The Broncos May Not Want Peyton Manning. But, They Sure As Hell Need Him.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Nice Fanpost. Promoted to the front page. - Monty

Peyton Manning is the only quarterback in the history of the National Football League for whom a season with 39 touchdowns, 4,727 passing yards, and a 2.5% interception rate can be considered a "bad year."

Much of that is Manning’s own doing. Fans, Broncos fans in particular, have come to expect so much out of the 38-year-old, five-time league MVP that it’s seemingly become impossible for him to meet his own standard of excellence. It’s become commonplace in comment threads and twitter feeds to hear Manning described as "trash," "washed up," or "soft."

Spend any amount of time listening to local sports talk radio and you’re bound to be inundated with this kind of malarkey. And, while it’s mind-boggling to hear fans be so crass towards the man who’s gone an outstanding 40-12 (77%) wearing the orange and blue, picking up nearly every single passing record known to man along the way, it’s not shocking.In fact, it’s expected.

Criticism, no matter how unfounded, is the very essence of fandom. Fans can boo and hiss and scream and yell as much as they damn well please! After all, why else would you pay $9 for an overcooked hot dog?

But, earlier this week, Jason Cole, an "NFL Insider" and the author of Broncos’ head honcho John Elway’s upcoming authorized biography, said in an interview with Bleacher Report, "Ultimately, the decision about whether or not Peyton Manning plays is up to the Broncos. Really, it’s up to John Elway."

In the same interview, Cole dropped a bombshell by insinuating that if Elway isn't convinced about Manning’s viability as his starting quarterback in 2015, Denver could go as far as to sabotage the results of his upcoming physical, "The Broncos could fail Peyton for any reason."

This statement would have been asinine had it come out of any other mouth. However, Jason Cole really is close to John Elway. In fact, it isn't a stretch to assume that Cole’s words came straight from the Duke himself.

Uneasiness in Bronco Country only intensified on Friday when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Manning had paid a visit to Denver to inform Bronco’s leadership, including Elway, President Joe Ellis, and new Head Coach Gary Kubiak that he was, "Physically and mentally prepared to play at a significant level."

Yet, if this is the case, and Manning really is coming back, why haven’t the Broncos made it official? One can only speculate, based on their silence and the Cole report that Elway has serious concerns about how effective Manning will be this season. If that’s the case, and #7 is planning to move on from #18, Elway would be making a grave mistake.

Had it not been for a serious quad injury Manning suffered in a week 11 road loss to the St. Louis Rams, which was re-aggravated when he misguidedly threw a block at the goal line in a week 15 win in San Diego (the night before which he’d spent vomiting profusely with a serious stomach flu), he’d have continued the ridiculous offensive pace he was on.

Had that injury not occurred, it’s likely that the only name disgruntled fans would be able to call him is "Six time league MVP." Even at age 39, having Peyton Manning in a Denver Bronco uniform makes the team instantly better. He gives them their best chance at winning a Super Bowl. His popularity and star power makes the Broncos perhaps the NFL’s most popular team. And, quite frankly, they don’t have any other choice.

Without Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos have no chance of winning Super Bowl 50. For those fans who seem to believe Gary Kubiak can cast some kind of Wiccan spell on Brock Osweiler, turn him into Aaron Rodgers, and guide this team to the Promised Land, allow me to repeat: without Peyton Manning as the Quarterback of the Denver Broncos, this team has no chance of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next February. Zip, nada, zero, and zilch.

With Manning on the roster, Vegas gives the Broncos a 10-1 shot at winning it all. Without him, they’re 50-1, on par with the likes of the Minnesota Vikings. One can understand a fan’s frustration with three really difficult playoff losses in three seemingly promising years; investing so much in something and having your heart ripped out of your chest time and again can be taxing, no question.

Giving up on the whole thing and rebuilding makes sense to some. Problem is, this team isn't meant to rebuild. With so many big free agent salaries on the books, it’s impossible for the Broncos to free up enough cap space to launch a total re-build without incurring a burdensome amount of dead money.

Try that strategy and the next thing you know you’re the Oakland Raiders. John Elway built this team to win now, with Peyton Manning at the helm. When Manning tells Denver he intends to play at a "significant level," he sounds angry, which he is. In 2015, Peyton Manning will be on a mission to prove his detractors wrong, just as he did in 2012.

2015 Peyton is a pissed-off Peyton. That’s the best kind of Peyton there is. The Broncos need him if they’re going to compete this season, both on and off the field.

Peyton Manning has made the Bronco’s the NFL’s most popular team. At the beginning of this past season a Harris Poll conducted over the previous year anointed them as, "America’s team." Beating out the Dallas Cowboys for that coveted honor. Without Manning, and his popularity, that wouldn't be possible.

Since 2012, Broncos games have been shown to a national prime-time audience an astonishing twelve times, more than any other NFL team. According to Public Policy Polling, Manning carries with him an approval rating of nearly 65% (yes, someone is paid to poll Peyton Manning’s approval rating).

Furthermore, since he arrived in the Mile High City three and a half years ago, team revenue has increased by nearly $43 million. Forbes magazine, which ranked the Broncos 20th in team value just a few years ago, now places them in the 11th spot. This can be credited, almost entirely, to Manning.

It’s no wonder President Joe Ellis, the man who handles the business side of the Broncos’ operation, flew on owner Pat Bowlen’s private plane to pick Manning up in New Orleans this past week. After all, the NFL is ultimately a business. And, thanks to Peyton Manning, business is booming for the Denver Broncos. They need to have him if they want to maintain their stranglehold on the wallets of sports fans across America. Ultimately though, the Broncos need Peyton Manning to be the star attraction at Sports Authority Field again next season for a much simpler reason: they don’t have any other choice.

Brian Greise, Gus Frerotte, Danny Kanell, Kyle Orton, Patrick Ramsey, Chris Simms, and, of course, Tim Tebow. These are the names of just some of the cavalcade of quarterbacks who started a game for the Denver Broncos between John Elway’s retirement in March of 1999 and Peyton Manning’s arrival in March of 2012. You’ll find more talent at the quarterback position at the average fifth grade flag football game than the Denver Broncos had on their roster during that time.

If the disgruntled "Manning haters" in Broncos Country really want to see Peyton Manning leave this team, one hopes they understand that they’d be signing up for another dark age in play at the quarterback position. It’s mindboggling to think anyone who truly bleeds orange and blue would want to endure another Jarious Jackson or Steve Beuerlein. That’s not to speak ill of backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. It’s simply recognizing that when it comes to the most important position in sports, far more have failed than have succeeded.

Without Peyton Manning, the Broncos are at best an 8-8 or 9-7 team that will finish second in the AFC West and on the outside looking in at the playoffs in January 2016. Although it’s unquestionably inevitable, the Broncos would be best to hold off oblivion for as long as possible. The only way to do that is for King Elway, and all his subjects, to welcome Peyton Manning back with open arms in 2015.

Time is a funny thing. It always wins, and it never waits it’s turn. Many Bronco fans believe time has finally defeated Peyton Manning. "He’s washed up," they say, "He just can’t play anymore," they tell us. Worst of all, they call him "soft." Peyton Manning is many things. "Soft" is not one of them. This is a man who barely four years ago woke up in a hospital bed in Chicago, tried to raise himself up with his right arm, and collapsed under his own weight. This is a man who did not have the strength to even grip a football a mere 29 months ago. The fans, the talk radio buffoons, and even many so-called "NFL insiders" said that his career was over. They all bet against Peyton Manning. They all were wrong…very, very wrong.

Just two years after his career was put in serious jeopardy, Peyton Manning broke every single season passing record the NFL has. In 2015, Manning will once again look to prove his doubters wrong. To use the famous line from the great 1976 film Network, Peyton Manning is "Mad as hell. And, he’s not going to take it anymore." If the Broncos know what’s good for them, they’ll cook up some chicken parm, order a Papa John’s pizza, fire the scoreboard operator, and straddle up for one last run at a world championship.

The Broncos may not want Manning. But they sure as hell need him.

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