The Denver Broncos have been searching for an answer at quarterback since their last Super Bowl title 1998, which also signaled the end of John Elway's 16-season Hall of Fame career. While Elway's first three successors enjoyed one Pro Bowl season each, the team's most important position has seldom been settled for even two seasons at a time. Peyton Manning, an all-time great who is on Elway's level, will now inherit a job that these five men have struggled to hold down:
Griese won a national championship at Michigan in 1997 and then spent his rookie season as Elway's backup. Taking the helm after Elway's retirement, the injury-prone Griese failed to emerge from Elway's shadow - or from that of his father, Hall of Fame Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese.
Highlighted by the 14-3 Broncos' win against Tom Brady's Patriots in the 2005 divisional round, Jake Plummer led Denver's biggest post-Elway resurgence. But coach Mike Shanahan benched Plummer for Jay Cutler two-thirds of the way through the 2006 season. When the Broncos dealt Plummer to Tampa Bay after the season, Plummer retired at age 32.
A prolific but volatile talent, Cutler demanded a trade following when he learned that new coach Josh McDaniels, who replaced the fired Mike Shanahan, had attempted to acquire quarterback Matt Cassell. In April 2009, Denver dealt Cutler to Chicago for Kyle Orton.
Cutler's replacement outlasted Shanahan's, but neither fared well. While McDaniels was fired late in the 2010 season, Orton (12-20 as a starter) was Denver's first-stringer until early last season. With the Broncos heading nowhere at 1-4 last season, he was demoted and later traded to Kansas City.
Igniting the Broncos with his penchant for late-game comebacks, Tebow led Denver from a 1-4 start all the way to the divisional round of the playoffs. The coaching adjustments of John Fox and the Broncos' brick-wall defense also fueled the run going. Tebow's cult status during the run didn't help him gain traction in Denver's front office. Yesterday's move confirmed that none other than John Elway, the team's president, had other plans for Denver's quarterback position.