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Horse Tracks: Will Peyton Manning's leadership be sorely missed by the Denver Broncos in 2016?

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Just how much will Peyton Manning's leadership qualities be missed on the Denver Broncos in 2016? The wheels came off the franchise when John Elway retired, so let's not pretend that isn't also a possibility today.

The Denver Broncos won the AFC West all four seasons Peyton Manning was the quarterback there. The team never won fewer than twelve games in a season and reached Super Bowls with a combined regular season and playoff record of 55-17.

Sure, you could say it was the defense that won this Super Bowl and you'd be correct. Looking back, however, I am doubtful that that team gets to a Super Bowl, much less wins it, with Brock Osweiler at quarterback. Maybe Osweiler one day commands the kind of respect from his peers that a Peyton Manning has, but that day wasn't coming during the 2015 season. That truth is clearly evident from this clip from Super Bowl 50.

The players are still thinking about him and there have been reports that a clear void in leadership exists on the offensive side of the ball now that Manning has retired.

"Peyton [Manning] was last year," Emmanuel Sanders said on Friday when asked about Peyton Manning. "I texted him yesterday and told him that I miss him being out here, but at the end of the day, this is a new team with the same goal. We have to get past that Peyton Manning era. Right now, we’re trying to find ourselves a quarterback and that’s what it’s about."

That brings me to a very important question. As great as we expect this defense to be, what happens to their mindset if the offense crashes and burns again in 2016? With Manning, the players could at least remember how great he was and could be again. Would they feel the same way about Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch? Unlikely.

With those thoughts, two things must happen this season regardless of who the quarterback is. First, the Broncos have got to start out strong with a couple of wins. Second, the running game must carry this team.

If either of those things don't happen, we'll find the rookie quarterback much sooner than many expect, because there is no calming force like Peyton in that locker room to help right the sinking offensive ship. Football is all about momentum and a season could quickly become derailed. Just ask last years' Baltimore Ravens.

Horse Tracks

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