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Owens: Denver transitions from Tebow to Manning (Mar. 21)

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What have you done for me lately?

The age-old adage continues to apply more and more to the modern world of sports business, which looks more like business than sports too much of the time these days.

Football fans have witnessed an extreme case of the cruelty of business in sports with the Peyton Manning saga.

After 14 seasons with the Colts, the first 13 of which were injury-free, Manning was let go by Indianapolis in early March.

During the past couple weeks, several teams courted the future Hall-of-Famer, before he eventually decided to continue his illustrious career with Denver, which will likely displace another starting quarterback from his perch: the eternally polarizing Tim Tebow.

Tebow won over the hearts of the Broncos’ fanbase with a late-season surge (was it Tebow or was it the defense?) that resulted in a playoff berth and a thrilling overtime win over the Steelers.

Regardless, Manning’s signing shows Denver has moved on from its young quarterback, whom executive vice president of football operations John Elway never fully embraced.

It’s hard to argue with the decisions made by either organization. The Colts have the opportunity to select Andrew Luck with the first overall pick, a player who is ironically regarded by many as the best signal-caller in the draft since Manning or Elway. The team’s roster moves over the past couple weeks reveal a team trading its veterans for a fresh start after last season’s 2-14 Manning-less debacle.

Rarely does a team have the opportunity to immediately replace a legendary quarterback with one who has the potential to be the same. The Packers represent the exception, not the norm with Aaron Rodgers.

Look at the Dolphins: They still haven’t found a quarterback since Dan Marino retired over a decade ago.

Heck, it took the Lions 50 years after they dumped Bobby Layne to find Matthew Stafford.

With Denver, the shift from the run-happy Tebow to the leadership and precision of Manning was an easy one. Without the passing skills necessary to sustain success in the NFL, Tebow is likely to be a one-hit wonder, whereas Manning instantly propels the Broncos into the Super Bowl discussion.

Regardless of the opportunities Luck and Manning present to the Colts and Broncos, respectively, it is still amazing to think of how quickly these organizations have chosen a new signal-caller, especially with Indianapolis.

Peyton Manning was the Indianapolis Colts. He led the team to playoff berths year after year, including a Super Bowl victory in 2006, the team’s first since 1970 when they were known as the Baltimore Colts.

Although the team choked in the playoffs more often than even LeBron James, Manning gave the Colts credibility among the league’s elite and was viewed as the class of the National Football League during the past decade, with the likes of New England and Pittsburgh.

Even after owner Jim Irsay declined to pick up Manning’s $28 million option for 2012, No. 18 showed why he is a true throwback in today’s NFL. He thanked the Colts and their fans for the opportunity and never complained about being let loose by the only organization he has ever known – something he certainly had the right to do.

No one really knows how the controversial decisions these organizations have made will play out.

Maybe Manning will win a Super Bowl in Denver in the next three or four years before retiring.

Perhaps Luck is next in line in the strong tradition of elite Colts quarterbacks.

Would it even be that surprising if Manning never fully recovers from the neck operations or if Luck fails to live up to the grand expectations?

Only time will determine the success of Manning, Luck and Tebow. But one thing is for sure: If any of these signal callers trip up, the teams will already be on the phone with the next candidate.


Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu

The opinions expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necesarily those of The Observer.