What Does Life after Peyton Manning Hold for the Denver Broncos?

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IIApril 16, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks on from the sideline against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Ravens won 38-35 in the second overtime.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

One year into the Peyton Manning era in Denver and things are great, save for a gut-wrenching divisional playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Broncos brought in Manning, one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen, despite four neck surgeries and an entire season away from football.

But the 2012 season went at least as good, if not much better, than expected.

Manning had one of the best statistical seasons of his career, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns.

This year figures to be at least that good, especially considering the recent signing of Wes Welker (via ESPN)

Yet, the team still needs to look beyond the greatness of Manning and think long term. After all, Peyton recently turned 37 years old.

Do the Broncos really believe that Brock Osweiler is the future? Perhaps they're considering someone like Matt Scott of Arizona or Zach Dysert from Miami of Ohio in the draft. 

The Broncos have nothing behind Osweiler and will almost certainly bring in a third quarterback for training camp.

Of course, most Broncos fans probably aren't worried about this as they see 2013 as a "Super Bowl or bust" season.

Yet, the last time the Broncos won a Super Bowl, one of the game's greatest quarterbacks called it quits and the team responded with a 6-10 season.

Brian Griese, who was drafted to eventually replace John Elway, had a 75.6 QB rating that season while throwing the same amount of interceptions as touchdowns.

Replacing a legend is not easy; just ask the Miami Dolphins. But the Green Bay Packers managed to do it once it was time for Brett Favre to move on.

For the Broncos to remain one of the league's elite teams, they will need to follow a pattern closer to what Green Bay did with Aaron Rodgers than what Miami has tried to do since the retirement of Dan Marino.

How is that done? By finding a young, talented player to sit back and learn from one of the game's best.

Sure, Osweiler was deemed too raw and inexperienced, but that is why he fits so well in Denver. He doesn't need to play right away and barring a tragic turn of events, he won't have to.

Instead, he can study from the sidelines, soaking up everything he can from Manning, even if that isn't from a one-on-one standpoint.

Isn't that what happened in Green Bay?

Rodgers was a highly-regarded prospect, but he sat in the green room at the 2005 NFL Draft and watched 23 players get selected before him.

The Packers came up at No. 24. Did they need Rodgers? Not really, but they were looking to the future and it turned out to be an excellent pick.

Rodgers sat out for the majority of his first three seasons in the league, watching and learning. It looked like Favre was finally ready to retire, but not long after, No. 4 had a change of heart and wanted to come back.

The Packers declined. In short, they knew what they had in Rodgers.

Hopefully, Manning and the Broncos have a more amicable parting of ways, and when they do, Denver will have their next franchise quarterback: a 6'7" mobile, strong-armed passer with the ability to come in and pick things up right where Manning left off.

The Broncos were incredibly happy to land Manning. But they also had the foresight to look to the future, knowing they needed a signal-caller to keep the team in contention for years to come.

Did they need to select Osweiler in the second round? Probably not, they arguably could have gotten him later.

But they were drafting for several years down the road, and they'll be glad they did when that time comes.