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John Elway and Peyton Manning on March 9.

John Leyba/The Associated Press/John Leyba/The Associated Press

John Elway has no choice but to cut a big cheque to land free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning, because it is the only way the Denver Broncos executive vice-president of football operations can get rid of Tim Tebow and save his franchise.

The NFL has not seen a quarterback such as Tebow in some time: A fundamentally flawed passer who elicits evangelical levels of support from fans and who is just charismatic enough to become the face of your franchise and just bad enough to lose a playoff game. Leave aside that Tebow has become a soldier in the culture war that has poisoned the U.S.'s political landscape; his style demands an all-in approach to building an offence that might not work as well in the hands of another quarterback.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

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Elway clearly isn't comfortable with that notion. He can talk all he wants about how there is hope for Tebow as a pocket passer, but it's been clear Elway doesn't want to go all-in. And Tebow might be parlayed into another asset, since professional sports is full of people who think they can reinvent the wheel.

The way to get out of it without alienating your fan base is to bring in a bigger personality with a bigger résumé. A team like the San Francisco 49ers would have made more sense for Manning, frankly, since they are positioned to be a legitimate conference champion. But no team needs Manning the way the Broncos need him; and no executive needs him the way Elway needs him.

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