Would Peyton Manning want to be surrounded by Tebowmania? It doesn't seem likely. (Kellen Micah/ICON SMI)
Peyton Manning, when healthy, is a better quarterback than Tim Tebow. That is an indisputable truth, one that no one -- not even Tebow's biggest fans -- could possibly argue against. So it should come as no surprise that all indications are the Broncos will kick the tires on Manning as the QB hits free agency.
Even at the risk of making the team's slightly awkward marriage with Tebow even more convoluted, Pat Bowlen, John Elway and the rest of the Broncos brass owe it to the franchise to see if Manning, for some reason, would make Denver his next stop.
The guess here? No chance Manning actually winds up a Bronco.
Denver has emerged as a dark-horse choice to land Manning, but this does not feel like the type of situation the long-time Colts quarterback would want to end his career in. Manning has not tipped his hand much, but two factors are believed to be driving his thoughts: 1. He wants to play for a contender; 2. He'd like to find a home that's as drama-free as possible.
The latter issue is why many pundits are scratching the Redskins (same division as Eli Manning) and Jets (same city as Eli) off the list. There's even been some word that Peyton would like to avoid the NFC altogether, so he and his brother don't have to battle for a Super Bowl berth.
The Broncos, as an AFC team, won't stand in the way of a Giants playoff berth ... but a drama-free franchise? Hardly.
Denver turned into the center of the football universe during the 2011 season, as its Tebow-fueled turnaround captured fans' imaginations and crossed the line into overkill in media coverage. Now, let's just think for a second what would have to happen for Manning to take over as the Broncos' quarterback.
First and foremost, the Broncos would have to bench or trade Tebow. It's amazing to think about, given Manning's track record, but in either scenario, given how crazy Denver fans are for Tebow, Manning would be held up in comparison to what Tebow did as a starter.
Say Manning steps in, looks to be at a little less than 100 percent and opens 3-3. There would be, without question, calls for the Broncos to pull the trigger and get Tebow back into the lineup.
Just recently, at the NFL combine, Elway said: "We’re hoping that [Tebow]’s going to be the guy for a long, long time." For all his naysayers and critics, Tebow went 8-5 as a starter last year, with a playoff win over Pittsburgh in the mix.
Manning doesn't need, want or deserve that kind of scrutiny.
Heaven forbid Denver try to pull Manning in favor of a Tebow-friendly short-yardage package at some point. Suffice it to say, that would not sit well with Manning.
Lest you think Manning would be able to put up with all that for a shot at a championship, it's worth pointing out that the Broncos may be more than a veteran quarterback away from winning it all.
This team was more of the overachieving sort in 2011 than dominant. Even if the Broncos somehow landed Manning, it would take some substantial upgrades at several spots -- safety, cornerback and wide receiver, to name a few -- for them to be considered one of the AFC favorites.
Could Denver bridge all those gaps? Would the team, even with a projected boatload of money to spend in free agency, be willing to use it?
Those questions pale in comparison, though, to the issue of how Manning and Tebow would coexist. Given all the hubbub surrounding his rehab and release from Indianapolis, Manning will be hard-pressed to find a situation quite like what he had with the Colts. That said, he would still like to find some relative peace and quiet on a team with a chance to win the Super Bowl. We can talk about the Broncos' roster deficiencies all we want -- and even if the Broncos added Manning's favorite receiver, free agent Reggie Wayne, to go with Demaryius Thomas, they would need another weapon or two -- but the simple fact is that Tebow's presence makes the Manning-to-Denver possibility a far-fetched one.