John Elway: Only Peyton could replace Tim Tebow

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has endured his fair share of criticism despite bringing the team its third Super Bowl championship in 2015.

But in a retrospective about the first five years of his career published in The Denver Post on Sunday, he discussed one move we seldom give him enough credit for.

"Because (Tim) Tebow had such a fan base behind him -- there was probably only one guy that we could have replaced him with that people would understand," Elway said. "And that was Peyton Manning."

Elway joined the Broncos in his current capacity back in 2011 -- the same season Tebow led the Broncos to an improbable 29-23 victory over the Steelers in the AFC wild-card playoffs. In that game, Tebow threw for 316 yards, two touchdowns and finished with a 125.6 passer rating before the Broncos were waxed by the Super Bowl-bound Patriots the next week.

Although it was evident that the Tebow-led offensive system was not sustainable long term, the miracle moments against Pittsburgh brought Tebowmania to a fevered pitch. Elway brokered the Peyton Manning deal gracefully, and he's right -- there was no other quarterback available at that time who would have been a fan-acceptable replacement.

We talk often about making the tough decisions and how it has led some of the best talent evaluators, coaches and general managers to the apex of their professions. And while Elway's decision seemed like a no-brainer at the time, it was not an easy one. The Broncos have a few more banners and a Lombardi Trophy to show for it.

The entire Elway piece is well worth reading (another link here). Elway continues to be one of the most fascinating stars in the sport and is always candid and honest about the job.

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