DENVER — Remember a few years ago when Warren Sapp said the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was old, slow and it’s over?
I’d love to hear what he has to say about current day Peyton Manning.
If you’ve read my NFL recaps with any regularity this season, you know I’ve proclaimed Manning is done almost every week. I even said as much in this season’s NFL preview.
I’m not hating on Peyton (can we call that “heyton”?). I’m simply looking at the unvarnished truth: his stats are sagging, he’s consistently throwing wounded ducks and the Broncos have won games in spite of #18 rather than because of him.
This viewpoint has been met with resistance throughout the season but the topic is no longer up for debate after what we saw Sunday. Manning was benched in the 3rd quarter with his Broncos down 22-0 to a “meh” Chiefs team. The results were stunning: 5-of-20 passing for just 35 yards and four interceptions. You read that right. The great Peyton Manning threw nearly as many picks as completions.
Sunday’s meltdown wasn’t an aberration; this is simply who Manning has been in 2015. His 17 picks are far and away the most in the NFL this season and he’s thrown multiple interceptions in five of his last six games. To put this in perspective, he had only four such games in the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined.
Perhaps Denver could afford this pick parade if Manning was offsetting them with touchdowns. He’s not. In fact, Manning has failed to throw a touchdown pass in four of his nine starts this year, continuing a trend that began late last season. Since December 2014, Manning has been shut out of the end zone in six of his 13 starts. Before that, he had thrown at least one touchdown pass in 51 consecutive regular-season games.
The reality is, Peyton hasn’t had more than two good games in almost a full calendar year. Manning fans (can I call them “Fannings” or would that confuse Dakota?) will point to his 3 TD game in the Week 2 meeting with the Chiefs and his 101.7 QB rating the following week against Detroit.
Yes, he made some plays in those games, and even sporadically over the course of the season. But Manning’s days as a franchise quarterback capable of carrying a team to lofty heights are clearly over, and his play over the last month has me questioning if he’s even a viable NFL starter anymore. Statistically, he’s like Tim Tebow without the mobility. And like Tebow, his luck will run out eventually.
To be fair, age isn’t the main — nor only — culprit. The 39 year-old Manning is dealing with a long list of ailments and has never fully recovered from the neck injury that cost him his 2011 season (and subsequently, his job in Indianapolis). Good luck not getting weepy reading this account of Manning simply trying to get dressed.
Even before this season, there were cries for him to get out before it’s too late. He’s won a Super Bowl, he’s got virtually every relevant passing record, and probably has a cushy front office job waiting for him somewhere (maybe even back in Indy, given the way the Colts’ season is swirling around the drain). So he’s got nothing left to gain, but everything to lose; the only thing more heartbreaking than seeing Manning play this poorly would be seeing him removed from the field via ambulance like Mike Iupati was Sunday night.
That’s what scares me. Denver’s got great skill position players on offense, but their line wasn’t all that good even before it was riddled with injuries. Manning is smart enough to overcome line deficiencies, but this means little when the body is so broken.
That’s why Brock Osweiler will start for the Broncos against the Bears Sunday. However, Denver should take it a step further by starting him for the remainder of the season. Much like the RG3 situation the Redskins dealt with last summer, the Broncos can use Peyton’s injuries as cover for the benching him. Given their remaining schedule (they face undefeated New England and Cincinnati along with key division games against the Chargers and Raiders), it’s entirely possible the Broncos only win two more games this season if they don’t make the change.
Yes, Osweiler is an unproven commodity but that’s exactly why he needs to play. Osweiler is in the final year of his rookie contract, so the Broncos need to find out if he’s the heir apparent at QB or if they’re starting from scratch in the offseason. Plus, he’s a younger, more mobile option with a cannon for an arm — all of which fit better in coach Gary Kubiak’s offense than a banged up Peyton. And let’s be real … given Manning’s well documented ineptitude this year, it would be really hard for Osweiler to make matters worse.
I’ve previously compared this Broncos team to the 2000 Ravens. That defense-driven Baltimore squad doesn’t come within shouting distance of Super Bowl XXXV if they don’t cut their losses with Tony Banks and turn the keys over to Trent Dilfer, whose job was simply to manage the offense and don’t turn the ball over.
(Before you misguidedly curse me for comparing Banks to Manning — which I’m not, it’s actually just a point of reference — consider this: Banks’ 8 TDs and 8 picks in 8 starts for a 69.3 QB rating is better than Manning’s 9 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.6 QB rating in nine starts this year.)
The Broncos owe it to themselves to find out if Osweiler is their Dilfer. Obviously, a competitor of Manning’s caliber won’t just step aside so it’s up to the Broncos to make this call for him. Denver can ill afford to continue blindly hoping Manning both miraculously heals and stops sucking.
It’s time for Denver to save their season — and their quarterback’s quality of life.
Now let’s get some quality NFL Recap, Week 10 style.