The 2011 Broncos were something of a miracle team. Denver won the AFC West and made the playoffs after starting 1-4 and benching Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow. Before losing their last three games of the regular season, the Broncos snatched victory from the jaws of defeat game-after-game, winning seven of eight in mid-year. Each victory was exhilarating. Late in games, Tim Tebow worked magic. But was he the real reason that the Broncos turned things around and captured the division?
In 2012, The Broncos are once again AFC West champs. They are headed into the playoffs with a full head of steam, having won their last ten games (and probably eleven). Rather than snatching victories, they have demanded them. Most of the same players from “the Tebow season” still walk the sidelines but the attitude is entirely different. The Broncos of 2012 don’t hang around until the end of games hoping make something happen. They score points.
Peyton Manning replaced Tim Tebow. That was a significant change. Aside from that, the Broncos look somewhat the same in terms of personnel on offense and on defense, and, aside from a couple of new tight ends, most of the playmakers on both sides of the ball were with the team in 2011.
Because Tebow was the quarterback of that team the other budding stars were overlooked. The Broncos were beginning to get good at numerous positions and we didn’t even know it. All we knew was that we were getting something with “Tebow” on it for Christmas.
Now the Broncos are really, really good - better than anyone really expected them to be. Signing Manning to play quarterback made a huge difference. But many of the other moving parts were being lubed long before he got here. John Fox is doing a much better job than he’s being given credit for - as he did last season. The addition of Jack Del Rio as defensive coordinator also added a spark to Foxy’s staff, but the fire was burning long before he got here.
Last season we all gave Tim Tebow most of the credit. It was the natural thing to do since he was on Sports Center every three minutes. America was swept up in Tebowmania. Meanwhile, Demaryius Thomas was good, Eric Decker was good, Von Miller, Elis Dumervile, Wesley Woodyard, all good. The Broncos were good.
Aside from that, the rest of the AFC West sucked, just like it still does. So maybe it wasn’t all magic after all. Maybe it wasn’t a miracle. Maybe the process started when Jon Elway came on board. Maybe his hiring John Fox was a great move. Maybe all those amazing Tim Tebow plays were just enough to offset his bad ones. Maybe the Broncos made the playoffs in spite of him. And maybe, just maybe, it’s just a damn good team.
As of this week, the Broncos are number one in the ESPN power rankings.