No NFL team had won as many regular-season games as the Denver Broncos in the past three seasons. No team had scored as many points or gained as many yards. But general manager John Elway wanted more. In the offseason, he set in motion changes he thought would move the organization closer to its first championship since he was behind center 17 seasons ago. Coach John Fox and his coordinators were out. Gary Kubiak and an all-star defensive staff were in.
What would it mean for 39-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning? The stated plan was for Kubiak to recreate the QB-friendly conditions that helped Elway win Super Bowls late in his career, when Kubiak was the team's offensive coordinator. And if the plan didn't work? The Broncos answered that question Tuesday when Kubiak announced backup Brock Osweiler would replace Manning as the starter against Fox's Chicago Bears in Week 11. Manning needs time to recover from various injuries, Kubiak said, but the reality is this move was a long time in the making.
The bottom line for the Broncos is that they appear no closer to winning a championship, even though their defense is sensational. Manning obviously would have been better off had the Broncos kept their offensive system in place, but as the $4 million pay cut he took before the season demonstrated, these changes were much bigger than him.
The switch to Osweiler brings to the fore potential endgame scenarios for Denver, none of which realistically includes Manning in a Broncos uniform next season.