Peyton Manning to Denver: Smart choice?

Quarterback Peyton Manning (18) of the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Tim Tebow (15) of the Denver Broncos meet at midfield after the game at INVESCO Field at Mile High on Sept. 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Colts defeated the Broncos 27-13. Getty Images/Doug Pensinger

Peyton Manning (18) and Tim Tebow (15) meet at midfield after a game at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Colts defeated the Broncos 27-13.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

(CBS News) The drama is over. In a move that surprised many football insiders, Peyton Manning has picked the Broncos over the Titans and 49ers as his next team. But did the coveted free agent quarterback make the right call?

Peyton Manning picks Denver Broncos

While the frigid weather may not help an aging QB coming off major surgery, Denver certainly has its perks. The defending AFC West champ has a stellar defense and should contend for the playoffs again. Of course, fans and pundits are still debating whether the Broncos playoff run last year was because of, or in spite of, polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow. With Manning's arrival, Tebowmania is a quiet footnote in Broncos lore. The QB is likely on the trading block since there's a new (four-time league MVP) sheriff in town.

In picking the Broncos, Manning doesn't exactly inherit an offensive juggernaut. Last season, the team had trouble putting drives together, ranking 23rd in the NFL in total offense. Only one team (Jacksonville) had a worse passing game last year. But Denver has a tremendous rushing attack, which should open up play-action opportunities for a quarterback of Manning's caliber.

Still, Manning's alternatives seemed equally if not more appealing. He could have landed on team that was one win away from the Super Bowl had he chosen to sign with San Francisco 49ers. And had he picked the Titans, the former University of Tennessee star would have gone back to his roots and led a squad with a 9-7 record, an improved offensive line and one of the game's best running backs in Chris Johnson.

But numbers don't tell the whole story. As CBSSports.com's Andrew Mason notes, the intangibles may have been what swayed Manning.

"(John) Elway and coach John Fox have changed the culture at Broncos headquarters in the last 12 months, replacing the technocratic, occasionally paranoid mindset of the Shanahan and McDaniels eras with a more relaxed, player-friendly approach," Mason notes.

Elway needs to surround Manning with more than good vibes - the quarterback needs good players to succeed in Denver.

"Now that Manning is headed to the Broncos it is time to build around him," CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan writes. "Sign Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, and maybe even Brandon Stokley and Joseph Addai. John Fox will let Peyton start installing his offense. Some of these former Colts may not make the final roster but they will help put the offense in place."

So, in the end, Manning spurns the Bay and Music City and takes his talents to the Rocky Mountains. Time will tell if his stint in Denver is rocky or if he can take the Broncos back to the mountain top.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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