|Coach John Fox says he's grateful for what Tim Tebow did for the Broncos and the city in 2011. (US PRESSWIRE)|
When the Denver Broncos won the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes, it signaled an end to the Tim Tebow era. He's since been shipped to the Jets where he's, well, excited. The biggest question now facing the Broncos: how healthy would Manning be when the 2012 season begins in almost six months.
Two weeks ago, before Manning had decided on a team, he was working out in North Carolina under the watchful eye of his former college offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, now the Duke head coach. Here's what Cutcliffe saw: "With Peyton, his release time is important, and that's right on target now," he told Sports Illustrated's Peter King. "His velocity is right on. His arm slot is right on. His accuracy's amazing. Obviously I'm close to him, but I've watched him throw for almost 20 years now, and I'm really excited about what I think is going to happen. He's going to be great when he needs to be great."
Last Tuesday, Manning said he could play in a game right now but wouldn't be nearly as sharp as he'd like. Seven days later, at the NFL owners meeting, Broncos head coach John Fox spoke about what impact Manning can have on an offense that was among the league's best on the ground but struggled through the air.
“As he would tell you, he's done it a certain way for 14 years and obviously had great success," Fox said in comments released by the team. "We'd kind of be silly if we wouldn't take some of what he's done in the past and utilize his strengths and comfort zone. I think that was a factor and of course that came up. He hadn't been through the process in so long, being in one place, I thought he did a terrific job in handling that.”
Hey, it's exactly what the Broncos did with Tebow last year and they went on a six-game winning streak, a division title and a playoff win. There's something to be said for accentuating your players' strengths, even if it means starting from scratch schematically.
In King's SI piece, there were many reasons Manning settled on the Broncos, one of which was familiarity -- with team executive and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, coach Fox, and the teams on Denver's 2012 schedule. And, of course, familiarity with the offense Denver almost certainly will install in the coming weeks and months.
“I think there will be some similarities," Fox said when asked if Denver's offense will resemble the one Manning ran for 14 years in Indianapolis. "No different than from how much our offense from a year ago looked a little bit like [the University of] Florida's. It's just kind of how it is. That's what coaching is. You try to utilize your players and put them in the best positions so they can have success.”
Fox is known as a coach who likes to run, but a lot of that was based on personnel. In Carolina, he had DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield behind the likes of Jake Delhomme and later Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen. In those situations, there was no good reason to throw the ball 40 times a game. Same deal with Tebow and Willis McGahee last season. So what about '12 with Peyton?
“I think it's hard to compare, but if you look at the past, [Manning] has had great success in that area. I think sometimes what defines you as a quarterback, is your ability to convert on third downs and he's had a pretty good history in that area. … We ran the ball more last year than maybe [ever] in my head coaching and all of a sudden I was innovative (laughing). I didn't quite get that one either.”
Tebow, meanwhile, is now in New York where the Jets seem, ahem, excited by his versatility. Fox said he "will be forever grateful" for what Tebow did for the team and the city last season.
“As I've mentioned all along and anybody within our organization, whether it has been [Elway] or [General Manager] Brian [Xanders], we took a good first step [last year]. It's not where we want to end up, and Tim was a big part of that. … He sparked our city. Our team did, but he had his hand in it for sure. …
"Tim is going to develop, as I said even before we traded him, he's a young player that is getting better at maybe the hardest position in sports to compete at," Fox continued. "He's just going to get better. I'm not changing my tune just because he's not with us anymore. I think the Jets got a heck of a player and he'll grow and develop there."
And the Jets -- from head coach Rex Ryan to general manager Mike Tannenbaum to starting quarterback Mark Sanchez -- agree. Well, most of them.
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