The answer to everything used to be Jesus. I used that on a math test one time and my teacher gave me half-credit. I was pretty psyched about that even though apparently Jesus wasn't the right answer on the final... and people wonder why math is so confusing.
When it comes to the Denver Broncos, every concern and question with this team seems to be answered by simply saying Peyton Manning. It appears to be the be all end all to Bronco conversation. All roads lead to Manning. You gots questions? We got Manning.
I've been trying to wrap my head around Broncos Country over the past few months. The Broncos and this city have hitched their wagons to the Manning Mobile so quickly that I feel like I haven't even had time to fully appreciate what a huge deal Peyton Manning as a Denver Bronco really is.
It has taken me longer than I expected to come to terms with this new Denver Broncos team and it's very difficult to write about a team you don't really understand yet. I'll admit that I still don't know what to think about all these changes and I'm not entirely sure what this Bronco team is going to look like in August.
Will we be a powerhouse pass team? Will we continue to pound the ball on the ground? Will we adopt the dink and dunk strategy like the New England Patriots since we got all these tight ends and how exactly will Peyton Manning's new (or old offense) work with our set of wide receivers that just came off a year of some really good and some really bad?
I've been keeping a pulse on the local news and radio, as well as many of our commentors here at MHR, and if there is one thing I'm absolutely sure of, the excitement for this team is sky high. Maybe too high.
That makes me nervous.
Peyton Manning is this team's new cornerstone. He's the key that makes this puzzle fit. He's the ultimate and final answer to every question. For example:
Question: Do you think the Broncos have a lack of veteran skill at wide receiver? Answer: Peyton Manning.
Question: Do you think our run game is suspect without Tim Tebow at QB? Answer: Peyton Manning.
Question: Do you think our defense is overrated and while we are focusing all our energy on stopping the pass our run defense seems to be forgotten? Answer: Jack Del Rio and Peyton Manning.
Question: Do you like wings or salami and crackers? Answer: Peyton Manning loves salami.
No matter what discussion you create regarding our new Denver Bronco team the final answer eventually reaches Peyton Manning, and if you really want to add emphasis you just drop an F-Bomb somewhere in the middle and it's game over for that conversation.
Question: Do you think an 8-8 team that went on a winning streak thanks in large part to a one-sided run game when their passing attack was failing will suddenly become a top contender the next year when they abandon that offense and change back to a pass heavy attack again?
Answer: It's Peyton F'ing Manning dude!... What was the question again?
Brandon Spano (late(r) night Denver sports radio show host) talks about this offseason for the Broncos as one of the greatest offseasons in NFL history. Granted, a man that is known for being prone to hyperbole busting out the excessive hyperbole isn't exactly surprising, but what is surprising is how many people seem to be jumping on board that train of thought before the Broncos have played even one legitimate game.
But greatest offseason of all time? Really? I could probably accept potentially the greatest offseason of all time. Then again, Lindsay Lohan is potentially the greatest actress of all time. At this point, who knows?
Our sports radio was recently doing their AFC power rankings and the Broncos ranked either #2 or #3, behind the Patriots and sometimes the Steelers. Their prediction? That the Broncos would make the AFC Championship game and lose to the Patriots... unless we somehow wrangle home field advantage. In that case, we are Super Bowl bound.
I realize that the radio is a poor place to get level-headed analysis of just about anything and at their best there is a certain level of homerism. It is, however, a decent mirror to the general feelings of fans around the state and around the country. Right now, the feelings regarding our Denver Broncos are fantastic. We aren't talking about who's going to win the AFC West. We seem to know that. The real question is are we going to be the #1 or #2 seed in the AFC?
Is this true? Have we really improved that much from a 4-12 team that was followed up by a shocking 8-8 season that the single addition of Peyton Manning makes us a 10-12 win team? A complete turnaround? In just about any other sport I would take the signing of a free-agent like Peyton Manning to nearly guarantee a playoff berth, but in football there are just too many other moving parts that need to work for a team to win 10-12 games every year. Do the Broncos have all those parts? I'm not convinced.
Consider this. The AFC West is not a passing powerhouse division in the NFL. We aren't the NFC North or the NFC South. We aren't even really the AFC East. All those divisions are full of passing teams with QB's that seem to throw for more than 4500 yards every year. The AFC West tends to be a run-oriented division. All of our teams, except for the Broncos of late, are known for their outstanding run games over the past decade or so.
You want to win the AFC West? Beat the other guy's RB. Stop the run, win the division.
Now, with Manning at QB maybe the Broncos are looking to change that. Perhaps we are trying to change the landscape of our division by introducing to it one of the most prolific passers of our generation.
Correction: The most prolific passer of our generation.
Herein lies the crutch of the "Manning takes the Broncos to glory" argument. This is the argument that says Manning is such an amazing passer that the Broncos must be destined to lead nearly every game they play. Thus, that vaunted rushing attack of the AFC West will be gimped and we'll force teams into the air and then destroy them with our brutal pass rush and thirty seven cornerbacks.
I've heard this scenario so many times I sometimes wonder if fans are even accepting the possibility that the Broncos will ever be behind again. Sometimes I wonder if the argument isn't, not only will Manning lead us to the playoffs but we'll also never be behind in a game! Peyton Manning!
Here's the reality. Manning is the comeback king. There isn't an active QB in the NFL today that has as many comeback victories as Peyton Manning. Thus, it goes without saying that Manning, for all his skills, has not figured out a way to dominant every team he plays from the kickoff every time.
I know, just blew your mind right?
This idea that we can just jump out to a big lead and then take away our opponent's run game every time isn't entirely true. In fact, it's an idea based on things like three horned unicorns, Scarlett Johansson makes good music, and Lindsay Lohan might potentially be the greatest actress ever.
Sure, we are going to win big at times (which, I'm not going to lie, is going to be really nice), but we need to be able to stop the run if we want to be a powerhouse. The closer I look at the teams in our division the more I realize that while their passing attack may be adequate, the run game is their centerpiece.
Considering that we don't normally get easy division games, how confident are you that we can just out-pass our division rivals? If we meet the Chiefs at Arrowhead in a grinder what do you think is going to be the tipping point? Who throws for more than 172 yards or who wins the run game?
Beat the run, win the division. This is AFC West football and as we all know, the easiest path to the playoffs is through your division. Team's need to be built to beat their division.
The Broncos seem to have made their pass-protection the new focus while leaving the run game somewhat alone. Now, I'm not asking the Broncos to fix everything in one off-season and I'm sure that there are plans for correcting what proved to be a poor run defense last year, but I wonder why this isn't being talked about more amongst our star struck fanbase claiming we are heading to the AFC Championship.
Peyton Manning is our new centerpiece to success, and he's no doubt the most important part, but this all in attitude towards stopping the pass has me nervous. We spent our first draft pick on a guy that specializes in rushing the middle during passing plays. He's mainly a third down player and heading into next year I feel great about third and long. It's all the rest of the downs that don't have me convinced. What about stopping the run on first and second when we aren't blowing teams away? Our run defense hasn't changed that much from last year.
If the Broncos can't stop the run this year I don't care how many cornerbacks they pick up. It won't matter. If Darren McFadden runs all over us we won't be able to win those close games, especially if we don't have a rushing attack to match. I'd like to see the Broncos take action when it comes to stopping the run, especially because at the end of the day I'd like for someone to be able to look at me and say more than:
"Stopping the run game? We got Peyton Freaking Manning."