Poor Tim Tebow, Alex Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Kolb and Matt Moore. Their teams coveted Peyton Manning and viewed him as an upgrade. How can those bruised egos overcome such emotional trauma, knowing they were viewed as totally dispensable?
Take Smith, for example. He led the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC title game and reportedly was offered a $24 million contract. But that was before the Niners' dalliance with Manning. The contract remains on the table, but Smith is upset at the perceived lack of loyalty.
He should be grateful that coach Jim Harbaugh gave him one last shot at career resuscitation.
The Arizona Cardinals traded Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft to acquire Kolb a mere eight months ago. The only reason Kolb remained on the roster past 1 p.m. last Friday was Manning's refusal to sign. Otherwise, Kolb would've been dumped instead of receiving a $7 million roster bonus.
I guess the money can soothe his feelings.
Hasselbeck, a 14-year veteran, has been around long enough to understand the Tennessee Titans' failed push for Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. And the Miami Dolphins don't have to explain their pursuit to Moore, a five-year pro who just completed his first season as a full-time starter ... and now faces a challenge from recently-signed David Garrard.
Assuming that Smith licks his wounds and comes to his senses, Tebow is the only quarterback whose immediate future has been impacted (although the Jets' Mark Sanchez signed a contract extension, presumably after Manning expressed no interest in New York).
But Tebow's immediate future was murky way before Manning signed with the Denver Broncos and doused Tebowmanics with a bucket of cold water.
"I was hired to do the best I could to compete for a world championship," Broncos executive John Elway said Tuesday at Manning's news conference. "That's what I feel we're doing. Tim Tebow is a great kid. If I wanted someone to marry my daughter it'd be him. ... But you have to take personalities out of it. Without a doubt, this is the best decision for the Denver Broncos at this time."
It shouldn't even be a question.
Only a handful of teams wouldn't swap their current QB for Manning, and the Broncos aren't within Hail Mary distance of making that list. But Tebow's legions of faithful fanatics don't get it. All they know is that Denver made the playoffs with Tebow and beat the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers.
All Elway knows is that Tebow's unorthodox style and inability to run a pro-style offense made him a long shot as the long-term solution.
Of course, Tebow is disappointed to lose his job, just like Smith would've been in San Francisco or anyone else anywhere. Even if truth serum made them admit that the replacement is better, they still would want the chance to play. That's just human nature.
Assuming that the Broncos want the circus out of town as soon as possible, they'll take what they can get for Tebow. So he'll get a chance to play elsewhere. But unlike Smith, Hasselbeck, Kolb and Moore, he shouldn't count on remaining a full-time QB.
The Broncos dismantled their offense for Tebow, dumbed it down to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Unfortunately, the latter shone through, anyway, as he completed nine or fewer passes in five starts, including two games against Kansas City with a measly eight completions combined.
Denver faced extraordinary pressure to adapt and adjust with Tebow, having spent a first-round draft pick on him. But he'll probably cost his next team a fourth-round pick, if that high.
So whether it's a red-zone package or Wildcat scheme, Tebow should be prepared for a major career change.
For the other QBs that Manning nearly affected: at ease.
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