To say the Denver Broncos haven't been the same without Peyton Manning would be a major understatement.
Manning signed a five-year contract worth $96 million with the Broncos in the 2012 offseason, and he turned out to be deserving of every single penny. In his four seasons with the Broncos, Manning led the team to four AFC West division titles, two AFC Championships and a Super Bowl 50 victory.
Broncos fans needn't a reminder about how much Manning changed a struggling team when he came aboard in 2012. And ever since Manning's retirement in the 2016 offseason? To put it mildly, the Broncos have been downright terrible.
Consider this interesting stat from Mike Klis of 9News.
In the three years before Peyton Manning, the Broncos were a combined 20-28. If they lose Sunday to Chargers, the Broncos in the three years after Peyton will be 20-28. What a coincidence. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) December 26, 2018
The Broncos lost to the lowly Oakland Raiders in Week 16, ensuring back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 46 years. Indeed, it's been rock bottom for a prideful and historically excellent franchise since Manning retired.
Following a decline in production and injury-filled 2015 season, Manning retired weeks after Denver's Super Bowl 50 victory. It's clear that the team misses his leadership and on-field general duties, to say the least.
After a promising 4-0 start in 2016, the defending champion Broncos unraveled in the second half and finished 9-7, missing the postseason altogether. They finished last in the AFC West last season with a putrid 5-11 record.
The 6-9 Broncos will try to play spoiler against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, but it's hard to see this Denver team beating perhaps the most complete team in the AFC. Thus, expect them to finish 6-10 to officially become 20-28 in the three years following Manning's retirement.
What This Means
Team president John Elway has come under criticism for his questionable quarterback signings and draft selections, along with the decision to not fire head coach Vance Joseph earlier.
The Broncos aren't anywhere close to catching up to the other heavyweights in the AFC, so Elway has a long task ahead of him in finding that next franchise quarterback. You know, the one that can be like Manning and lead them to a string of dominance on an annual basis.