Time to see if the old Colt can still play

The Peyton Manning legacy will end in a Denver Broncos uniform.

Will the future Hall of Famer’s football golden years result in another gold trophy for the Broncos?

Obviously, that’s what John Elway was hoping when he persuaded the Broncos to pony up $96 million to make the former Colt a Bronco.

Now the galloping towards greatness begins.

This tale has more plot lines than Arlington National Cemetery.

Manning over Tim Tebow?

That decision was as easy as pie but with more complications than pi. The Broncos did indeed stick their neck out in regards to Manning’s neck.

By making this move, even though it’s a five-year contract, the Broncos are screaming that the future is now.

The future rests on the right arm and the healthy neck of the four-time MVP.

Yes, Tebow led Denver to one playoff win last season. But Tebow still has more question marks than The Riddler. And Manning has less question marks than a Jeopardy! board. But there are two huge Manning questions — his age and that gangly neck.

As for his age, if healthy, Manning will excel. A future Hall of Famer blessed with a quick release, accuracy and an unmatched football IQ. Elway knows something about winning as an old QB. He led the Broncos to a pair of titles when he was 37 and 38. Manning just turned 36.

The Super Bowl title is a fleeting accomplishment. Win one year and then watch others showered with confetti the next. Winning consecutive Super Bowls is getting tougher all the time. Winning multiple Super Bowls in this era is a (NY) Giant accomplishment.

Dynasties are dinosaurs.

The window for winning a championship is smaller than the one in Sneezy’s bathroom. Every team wants that franchise quarterback who will be around for a decade or longer. Build around a quarterback or use free agency for the short-term fix.

Tebow’s upside is still as mysterious as Donald Trump’s hair. But last year piqued everyone’s football appetite. He had more overthrows than an Africa government. He threw more balls in the dirt than knuckleballer on a windy day. But he won and left critics baffled over the conquering feats.

Amazing athleticism, leadership and determination, he put up victories. Completing just 46 percent won’t get it done in the NFL from a consistent perspective. But he won. He’s a winner and always has been.

Elway was that way. He had poor-to-mediocre statistics through a large part of his career, but he won.

It’s the only statistic that matters.

The Tebow trade ended the shortest but one of the most exciting times in Denver Broncos history. Tebow brought more thrills than a roller coaster and excitement nearly every time he touched the ball.

He led the team to heart-stopping wins almost every week. But they caught more breaks than Humpty Dumpty during that late-season run.

To be a playoff contender, Tebow was going to have to show major improvement in the passing game.

If he’s to survive in the NFL, he must throw the ball better. The longevity of running NFL QBs is as short as Danica’s temper.

This year was going to show what Tebow could do. With a full training camp, another year in the system, more work with receivers, then it would be time to drop back and pass judgment on his quarterback abilities.

The knock on Tebow is that his mechanics are worse than the ones who created the Edsel. Only time under center and practice time will erode those deficiencies.

Now he’s in another learning square. Traded to the New York Jets, he has to learn a new system with new receivers; his learning curve just got bigger.

Tebow earned the chance to be the starter in Denver. But that was before Peyton Manning became available. Elway pursued and they got No. 18 and shipped off No. 15.

There hasn’t been this much discussion over an arms battle since the Cuban Mission Crisis. But there’s no dispute that a healthy Manning is the best quarterback. He’s one of the all-time greats.

There lies the rub. Will he remain healthy? Neck injuries in football are scarier than Snooki becoming a mom.

When it comes to the Super Bowl, Denver is looking at a very small window, but the window is there.

Defensively, they played great last year. But along with the stellar play of youngsters Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, there was also the contribution of aging superstars like Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins.

One, maybe two more years is all that remain for these two future Hall of Famers.

Free agency will need to fill some major gaps if they will be contenders.

With Manning, the neck and his age are questions. For the team, there are many more questions. Linebacker D.J. Williams will miss the first six games due to a failed drug test. The receiving corps have potential but lack consistency. An aging running back and an offensive line that was much better at run blocking than protecting the passer are concerns.

For many fans, the signing of Manning earned the team a trip to the NFL’s upper echelon.

Super Bowl championship is now in their sights — right?

Hold your horses!

Even with Manning, the Broncos rank no higher than fifth in the talent pool coming into the season. Green Bay, San Francisco, New England, the Giants, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the beleaguered New Orleans Saints — could all be ranked higher than Denver.

Manning makes Denver a contender. Or rather, it needs to be said — a healthy Manning.

The exciting Tebow era was flashbulb-quick. He personified excitement. Manning is the classic pocket passer. The only thing spectacular about his play is that he completes passes and wins games.

And that is spectacular.

The Broncos made their decision and sent Tebow to the Big Apple. Now, the crisp precision of Peyton Manning takes over. A move like this is based on just one thing. Winning another Super Bowl.

Saddle up for an exciting season. Time to see if the old Colt still has some years left.

Reach Dale Shrull at dales@cortezjournal.com