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Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signals before taking the snap against the Denver Broncos during the first half at Empower Field At Mile High on September 27, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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The Broncos have to be wondering what could’ve been with Tom Brady

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

As Tom Brady walked off the field victorious in Green Bay, taking his new team to the Super Bowl, a legitimate question could’ve been asked across the front range: Why didn’t John Elway make a run at him?

The opportunity was there for Elway to replicate his greatest move, bringing in an all-time great quarterback to transform his team into an instant winner. Yet, for the first time since Peyton Manning’s retirement, Elway was content to stand pat. He was fine with Drew Lock.

On the surface, it makes sense. Lock went 4-1 to finish his rookie year in 2019, and would a young Broncos team even appeal to a quarterback north of 40 years old?

But a deeper look into Elway’s history makes the decision not to pursue Brady more surprising. When Manning chose to sign with Denver, they were also full of young players. And while you may snicker, Elway was replacing a 25-year-old, first-round quarterback coming off a playoff win. Yes, it was Tim Tebow, but symmetry people.

The biggest reason for the surprise is Elway’s persistent chasing of veteran quarterbacks to follow Manning. First, there was Mark Sanchez, who didn’t make it to opening day. Colin Kaepernick would’ve been the quarterback that season had he agreed to a contract restructure. Later, Case Keenum was brought in to stabilize the position. And when that didn’t happen, Joe Flacco was acquired to do the same.

All failed, but none are Brady. No one is. And despite his age, signing Brady would’ve been a less risky play than adding Manning in 2012 coming off multiple neck surgeries.

Perhaps Brady would’ve had no interest in following Manning’s blueprint to the rocky mountains. And comparing veteran Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers roster to sophomore Vic Fangio and the Broncos players seems like a no brainer for any quarterback.

That said, the two teams finished with the same record in 2019, both going 7-9. Tampa Bay went all-in for Brady and are now one win away from a world championship. Elway kept the bat on his shoulder and didn’t take a swing at repeating history, and his Broncos fell to 5-11.

As “Brady Mania” prepares to engulf sports media over the next two weeks, it’s only human for Broncos Country to wonder if it could’ve been Brady leading their team back to the Super Bowl. Alas, we’ll never know because as the saying goes: You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.