Peyton Manning is an undisputed quarterback legend. In his prime, there has been no quarterback on earth who put more fear into opposing defenses like Manning. No lead was ever safe. No fan base was ever calm. No coach ever had a perfect game plan.
Unfortunately for Manning, his prime has officially left the building.
What’s left for #18 is a man defiantly trying to fight Father Time. Every time Peyton’s sacked, it looks like a long game of Jenga coming to an abrupt end. Every Peyton throw looks like a mother squeezing a dishrag before wiping a countertop. Every Peyton struggle face looks like he simultaneously smelled poop on the ground and actually is constipated.
Yet, somehow, the Denver Broncos are 6-0.
For Manning to go from unstoppable passing machine to mediocre ball thrower is proof that Father Time is not only undefeated, but a cruel and sinister thief of one’s natural ability.
Consider the following stat.
Peyton Manning 2013: 55 TD, 10 Int for the season 2015: 7 TD, 10 Int through 6 games
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 18, 2015
Now, consider the following throw.
Put those two things together, and it’s natural to come to the conclusion that any other quarterback would probably be benched in this scenario. Of course, the organization’s kingpin John Elway and his lifetime backup Gary Kubiak have made it known that there’s no intention of bringing in something called a Brock Osweiler to spell Manning — having a perfect record through the 2015 campaign is serving as Febreze to an otherwise stinky situation.
What truly is sad about Manning’s fall from quarterbacking grace is that for the first time in Denver’s entire history, the defense is finally worth a damn. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller wreak havoc on opposing signal callers every week, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris are the best cornerback duo in football, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is molding young players like Courtney Roby and Brandon Marshall into stars.
USA Today’s Chris Chase highlights the Broncos’ exploits with a few key insights on how great Denver’s defense has been in spite of the offense.
- Aqib Talib (2) has more touchdowns than Peyton’s two biggest offensive threats entering the season, Demaryius Thomas and C.J. Anderson (1).
- The defense and special teams have outscored the offense 85-54.
- Even taking away the kicker, the defensive scoring is still amazing: The unit has four touchdowns on the year, twice as many as the Broncos do on the ground and more than any other offensive player has.
In short, the Broncos have a defense that’s worthy of winning a Super Bowl … and its offense is sputtering like an out-of-tune Oldsmobile Delta 88.
The irony of it all is that Manning’s career has constantly been met with challenges he was unable to hurdle. From being stifled by all-time defenses like Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots and Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks to facing all-world quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, Manning’s never been provided with a defense that anyone would consider elite until recently with Denver. Sure, one could question Manning’s ability to play big in the biggest games, but the reality is that those defenses made everyone look bad, including Manning.
Now, with a defense that is arguably the best in the league, Peyton’s arm struggles could prevent the Broncos from winning a third Super Bowl.
Here’s the thing. If Elway and Kubiak are the leaders of men and the former quarterbacks they purport themselves to be, then they must realize that the Broncos don’t have to be the offensive juggernauts that dominated the NFL in 2013 and 2014. There’s a reason why guys like Brad Johnson and Trent Dllfer have Super Bowl rings, as not turning the ball over, running the ball and avoiding forcing the pass when it’s not there could make all the difference in being a pretender in January versus being a contender in February.
Maybe Manning is too washed up as it is and Denver has no chance in ever winning a Super Bowl this season, but one way to ensure they never make it is to allow Manning to keep shooting the team right in the foot every week.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”