ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The strange thing about Peyton Manning and the expectations his arrival in Denver creates is that the quarterback he's replacing, Tim Tebow, just led a mediocre team to an AFC West title, and Tebow threw a gorgeous touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to beat a legit Super Bowl contender, Pittsburgh, in the playoffs.
More about Manning later today. Check back later this afternoon for my story from his introductory press conference on the first day of his Denver Broncos career. (Sounds odd, doesn't it?)
But now for a few thoughts about Tebow. One: I believe the Broncos, once the fervor of the Manning announcement dies down, could go to work immediately to try to make a market for Tebow. Immediately -- like tonight. What's to gain by stretching this out? Denver wants the one big story now and into the future to be the transition to Manning. It doesn't
want the Tebow deal to be a cloud over the franchise now.
As for where he'll go, I don't know. But if I were Buffalo, Miami and Green Bay, I'd be interested.
I do not join the chorus of the Tim Tebow Is Worthless Club. In the right situation, I would really want Tebow on my team. I think he's a valuable piece on a winning team, even if I'm skeptical he can ever be a long-term NFL starter. And if I'm the Broncos, I'm not trading him. I know they will, or they'll try very hard to. But you have to play the games with someone, and what guarantee do you have that Manning's going to line up 16 times this fall as a 36-year-old player coming off four neck procedures in two years, and playing his home games outside for the first time since he was 21 (and in a place that can have occasionally wicked weather)? I'd keep Tebow for a year of insurance, and explain to him and his uber-passionate fans that he's the backup and likely will only play on two-point-conversion attempts or in lost causes either way this year.
But we all know that's very unlikely. This is club president John Elway's chance to make a clean -- and logical -- break with Tebow and all the exciting distractions he presents. I think Elway would be making a mistake to dump Tebow for a fourth-round pick or whatever Elway can get for him. I'd rather see Denver keep him for insurance; if Manning gets hurt, the Broncos could go back to the 2011 game plans with Tebow and have a better chance to win than by trying to run what Manning runs with another backup.
But so it goes. That doesn't mean Tebow shouldn't be a good option somewhere else. That team has to have an imaginative coach, with a starting quarterback either with a shaky hold on the job or with the kind of confidence that Tebow's arrival wouldn't ruin.
I doubt Jacksonville would be a good spot for Tebow. New coach Mike Mularkey has to try to salvage Blaine Gabbert's career. How can he do that with the specter of Tebow hanging over the franchise? I see it as a counter-productive move, training both players in a pro-style scheme, not doing enough to take advantage of some of the wacky things Tebow does well.
I would go after Tebow if I were Miami GM Jeff Ireland, and not just to soothe the wild masses calling for his job in south Florida right now. Part of it would be attendance-driven, but part of it, too, would be a way for new coach and offensive mind Joe Philbin to throw the kind of wrinkles at defenses that could help Miami win. Could Tebow beat out Matt Moore and David Garrard? Unlikely. But could he play eight to 10 plays a game as a wild card runner, receiver and thrower, with Philbin building a smart chapter of his playbook around him? Certainly. Especially with no big threat at quarterback or in the backfield for Miami, and with a pedestrian set of receivers now that Brandon Marshal has been traded.
I would also go after Tebow if I were Buffalo. Not to take Ryan Fitzpatrick's job, but to create the kind of offensive choices in a game plan Chan Gailey has shown over the years he does so well. Gailey was the idea man for much of what Kordell Stewart became in Pittsburgh early on, the versatile "Slash'' that, if the Steelers had been smart, they'd have stuck with longer than they did.
I'd be interested if I were Green Bay. With Matt Flynn gone, and with such a great line of teachers in the Green Bay system -- now Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements -- the Packers would be the perfect place for Tebow, with no pressure, to learn an offense that relies on accuracy and moving the chains. Accuracy -- that's Tebow's weakness now. I'd love to see him learn a system behind Aaron Rodgers and hone his major weakness.
New England would make a lot of sense to me, but only if either restricted free agent Brian Hoyer gets plucked off the roster for compensation or if a needy team would pay Bill Belichick a pick in the top 35 of this draft for Ryan Mallett. Both of those outcomes seem unlikely.
Why New England? Because Belichick's smart and doesn't care how silly it seems or how much public ridicule he'd take. He's found spots for Troy Brown and Julian Edelman on defense. He knows there are four to six plays a game that a wild card player like Tebow could make that would present major matchup problems for a defense.
Imagine Tebow in the slot, just outside Rob Gronkowski, running a short dig. Imagine Tebow (as Aaron Hernandez did seven times in the Denver playoff game) running out of the backfield, or doing what Tebow did at Florida -- showing run and, at the last second, pulling up and throwing a quick pass? Imagine Tebow as the option quarterback on a two-point conversion from the two-yard line.
But with no movement from Hoyer or Mallett, it'd be tough to bring Tebow aboard, taking up a fourth quarterback spot when he likely wouldn't be playing on many or any of the special teams.
Baltimore makes sense to me too, because I remember what a fan John Harbaugh was of Tebow in college. Harbaugh could brainstorm with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to find a way to use Tebow enough to make him worthwhile. But with the recent tension with incumbent quarterback Joe Flacco over his long-term future and his current contract, Tebowmania may get in the way of Flacco's future and complicate any normalcy Baltimore wants to have on offense. Cameron, too, has been hugely conservative in the last two seasons. He may not be the guy to hand such an odd offensive weapon to.
Miami or Buffalo make the most sense to me. If I'm Ireland or Bills GM Buddy Nix, I'm on the phone with the Broncos tomorrow (after the state holiday this day here sure feels like) trying to make it happen.
Now on to your email.
THE JETS SHOULDN'T HAVE SIGNED MANNING. "Why is it so hard to believe that a team like the Jets would pass on Manning? He is a 36-year-old coming off of four neck surgeries, hasn't played in 18 months, and was looking for a contract that is close to 5 years/90 million. I have no problem with the Jets making the call, but even you have to admit that it is just as likely that they were not interested in him on his terms and wished him well. I think you underestimate how absurdly cumbersome that contract could be, and just how high the risk is to sign Manning.''-- Lee Goldman, of Dix Hills, N.Y.
The Jets didn't pass on Manning. Manning passed on the Jets.
THE AGENT QUESTION. "Manning and Alex Smith are both represented by the same agents. What are the chances that Smith went to Miami simply to put pressure on San Francisco with the agents knowing that Manning might be leaning away from SF?''-- Dave, of Brookfield, Conn.
Certainly possible. But I don't think Smith would fly across the country simply to get a little edge in his contract discussions with the Niners. I tweeted on Monday that the 49ers' new regime, under owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke, has a chilly business practice that I think we saw in this case: They put a value on players they want to keep, and if the player believes he's worth more than that value, then good luck to him. I'll be interested to see if they kept that value system in place when we see if -- as I assume he will -- Smith re-signs with the Niners.
ON MATT MOORE. "Is Matt Moore really that bad of an option for Miami? Wasn't his record as a starter last year 6-4 with two of those losses being a very late blown lead against Tebowmania and a last second field goal in Dallas on Thanksgiving? Given where the Dolphins have been, why don't they build a solid defense and hope Matt Moore can lead them to a 9-7 or 10-6 (if they are lucky) season, build some momentum and next offseason they will be only a QB away?''-- Jason Reid, of San Bruno, Calif.
That's fine logic, and I like Moore. But if the Dolphins were so sold on Moore, why did they go hard after Matt Flynn? And why did they fly Alex Smith across the country and spend five-and-a-half hours with him on a Sunday morning? Certainly they know Flynn as well as any team out there, and they'd watched enough film on Smith to know whether they'd be interested in him to come in to be their quarterback. No, they did those things because they're skeptical of Moore's ability to be their long-term quarterback.
SORRY. MANNINGMANIA OVERTOOK THE COLUMN THIS WEEK. "Love your MMQB but I am a little miffed why in the whole article you mention nothing about the Tampa Bucs Buccaneers signing Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright. Like all of us Buc fans I was hoping for some love from the sports writers and a much better year! It has to get better right?''-- Ken Nahrwold, of Tampa
You're right -- I owe the Bucs some attention for what they did in free agency, and it'll come in the next two weeks. My apologies, particularly because I've been on ownership there to prove they'll spend for a winner. A preview: I like Jackson a lot, and I like Nicks a lot -- assuming he keeps his weight in check. Great signings. Eric Wright's just another guy. I wouldn't have paid for him. But there's no question Tampa's significantly improved, and if I'm Josh Freeman, I'm very happy with the attention GM Mark Dominik paid to help the team score more points.
DEPENDS IF PEYTON'S HEALTHY. "Peter, Manning Mania is in full effect!! Around here it feels like the Broncos just won a Super Bowl or something. Where do you feel the Broncos stand now in the AFC hierarchy?''-- Chris, of Denver
Good question, Chris. If you told me Manning would be 90 percent the thrower and athlete he was before all the neck surgeries (I realize he's not a great athlete, of course, but I'm talking about being well enough to evade the rush and being able to take the hits he's going to take), I'd tell you Denver's the favorite in the AFC West and should win one playoff game, minimum.
A NORWEGIAN CHECKS IN, AND HE'S NOT HAPPY WITH THE DOLPHINS EITHER. "Thank you Peter! As a longtime suffering Norwegian Dolphin fan I was happy to finally see someone confronting Miami's front office the way you did. Jeff Ireland looks tortured, out of place, and Stephen Ross looks like your average tax collector. Wayne Huizenga had charm and charisma, these two have none of that, and just as in college, the best recruiters get the talent. What do they do now?''-- Dag M. Aastorp, of Moss, Norway
Hope that Ryan Tannehill is there for them in the first round. Trade for Tebow. Those are my two recommendations, and for your sake, Dag, I hope one of those happen.