It’s not that fewer people had opinions in the old days. It’s just that before Twitter and Facebook, we didn’t experience the pleasure of hearing every single one of them.
Today, in order to stand out from the technologically-enhanced peanut gallery, your opinion has to be different, or at least loud, which is why any unexpressed view, no matter how inane, is just a vacuum waiting to be filled.
So we had the original reaction to the Broncos’ signing of Peyton Manning, natural and reasonable, that any team quarterbacked by a four-time Most Valuable Player should likely be included on any list of prospective championship contenders. That’s why there are nearly as many national media types at Dove Valley this week as there are players on the Broncos’ training camp roster.
Then came the first wave of blowback — the harbingers of wait just a minute. They wonder about the defense, they wonder about Manning’s health and even his prodigal perspicacity after a year off and multiple neck surgeries. But mostly, they wonder about Manning’s weapons.
Demaryius Thomas may have been a first-round draft pick, they allow, but through his first two pro campaigns, his high-water mark for catches in a season is 32. Eric Decker strikes a similar national profile — big, fast and athletic, granted, but also a similarly modest career high in receptions of 44.
Certain facts tend to go unmentioned in these revisionist bits of analysis. For example, the fact that each is entering just his third season. Or the fact that Kyle Orton threw nearly all of his passes to Brandon Lloyd during their rookie season. Or the fact that the Broncos reverted to a single wing offense last season, producing the 31st-ranked passing game in a 32-team league.
Mere details. Those who now differentiate themselves from the crowd argue Manning won’t be Manning without the crew of Hall of Fame-bound receivers he enjoyed in Indianapolis.
Of course, Manning had a little something to do with the pending Canton reservations of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Good receivers make a good quarterback better, but a great quarterback makes good receivers better, too.
Anyway, we turn to someone who knows a little something about quarterbacking championship teams for an expert view on this dispute.
John Elway might be a tad biased — he’s the architect of the Broncos’ roster — but he’s also a guy who helped make famous largely unknown young receivers named Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.
“As a former quarterback, I like the targets,” Elway said when he stopped by the KOA broadcast tent at Dove Valley.
“When I look at Demaryius Thomas going into his third year and the way he played the last half of (last) year and the confidence that he’s going to come back into this year with, and the OTAs, I mean, he improved immensely in the OTAs. He had a great day (Thursday). Eric Decker I really like. Those are big, fast wide receivers that I always liked.
“Brandon Stokley’s going to come in and add some experience. Bubba Caldwell from Cincinnati has got some experience in the league and has great speed, has the ability to make the big play. And then we’ve got some young guys that we’re excited about — D’Andre Goodwin, Mark Dell, who got hurt in the preseason last year.
“Plus we feel really good about the tight ends (Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Virgil Green, Julius Thomas). We’ve got (Ronnie) Hillman in the backfield with Willis (McGahee) and so I believe we’ve got a lot of good things going on on the offensive side also.”
Elway was convinced last season that the Broncos’ biggest weakness was not the receiving corps but the defensive backfield. Aside from the courtship of Manning, that’s where he concentrated his attention during the offseason.
“Other than the quarterback position, that’s probably where we’ve improved the most,” he said. “If you look at the football team last year, when we got exposed is when people spread us out — Detroit, New England, even San Diego, although we did a good job against San Diego.
“When we got spread out, we struggled. But Tracy Porter coming in with the experience he has, Drayton Florence has great experience, and then Omar Bolden, who we drafted in the fourth round. Chris Harris, the year he had last year. We bring Mike Adams in at safety and then Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter are going to have a year under their belts. So I’m excited about what we’ve got back there.”
Elway isn’t afraid to talk about championship contention — he thinks the potential is there if fortune smiles — but he knows from experience that predictions in July are subject to the vicissitudes of November and December.
“If you look at where we started a year and a half ago (when Elway took over the front office) and where we are right now, we’re really excited about it,” he said.
“Like any season, you have to get lucky. Injuries can always kill you. The unknown is always there and that’s why I always kind of temper my enthusiasm and excitement, because you never know what can happen. But I think with the people that we’ve got on this football field, we have an opportunity to compete for a world championship. There’s a lot of things that have to fall in line. But we’re excited about where we are.”