It's only been eight months and eight days, but Peyton Manning has already impacted the Broncos franchise more than any quarterback in their history not named John Elway.
The team has quickly moved from lacking a viable NFL quarterback, in the second season of what Elway himself had called a three-year rebuilding process, to being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Not that long ago, the Broncos roster was seen as having countless holes, requiring another offseason to shore up its offensive line and defense, and with unknown quantities at the offensive skill positions.
But the 2013 Draft has become a distant thought, Ryan Clady has reassumed his place among the league's best tackles (with Orlando Franklin even creeping into that discussion), the oft-criticized (here and elsewhere) Zane Beadles is earning plaudits, and the defense is getting the credit it had deserved in 2011 but missed out on, while also playing at a higher level.
As recently as two months ago, it was the perceived difficulty of Denver's schedule that appeared to stand in the way of a successful season. Now, the Broncos are the team no one else wants to face.
A fanbase divided for years over Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, Josh McDaniels, Kyle Orton, and Tim Tebow, is suddenly oohing and ahhing in unison at each heady line call and pinpoint throw by Manning.
It would normally seem outlandish to credit so many dramatic strides to the addition of one player, but we're talking about the NFL's only four-time MVP, and arguably the greatest quarterback in history.
So while some credit for Denver's success is certainly due the natural progression of Denver's young players, 2012 is largely about Peyton Manning.
But as certain as we are about this point, it's still a subjective one.
Of course, Manning's impact on the Broncos is also a tangible one, easily measured through objective figures - namely, statistics and trivia.
Peyton has already set a new Denver record for most consecutive 300-yard games, set a new NFL mark for career 300-yard games, and has recently moved into second place on the NFL's all-time lists for wins by a starting quarterback and touchdown passes.
And although it had been presumed the 36-year-old, post-surgery version of Manning would not be nearly as prolific as his younger, healthier self, Peyton is on his way to rewriting the Denver record book.
Let's see where Manning currently sits relative to the team's single-season passing records, from the traditional to the advanced. Figures in parentheses represent projections based upon the QB's current pace through eleven games (always a dangerous proposition, which we don't recommend you try at home):
|Record||Player/Year||Manning '12 (projection)|
|Attempts||616||Cutler '08||409 (594.9)|
|Completions||384||Cutler '08||277 (402.9)|
|Completion %||66.7%||Griese '02||67.7%|
|Yards||4,526||Cutler '08||3,260 (4,741.8)|
|Touchdowns||27||Elway '97/Plummer '04||26 (37.8)|
|TD %||6.3%||Briscoe '68||6.4%|
|INT %||1.2%||Griese '00||2.0%|
|QB Rating||102.9||Griese '00||104.8|
|Sack %||1.8%||Cutler '08||3.8%|
Note: Rate stats are based upon minimum 200 passing attempts in a season; team's PR department uses 50 passes as minimum, but we find that an unreasonably low threshold
With his next touchdown pass, Manning will tie Elway and Plummer for the team's single-season record. And if he maintains his current pace through the regular season's last five games, Peyton will set new Broncos marks for completions, yards, and yards per game.
As for rate statistics, Manning's 2012 campaign is currently the franchise's best in terms of completion %, touchdown %, quarterback rating, and PFR's Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt metric.
The team records for interception %, yards per attempt, and sack % are likely out of reach, but Peyton is within striking distance in Adjusted Yards per Attempt and Net Yards per Attempt.
Taken in its whole, this is already the greatest statistical passing season in Broncos history - even if it were to end today (Tebow forbid).
From here, it's just a matter of just how high Peyton sets the bar for himself in 2013 and beyond, and for all Denver quarterbacks to follow.
Update 3:50pm ET: Added note about using 200 attempts as minimum threshold for single-season records