So Peyton Manning...again...how many years are we gonna have to do this?
To try to answer that, I linked up with Kyle Montgomery from Mile High Report, SB Nation's community for fans of the Broncos.
So coming from the other side of the world (read: the NFC), I guess I'm just kind of awed at the Brady & Manning lifespans. How much longer can Peyton keep this up? Is there any sign of him slowing down yet? He can't play until he's 50...right?!
Broncos fans were on the other side of the world for awhile too (read: not the Colts), and now that we're here: it is awesome. Peyton Manning is playing at the highest level of his career, and he's 38 freaking years old. This time next year, he'll be nearly 40. But he just broke his career records and is breaking all the NFL records. It's incredible.
That being said, I've had a gut feeling, ever since the Broncos signed him, that we'd get three years out of Manning. Now in Year 3, I haven't been able to shake that feeling. There is no factual basis for this. He's under contract for another two years There's not even a comment that lends itself to him retiring in four months, other than Peyton saying every year he's taking it one year at a time. I just have a feeling I can't shake.
I hope my gut is wrong, because he isn't slowing down, and I think he and the Broncos could put at least two more seasons together of something special as he finishes out his contract. Hell, what's to stop him from playing until he's 50 like you suggest? We'll see.
On the other side of things, you guys seem much improved in rushing defense. What have been the primary contributions to why you guys are keeping a lid on opponents ground games? Has it led to expanded gaps in pass coverage?
The Broncos were pretty good against the run in 2012 too. Jack Del Rio has always coached well in that regard. The 2013 season was just a year that saw the Denver Broncos defense decimated by injuries. Von Miller, Champ Bailey, Chris Harris Jr., Wesley Woodyard, and a handful of others all missed significant time (and all but Champ in that list missed the Super Bowl) due to injuries. Leading the charge has been Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton, but the Broncos have a couple of other defensive linemen who are stepping up nicely against the run in Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. For the Broncos, it definitely starts up front.
There haven't been gaps in pass coverage either. The Broncos are pretty good against both, with pass rushers Miller and DeMarcus Ware and good cornerbacks in Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
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Are you guys on track to get back to the Super Bowl? What has you optimistic about this year's chances, or said differently, where have you guys improved on 2013?
I think the Broncos are on track to compete for a Super Bowl, yes. I'm optimistic because 1. Anytime you have a Hall of Fame quarterback you're in the mix, and 2. GM John Elway did a lot this offseason to address the weaknesses exposed in New Jersey last year. The Broncos upgraded the defense we talked about with the additions of Ware, Ward, and Talib, and they got back Miller and Harris Jr. from injury. That's a big influx in defensive talent.
The big concern now is locking up that #1 seed, because no one in Broncos Country wants to travel to Foxboro again this year. The Broncos and Patriots are both 7-2, with New England owning the tiebreaker. We're rooting for Patriots' opponents every week.
Rams fans have just about turned to 2015 at this point. If you had to put a priority list together, what would you say the Broncos' needs are?
Offensive line would shoot right to the top. When your team is talking to "terrible" human beings because they need help with football, you know things are getting desperate. I also wonder if quarterback is becoming a need. Whether Peyton Manning retires or not, backup QB Brock Osweiler will be entering his contract year in 2015. No one has seen enough to be truly comfortable he's the future. A high-to-mid-round draft pick might be in order to compete with Brock.
Big picture question. Go back to the end of the Shanahan era. From the beginning of the McDaniels tenure to now, what's the biggest change? Is it as simple as pointing to Peyton? Is it a cultural/locker room aspect that starts at the top with John Fox? (Pretty much I need you to tell me how to go from a mediocre team to getting over the hump...pleeeeeeeeease)
The Broncos found someone who is making good football decisions in Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager (yes, that's his full job title) John Elway. Elway has been very good in the draft and fantastic in free agency. He drafted Von Miller #2 overall with his very first pick, which was the first step in transforming the Broncos franchise. If you look back, Miller wasn't really a "fit" with the Broncos at all. He was a 3-4 outside pass rushing linebacker, and Elway and Fox were going to run a 4-3. If you look at the NFL now, Von Miller is the only outside linebacker in a 4-3 in the league who rushes the passer nearly as much as Von does. Here was Elway's mantra to John Fox: I'll get you the talent. You make it work.
That mantra has succeeded. It was evidenced when Fox went to Tim Tebow in 2011, starting him in place of Kyle Orton. You could see Elway nearly cringing through his smile that season as Tebowmania swept the country and no one with a football IQ could explain the way Tebow "just won." That was not a quarterback Elway wanted. But he let Fox make the decision, and hey, the Broncos won the division at 8-8 that year and even won a Wild Card playoff game.
Then Peyton Manning became a free agent, and the Broncos' Hall of Fame QB was able to charm the future Hall of Fame QB into a Broncos uniform. Everyone wanted a piece of Peyton, but Elway got him.
When the Broncos won Super Bowls, we had Mike Shanahan making football decisions. He was good at that for about 10 years, but then his mistakes caught up with him. The Broncos tried to get someone fresh in Josh McDaniels. That failed miserably; they gave him too much power. They found an interesting balance in old school and new school in Elway: someone who knows football, but was mostly new to the NFL operations game. It's worked out. I truly know nothing about the Rams' football operations setup, but I'd say the biggest key to turning things around for the Broncos was finding the right man up top.
Thanks to Kyle for the time.