While Elway has landed the "like-minded" leader he promised to find, Kubiak -- Elway's old backup -- brings an offensive scheme that feels like an odd fit for Denver's aging quarterback.
Kubiak runs an air attack that leans heavily on play-action bootleg passes. On the surface, his playbook doesn't mesh well with Manning's limited mobility, but at least one former Broncos quarterback believes Peyton and Kubiak can thrive. In fact, Jake Plummer sees an offense that shares connective DNA with the Colts attack that Manning ran for years.
"Good coaches can coach anybody," Plummer told Mike Klis of The Denver Post. "Manning was highly successful running it for most of his career. If Manning can do some of it -- he doesn't have to do all of it. You don't have him boot left six times a game and throw 25-yard comebacks. Let's be realistic. But he can play-fake, boot out, turn his shoulders and throw a flat route to the fullback or tight end. They'll find a way to make it work."
If Manning returns, that is.
Peyton's decision might hinge on how he feels about adapting to a new coaching staff, a new playbook with alien terminology -- and plenty of new faces.
It starts up front where Denver must import linemen who fit into Kubiak's zone-blocking system, which requires more athletic bodies who can open lanes for one-cut runners. At the skill positions, Elway hopes to re-sign pass-catchers Demaryius and Julius Thomas, but that's no guarantee. And Wes Welker is all but gone.
If Manning suits up for his age-39 campaign, his first order of business is finding a comfortable middle ground with Kubiak. Younger players have no choice but to win over the new coach, but is Manning prepared to start all over again?
It's the third passer in this equation, though, who will decide whether the Broncos are relevant in 2015.