Five questions stemming from the Broncos’ signing of Peyton Manning

Are the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender?
Everything hinders on whether or not Peyton Manning really is healthy and if the Denver defense can play as well next year as it did last season. If Manning only lasts six games or the defense falls apart, then the underachieving Chargers could easily take the AFC West next season. That said, the Broncos’ defense shouldn’t have to hold teams to under 10 points with Manning under center and Peyton could make stars out of receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, assuming the two can stay healthy. And let’s put it this way, the Broncos’ Super Bowl odds went from 25/1 to 7/1 following the signing of Manning. There’s no doubt that this addition has put the Broncos over the top.

Is Peyton healthy?
Manning told reporters at his press conference on Tuesday that if the Broncos had a game on Sunday, he would be able to play. He said he might not play at the level he expects of himself, but he would be on the field. He also said that he hopes to be on the field for OTAs in April and that he insists he’s been open with teams about his medical history. At this point, Manning deserves to be taken at his word. If he’s still hurt, I highly doubt he would have convinced John Elway to give him $96 million over the next five years. Peyton has too much respect for Elway and the game of football then to deceive anyone. That said, I have no doubt that he’s healthy now but what happens after he takes that first hit? I’m less concerned about his current health and more concerned about whether or not he can hold up over the entire course of the season. After all, he had major nerve damage in his neck.

Are the Broncos making the right decision to move on from Tebow?
The Broncos are taking three separate risks with this signing. The first risk is assuming Manning will be the same player he was before he underwent multiple injuries. The second rest is giving him a $96 million contract and the third risk is that they’re reportedly willing to put Tim Tebow on the trade market. I view the first two risks as major, while the third is more of a small gamble that Tebow wasn’t going to get them much further than he did last season. After all, he may have beaten a banged up Pittsburgh team in the Wild Card round but he was completely exposed by the Patriots the following week. That said, he did win plenty of games last year for the Broncos and whether it was luck or the hand of God, Tebow was a big part of the team’s success in 2012. If Manning only plays two games next year before getting hurt again, some in Denver will wonder why the team was so quickly to part with Tebow just months after he led them to a playoff victory.

What will happen to Tebow?
As of Tuesday night the Jaguars, Jets, and Packers reportedly have interest in Tebow. According to NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi, the Jaguars have “serious interest” in trading for Tebow while the New York Daily News says that the Jets have “legitimate interest” in the former Gator. In rather surprising news, former Rams’ VP of Player Personnel Tony Softli told ESPN 101 in St. Louis that the Packers have at least some interest in Tebow as well. While he may not be viewed as a future starter, the Broncos should have plenty of trade suitors for Tebow if/when they want to put him on the market. The Jaguars make the most sense to land Tebow but there always seems to be a surprise team to come out of the woodwork.

What team got hurt the most in Manning’s decision?
The Miami Dolphins took one off the chin this week. After failing to lure Manning to Miami, the Dolphins reportedly low-balled Matt Flynn (who decided to sign with Seattle), and couldn’t convince an angry Alex Smith to leave San Francisco. (Smith re-signed with the 49ers on Tuesday.) So now the Dolphins are left with Plan D, which is former Jaguar David Garrard, whom they signed on Monday. As of right now Garrard will compete with Matt Moore for the starting job in 2008, which is about as exciting as a box full of yarn. Granted, the Dolphins do own the No. 8 overall pick but if the Browns take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill at No. 4, Miami probably won’t have an opportunity to draft their future signal caller in April. No wonder fans were reportedly ready to protest the firing of GM Jeff Ireland – the Dolphins are a mess.

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Mark Sanchez appears to be losing confidence by the week

Denver Broncos Elvis Dumervil and Ryan McBean sack New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on November 17, 2011. Denver came from behind to defeat New York 17-14 on a 20-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tim Tebow UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Good versus evil was not on display Thursday night in Denver.

It was more like extreme belief versus utter lack of confidence.

While Tim Tebow continues to win games for the Broncos while only playing one quarter of watchable football, Mark Sanchez is contributing to losses in a variety of ways.

At one point during the Broncos’ 17-13 victory over the Jets on Thursday night, Sanchez was actually 11-for-11. But he overthrew a wide open Dustin Keller in the back of the end zone to snap the streak in the third quarter and then threw an awful pick-six to Andre Goodman that completely turn the game around. (Granted, Plaxico Burress didn’t run a very good route but Sanchez should have never thrown the ball in the first place.)

Up until Goodman’s interception, the Jets were in complete control of the game. Sure they only led 10-3, but Tebow and the Denver offense was regularly booed off the field because of its ineffectiveness. Tebow’s fourth quarter magic aside, he was brutal. He missed open receivers throughout the night and couldn’t take advantage of outstanding field position on several occasions.

But he also hung tough, waited for his moment to shine and then marched the Broncos the length of the field for a game-winning score. Denver took the lead on Tebow’s magnificent 20-yard scramble in which he read the blitz, beat contain and steamrolled into the end zone. If Sanchez were in a similar situation and had to go 90-plus yards to bring the Jets back, I’m not sure he could do it right now.

Following the game, the NFL Network TV crew welcomed Tebow to the set and fired questions at the youngster while the Denver crowd shouted his name. Try as the analysts did to get Tebow to say something along the lines of, “Hey fellas, I have know idea how I’m 4-1 right now without being able to complete a pass,” the young quarterback was unwavering with his responses. He dished out enormous credit to his teammates, God, and even squeezed in a comment about how football takes a backseat to the hospital he’s funding in the Philippines. Dude is unbelievable.

Then the NFL Network switched to Sanchez’s postgame press conference. He looked sullen, just as any quarterback who lost a game would. But as Marshall Faulk said afterwards, Sanchez looked like someone who had completely lost all confidence in his abilities. And while the Jets have overcome their quarterback’s limitations before, keep in mind that their running game isn’t there this year to save Sanchez from himself. They’ve had to rely on him to make plays and he hasn’t delivered.

An average quarterback would have beaten Tim Tebow’s Broncos last night. But thanks to Sanchez, the Jets kept Denver in the game just long enough for Tebow to walk on water one more time. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the biblical reference.)

If Sanchez doesn’t dig deep and start playing with Tebow-esq confidence then the Jets are finished.

Poll: Which quarterback will have the most success in the NFL?

When we polled readers on which quarterback they think will wind up having the most success in the NFL, the one name I didn’t expect to receive the majority of the votes was Tim Tebow.

I’ve been vocal with my opinion on the Broncos’ decision to trade three draft picks for Tebow in the first round of last month’s draft. First and foremost, I think Tebow is a massive project and to give up three picks (a second, a third and a fourth) in order to trade back into the first round and select him wasn’t wise on Denver’s part. (Especially after they traded for Brady Quinn in the offseason and still have an unspectacular, but effective Kyle Orton on the roster.)

But regardless of whether or not you liked the trade for the Broncos, Tebow is remains the biggest boom or bust quarterback in the 2010 draft class. He is extremely coachable and works very hard on his craft, but he will likely need years of schooling before he can become a NFL quarterback. He still has a long way to go with his mechanics and he’s behind the 8-ball because he didn’t play in a pro style offense at Florida. Athletically he’s ready to play now, but there have already been a handful of scouts, coaches and GMs that have said in so many words that they wouldn’t stake their careers on him being a quarterback.

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Will Quinn be the odd man out in Denver?

After the Broncos’ traded multiple picks (rather foolishly in my opinion) in order to select Tim Tebow in the first round of last week’s draft, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports wonders which quarterback will likely be the odd man out in Denver.

7. Who is the odd quarterback out in Denver?
In the perfect world, Tim Tebow would be on the roster to sit and learn and develop with nonstop NFL coaching. But he has to get some snaps, too, and the No. 3 quarterback rarely ever sees those. So you can bet that Tebow is going to get an opportunity to show he can be the backup with the Denver Broncos this season. And frankly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility he could swipe the starting job. It’s unlikely, but you can’t rule it out. The one guy who seems to suddenly be on the outside looking in is Brady Quinn. He was acquired for a low price – running back Peyton Hillis and fairly meaningless late-round picks in 2011 and 2012 – and has very little starting experience. So if you are going to deprive someone of practice reps, who are you going to pick? Your veteran starter Kyle Orton, your first-round pick in Tebow, or a guy who cost you almost nothing in Quinn? Seems like an easy answer.

What I don’t get is why the Broncos traded for Quinn in the first place. I understand they didn’t give up very much for him, but the trade for Tebow in the first round was very calculated. They kept trading back in order to acquire more picks so they could then trade up to select Tebow, so obviously they had a game plan. But what is their strategy now? Orton’s contract expires at the end of the year and Quinn’s expires in 2011. So maybe they’re planning on keeping all three quarterbacks and hoping Tebow emerges as the starter in either 2011 or 2012.

Either way, Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders have created a fine mess for themselves in Denver. They have one average quarterback in Orton, one below average backup in Quinn and one massive project in Tebow. As Robinson points out, if the Broncos hope to develop Tebow then they’ll need to get him reps in practice and that means making him the backup. Which makes Quinn useless.

I know the Broncos are high on Tebow, but I have a feeling that this team will be in the market for a franchise-caliber quarterback sooner than they think.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Broncos take big risk in Tim Tebow

I’ve given it a day. I’ve tried to see it from their point of view and play devil’s advocate. I’ve allowed things to sink in and tried to look at the decision from a couple of different angles.

It didn’t help. I still have no idea what the hell the Broncos were thinking when they traded three picks in order to draft Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick in Thursday night’s first round.

Make no mistake: the Broncos drafted Tebow to be their starting quarterback of the future, despite the fact that they traded for Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn in each of the last two offseasons. They want him to eventually become their No. 1 guy and considering what they gave up for him, he better pan out as a quarterback or else the words “epic failure” will come to mind when this trade is reviewed in the future.

Regardless of whether or not you believe Tebow can be a NFL quarterback is irreverent. The Broncos gave up three draft picks (a second, a third and a fourth) in order to select him where they did, meaning they gave up three potential starters for the former Heisman winner. Teams don’t give up that kind of compensation and deem the trade a success unless that player turns out to be special. That means if Tebow turns out to be an H-back or a Wild Card specialist, then Denver wasted three picks on a role player.

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