The impending release of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was the worst-kept secret in the NFL this offseason. The result of the move was that three quarterbacks found new homes. And all eyes are firmly affixed on them with OTAs underway.
They are Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Tim Tebow.
The latter is more of a curiosity than a viable candidate for playing time with the New York Jets. Though starter Mark Sanchez has earned criticism for his inconsistency, he has most often risen to the occasion in the playoffs. Tebow has arrived in the Big Apple as no more than a backup and somewhat of a side show. His lack of tangibles as a passer far outweighs the benefits of his intangibles.
Yet one who has received as much attention as Tebow is not bound to be unnoticed in the media capital of the world. His every pass will be scrutinized and the slightest misstep by Sanchez will prompt calls for a quarterback change. But the strong-armed Sanchez is highly unlikely to be replaced by the weak-armed and generally inaccurate Tebow, particularly considering the Jets spent a second-round pick on burner and deep threat Stephen Hill.
That brings us to Manning, who signed a free-agent contract with Denver. Broncos players marveled at the future Hall of Famer after his first day of OTAs. They spoke about an arm that remains strong and his accuracy, which was a refreshing change from watching Tebow toss footballs everywhere but in the hands of his receivers in camp a year ago.
“Man, in feels good to know he’s going to be on my side because what I saw today, he’s going to give us some good work,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey told Associated Press. “And we might not see a quarterback like that all year.”
If Manning performs at anywhere close to the same level as he did before neck surgery a year ago, the Broncos should emerge as an immediate contender. But the Colts won’t be crying. That very surgery allowed them to parlay a rare rotten season into the first pick in the 2012 draft. And they selected a clone of Manning.
Luck in indeed much like a young Manning. He slings the ball easily downfield and appears to have the same head for the game. Not much can be gleaned from a few OTA sessions, but comparisons between Luck and Manning are soon forthcoming.
Other quarterbacks will receive tremendous analysis in the coming weeks. Most prominent is Washington rookie Robert Griffin III. The Redskins have been searching for a star quarterback since the days of Joe Theismann in the late 1970s and early 1980s. If they didn’t land one in Griffin, they made a colossal mistake giving St. Louis three first-round picks and a second to draft him.
Thousands of NFL players will be shaking off the cobwebs this week. But, as usual, the most prying eyes will be on the quarterbacks.
Some things never change.