DENVER — Peyton for President?
The MVP needs a VP.
Just like last year, Manning will enter the season as the favorite to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, slightly ahead of Green Bay's mustachioed double-checker Aaron Rodgers, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
Can Manning claim the award for the second time as a Bronco and the sixth time overall? That's hardly as important as this: If the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl, they need not one, but two team MVPs in their locker room: Manning and someone else.
Someone else must come from the defense. Best-case scenario: big-splash free agent DeMarcus Ware storms into his 10th season and makes it tough on the rest of us to determine which player is the true MVP of the Broncos, Manning or Ware.
"I'm just a little, small pass-rusher is what I call myself," Ware said with a smile after an offseason workout at Dove Valley.
DeMarcus Ware is small like the U.S. government is small.
"At the end of the day, all leaders always lead by example," he said.
Good luck finding a better example than Ware. His career ratio of 117 sacks and zero arrests gives hope that football nastiness is possible without a rap sheet.
He married an Air Force veteran, for goodness sakes. DeMarcus would tell you Taniqua is the tough one.
What Ware can bring to the Broncos' defense rivals what Manning brings to the offense. It's cheesy to suggest Manning "raises all boats," as John Elway said when he lured the Hall of Fame quarterback to Colorado. But after two seasons of witnessing the impact Manning has on a franchise, Elway's evaluation couldn't be more accurate.
Ware can do the same for the Broncos defense. Yes, really. With a lineup of all-star talent, their defense should be more like the 2012 version that ranked in the NFL's top five than the 2013 version that limped into the Super Bowl without five starters.
But it needs a veteran presence who draws the attention of the opposing huddle - and his own, when times get rough or egos get bloated.
We underestimated last year the loss of Elvis Dumervil and the gameday absence of Champ Bailey on the defense. Back when the defense was as powerful as the offense, both were impact players. Both were respected in the locker room.
The moment he signed a three-year contract with $20 million in guaranteed money, Ware was respected in the Broncos locker room.
"I'm not afraid to say it," Von Miller said. "I want to be like DeMarcus Ware."
Those might be the most endearing words we've heard from Vonnie Football since he explained the dynamics of his Texas chicken farm over a year ago.
"To have a guy like (Ware), it's like having an encyclopedia in there," Miller said.
Signing Ware was as important to the future of Miller as it was to boosting the Broncos' pass rush. When you rank the Broncos' best players, Miller should be 1A.
And when was Miller the wrecking ball who had 30 sacks over two seasons? When he had a quarterback menace lining up on the opposite end. Then it was Dumervil. Now it's Ware.
"We went out of our way to get that tandem," Broncos coach John Fox said.
"I said that me and Von, between two guys, we want to have as many sacks as one team. So that's a big goal that me and him have," Ware said. "At the end of this year we're just going to say: Let's see where we've measured up."
Sweet goal. And in February of next year, if Ware challenges Manning as Team MVP, the Broncos can measure up as Super Bowl champions.