This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
To say that the Broncos went on an improbable run last season to win the AFC West title would be an understatement. Sitting at 1-4 after five weeks with Kyle Orton under center, head coach John Fox made the fan-friendly decision to insert Tim Tebow into the starting lineup. What appeared to be a move to show fans that Tebow wasn't able to be a starting quarterback in the NFL turned into nearly the opposite. Winning seven of his first eight starts, Tebow led the Broncos to the AFC West crown and a first-round home game against the Steelers. A game everyone expected them to lose, the Broncos took at 20-6 halftime lead and eventually won in overtime on an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, making the Tebow aura even greater.
So how did the franchise respond to their star quarterback leading them to a playoff victory? They went out and signed future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and shipped Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick off to the Jets for a fourth and a sixth-rounder. Despite his success on the field, it was clear that John Elway and the rest of the Denver front office were never really comfortable with Tebow and when given the chance to acquire Manning, they jumped on it. By signing Manning to a five-year, $96 million contract, Elway chose to put the franchise in the hands of a man who missed all of the 2011 season due to