Peyton Manning looks a lot different this season. He looks scared. He looks uncomfortable. He looks old. Not the kind of old where you're old, yet still effective—the way Matt Hasselbeck looked on Thursday night. The kind of old where you probably should have hung up the cleats at the end of last season.
Let me begin by making this clear; Peyton Manning is a class act—one of the best guys in the NFL and a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. I would go as far to say that he belongs as a member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame when he retires. But it is time to stop handling Manning with kid gloves.
I wrote, just a few weeks ago, that I expected Peyton Manning to turn back time at some point when the Broncos needed him most—something that is still plausible, but his recent struggles have me second guessing that thought. There are a multitude of quarterbacks who played a year or two more than they should have, including Dan Marino, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw and Brett Favre, to name a few.
Manning is no different. At 39 years of age, he looks done. He is doing things he has never done before, like staring down his receivers. He is taking sacks without a fight. He is missing routine throws. Just as recently as 2012, Manning could take two no-name receivers and make them each 1,000-yard stars.
He could work with Charlie Johnson as his blindside protector and not miss a beat. But the script has changed. Now his receivers, tight ends and running backs aren't good enough. The offensive line is the root of the offenses troubles. Everyone is to blame except for 18.
There are many myths that need to be dispelled, starting with the offensive line. While the offensive line has one returning starter from a season ago, the criticism they have received has been overblown. Manning has had very clean pockets where his passes have still been off-target. Un-forced throws he has made that have ended in disaster.
Second is Gary Kubiak's offensive system. From the get-go, the Broncos have been operating almost exclusively out of the Peyton Manning offense, especially on passes. During Week 1 and 2 of the season, the majority of running plays came from under center, followed by a handful of play-action plays under center. Since Week 2, the team has worked exclusively out of the shotgun and pistol formations—the same offense the team worked out of the past three seasons.
It's not the scheme.
It's time for the gloves to come off. It's time to start being honest with ourselves. Peyton Manning is a below average starting QB right now. The NFL isn't a 'what were your stats last season' kind of league. The NFL is a 'what have you done for me lately' league.
So what Manning did last year does not matter. What Manning did last week does though, and what he's done the first five weeks of the season ranks him as the 25th QB of 37 per Pro Football Focus. His passer rating puts him tied for 29th of 37 QBs. QBR (Quarterback Rating), which measures a QB's overall effectiveness, has Manning rated as 22nd of 33 qualifying QB—just above the recently benched Ryan Mallett.
Take away the name on the back of 18's jersey—do you still believe he should be starting? That is the question at hand. Is 18 good enough to start for this team right now? What is he doing that 17 can't do? The short answer to that question is nothing.
The only reason this is even a topic is because it's Peyton Manning. If this is Brandon Weeden or Kyle Orton, there would be no defending him. During the preseason, we all saw Brock Osweiler lead the Broncos offense, moving the ball comfortably and finishing drives off with points.
The run game looked better with Brock under center and the offense looked far better. Granted, that is only preseason, but with Manning under center, the offense has struggled to score.
If Manning struggles coming out of the bye in Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers, then it may be time to hand the reigns to Brock Osweiler, because the Denver Broncos are not winning a Super Bowl with an offense that accounted for a meager six points against the Oakland Raiders.
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