While Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton smiled throughout the Super Bowl media days leading up to the big game, it was Peyton Manning that was all smiles afterwards.
The future Hall of Famer wrapped up his second Super Bowl win in what was actually a disappointing final act, supposing he does choose retirement this offseason. Manning didn’t stun the crowd with one of his classic aerial assaults, or lead a last minute comeback, but you’d be hard pressed to find a Broncos fan upset with his performance. The Sheriff threw for just 141 yards and completed barely half of his passes. Despite all of that, many football fans went to sleep satisfied that night because that stat line was good enough to secure Peyton Manning the storybook ending to a historic career.
1. Brock Osweiler is going to have some high expectations next year.
Let’s say the experts were right. Cam Newton did tear up the Broncos D and the Panthers defense smothered the Broncos offense all game long. Peyton Manning retires and the Broncos are back at square one with a young quarterback next season following a Super Bowl defeat. Instead, the Broncos kept Newton under control and the Broncos defense outperformed the Panthers defense. Manning goes out on top just like John Elway, and now fans look to Brock Osweiler to fill the shoes of a legend (although at 6’8 he probably has larger shoes than Manning, but that’s besides the point). Now Osweiler has more to do than just have a successful season as a starter; fans will expect him to bring the Broncos back into a playoff position, especially since they saw what he was capable of earlier this season. It will be entertaining to see how the young gunslinger responds to the pressure coming off of a Super Bowl winning campaign.
2. At age 33, DeMarcus Ware can still play.
Many people thought that once DeMarcus Ware left Dallas, his production would drop off. Many thought that his new contract with Denver was too expensive and too much of a risk for an aging pass-rusher. I thought all of those things. I thought the deal didn’t work out. That is until I watched his postseason performances. Ware played in only 11 games during the regular season recording 7.5 sacks. In 3 playoff games alone he had 3.5 sacks. Plus, he manhandled Michael Oher (click here for video proof) giving Cam Newton headaches all game long. It also helps that teammate Von Miller was doing his thing rushing on the other edge. So clearly Ware can still wreak havoc on opposing QBs, but I want to see if he can do it for a full 16 games after turning 34.
3. Josh Norman…PAY THAT MAN!
For the entire year Josh Norman gave top wide receivers fits. Norman earned All-Pro honors this year playing in a division with Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Brandin Cooks, as well as matching up against Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. He even held Demaryius Thomas to only a single catch in the Super Bowl. So this leaves the Panthers front office with an interesting situation. Norman can get a huge, long-term contract if he chooses to test the free agent waters, but many believe that the Panthers will use the franchise tag on him. Unless Carolina can negotiate a multi-year deal with Norman in the upcoming weeks, it seems the only way to lock him up for the future is by using the franchise tag and continuing negotiations while he is under contract. To sum it all up, the decision is really in Carolina’s hands. Do they want to give him that pricey, long-term deal, or have a team with an open wallet give him that contract instead?
4. How will Cam Newton follow up his MVP season?
Everything was going perfectly for the Carolina Panthers in 2015. Their defense was shutting down almost every opponent and the confident leader of their offense, Cam Newton, was able to do some amazing things with some less than amazing weapons. Everything came so easy for them, blowing out their first two opponents in the playoffs. The Panthers won 17 games and their game against the Broncos was supposed to be number 18. Everyone in Carolina felt that way, at least. I’m sure Newton did, too. But Denver came out on top, leaving him demoralized, struggling to answer questions after the game. After such an emotional roller coaster, how will he respond next season? Getting so close and coming up short would take a toll on Newton, or at least I imagine it would. I know he’s motivated to prove all the naysayers wrong, but it sure feels like Newton just lost his best chance at doing so.
5. What if Peyton Manning DOESN’T retire?
This seems like the scenario that no one is really talking about. Everyone is assuming that Peyton Manning will call it quits, but let’s just think about what happens if he doesn’t (I believe he WILL, but I’m just exploring the possibilities). So Manning returns to Denver, which means that Osweiler takes the back seat. Or does Osweiler take the job in training camp? Does Broncos management think that Manning can still win games, or is it time to move on from him and release him? What if he returns, starts playing terrible, and regrets his decision to not go out on top? What if Manning actually wins games and goes back to another Super Bowl? It would be unprecedented for him to keep playing, especially since he’s accomplished just about all there is to do in the NFL. He’s a top 3 quarterback all-time in the opinion of most fans, he’s got 2 rings (to match brother Eli), and he holds countless passing records, not to mention that he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. The most logical option is retirement, but crazier things have happened.
There is still much to debate following Super Bowl 50, and many questions to be answered over the next few months. Soon enough we will see the first free agents sign and then we will tune into the draft to see the future of our teams selected. By then, maybe we will have finished discussing everything from Super Bowl 50 and have the answers to some of those lingering questions.