play all 5 years of his contract. Not likely this will happen, but say we win the Super Bowl in year 3, and fail to reach the playoffs in any of the other years. I would do just about anything if it means winning a title one year out of five, but not if it means being mediocre or worse for the other four. I'm not in this for the thrill of one season of excellence, I'm in it for the opportunity to be a dominant for a few years with a small opportunity of another mini dynasty. There are maybe four or five dominant teams in the NFL, but only one team can win it every year.
What do I think will make all of this worth it? I really don't know the precise answer to that, but it is easy to see what would make it a failure. I think it's important to every long-time Denver Bronco fan for the team to return to the tradition it has of being a winning football team, it hasn't been that the last 5 years but it still has that tradition just under the surface, IMO. I was born in 1979, so I didn't have the opportunity to witness the team go from being a perennial doormat to the feared Orange Crush, but I've been around long enough for the last few years to sting. It is essential for me, and hopefully all of you, that this team gets back to being the team that others fear playing, especially at home. We need to win our division several times, and then do some damage in the playoffs; not necessarily win the whole thing, but not to go out with a whimper. The Broncos have won 2 playoff games since Elway retired 13 years ago; not being able to win more than double that with PM would be a failure for sure.
Now here's what makes this all a bit more complex: Manning's legacy. Whether we like it or not, Manning's legacy in this league will probably overshadow the Broncos a bit in the upcoming years, and what will be his success or failure will ultimately be that of the Broncos as well. Peyton Manning is already considered the greatest of all-time by many, while others will point to their guy or will point out what PM has had for flaws or that he has had HOF talent to throw the ball at. I have it as Elway, Marino, Favre, and Manning at the top in no particular order. I was too young to appreciate Montana other than hate him for what he did to us, and I never got to see any of the greats before him. Personally, I think it's too early to say where PM is, because his career isn't over yet. His remaining years will dictate if he rises above the rest, if he stays in the pack, or if he falls below it. Yes, I think it is possible his position can end up lower than it is now, I feel that happened to Favre, let's just hope that won't be the case.
I think many feel his legacy as the GOAT could be cemented with another title, but I am not so sure it is that simple. Right now, his critical flaw is the limited playoff success. Only Elway has more rings and SB appearances than PM on my list, so it must be more than just that. A playoff record of 9-10 is not very impressive for a potential GOAT, and neither is the 7 times of one-and-done in the playoffs. The latter is more telling to me; the PM-led Colts made 11 postseason trips and lost in their first game 7 times. It won't take a title to eliminate that stigma if we can can go on lengthy playoff runs.
It's not often a HOF quarterback changes teams, but it certainly has happened a number of times late in their careers, and the most usual result is that the time spent with the new team ends up as a footnote in the writeup for their careers. I can only think of one that absolutely bucked this trend, and its debatable if he even goes to the HOF: Kurt Warner. He will always be remembered as a Ram, but he will also very much be remembered as a Cardinal. I hope PM can make sure his time as a Bronco will be remembered very well; there's no use in hoping for as much as he was a Colt, but he, and we, have time to make it as close as possible.
One last thing to consider. Take away the Tebow fans and how they felt about the change, the most contentious issue with the whole move is the dynamic of short-term gratification vs. long-term vision. Do you go for it all with what appears to be a more sure thing for what will definitely be a small window, or do you work with what you have in hopes it will all come together during what could be a much larger window, but you really don't know how much of a window there really is? Lots of support for both sides of the equation, with both having their benefits and risks. Having said that, it has been pointed out that the FO knows without a shadow of a doubt that we will need another franchise QB in 5 years at the latest, and probably a couple of years sooner. That means that this FO should be thinking about what their vision of this team will be in 5 years, and to build toward that at some rate within these years, while trying to get to the promised land right away. I don't think its unreasonable to think that both are possible, just like it could look pretty bleak at the end of it.
I know that my idea of success will be different than yours. Now that I have thought it through in the midst of writing a rather lengthy fanpost, I have found what I want. I want this team to return to its tradition of being a winning team, I want Peyton Manning to cement his legacy as the GOAT (and being confirmed by Elway), and I want there to be a light at the end of the tunnel, not a brick wall. It won't take a title for me, but I still want 5 in a row.
So what do you all think?