When thinking of the Denver Broncos’ most irreplaceable performer, there is no way to get creative.
The answer to this question as obvious as saying that the sky is blue. Sure, left tackle Ryan Clady brings tremendous blocking ability. Yes, Denver will hurt without linebacker Von Miller’s vaunted pass rush for four games. Quarterback Peyton Manning, however, is everything to this franchise.
Coming off of a potentially career-threatening neck injury last season, this future Hall-of-Famer passed for 37 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions. 2012, of course, was Manning’s first campaign in Denver after playing his first 14 years as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Broncos went 13-3 with him under center. Although they finished previously as AFC West champions a year prior, it was very different this time. Tim Tebow’s defense had to play almost perfect football to keep scores low. His offensive line also spent much time run blocking until Tebow could reel off some passes in the fourth quarter. Manning provided the luxury of a conventional drop back passer who does not rely on gimmick offenses.
Despite having a rocket arm, though, Manning also does subtle things.
Perhaps no one in NFL history has used the pre-snap audible better. While screaming out phrases like “Omaha” in the process of making gestures may confuse fans, it also does the same to opponents. His command and understanding of where teammates are at all times makes him worthy of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s “Sheriff” nickname.
Running a fast-paced attack as Denver plans to do is also an approach where this player excels. Indianapolis saw firsthand what happens Manning goes down.
As they do not have much depth at the position, the Broncos would be devastated to rely on them in the present. Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker thrived with Manning. An offseason addition of Wes Welker will make their passing game even more dynamic. As long as the 12-time Pro Bowl signal-caller stays healthy, Denver should contend for a fourth Super Bowl title.