Peyton Manning is 39 years old. By the time the post season comes around for the 2015 NFL season, he will only be a couple months from his 40th birthday. Broncos fans should know from their football savior, John Elway that going past the age of 38, no NFL QB has been to a Super Bowl past that age. But many Broncos fans orange and blue glasses haven't been cleaned off in a long time and just expect to be back at the Super Bowl for SB50. The NFL changes yearly, but two guarantees are the Tom Brady and the Patriots and Peyton Manning making the AFC playoffs. Both are in jeopardy this year, but the Patriots talk can wait for another blog, this is about OUR Broncos and #18-Manning.
The Broncos schedule in 2015 is similar to last year, difficult and a tough road to the Super Bowl but the playoffs are still within site and once there anything can happen if you get rolling. For the 2014 NFL season/2015 playoffs, the Broncos got there and while most of the blame has fallen on the departed staff, a huge blame goes to allowing Manning to act like he is in his mid-20s to early 30s. A quarterback in the NFL is usually at their best from about age 26-34. After that, injuries, age, speed, everything diminishes. However, Manning set a precedent of 679 pass attempts in 2010 with the Colts and the Broncos have allowed him to keep acting like he is a young man throwing 583, 659 and 597 attempts in his 3 seasons as a Bronco. These are his 5th, 2nd and 3rd highest attempt totals in his career. This is utter madness to allow a quarterback in his late 30s to attempt that many passes. This is not on the coaches alone, but for Manning's desire to win the game with his arm. Unfortunately, it bit the Broncos and Manning in the ass and he looked like a wounded horse trying to win a race against a group of healthy horses. Maybe you don't remember the screen shot of him having 20 yards to run and the first down only 5 yards away and he instead fired an incomplete pass. Manning will never be considered a running threat, but a healthy Manning gives you that first down with his legs and brings confidence to the team. The Broncos looked completely beat from the get go last postseason and it wasn't just their coaches bringing them down, but Uncle Peyton not being able to move like he used to when you'd go play and he was a young 20 something and you were in middle school in awe. Now it's like, awwww poor old guy!
So how does this tie into Stephen Strasburg's 2012 season you ask? I have your long awaited answer, Peyton Manning needs to be on a pitch/attempt/playing time count from the get go. Not before it is too late like it was completely obvious in 2014 when he hobble around the field in the playoff like my 12 year old dog does after thinking he can still jump off my bed like he was half his age. Time to grow up and reflect and realize something has to change. And learn from the Nationals that you can't wait until it is too late in the season to shut him down, but come up with a plan before the season. In 2013 and 2014, Peyton played the majority of meaningless Week 17 football games against the Oakland Raiders to pad his stats (or set records like he did in 2013). Here are some key stats of 2014 that make you scratch your head and wonder what the hell was he and the Broncos thinking?
- Through 10 weeks, Peyton Manning average nearly 41 pass attempts a week. That was only outdone by Drew Brees for the entire 2014 season.
- Against St. Louis, New England and Seattle he threw 54, 57 and 49 attempts. These were his 3 highest passing totals and all three were losses. His 4th highest total came twice with 44 attempts against Oakland in the first game against Oakland and the second the Broncos only other loss of the season against Cincinatti.
- Manning threw 9 of his 15 INTs in those four losses.
- Manning threw 3, 4th quarter interceptions against Cincy looking completely out of sorts, when the Broncos should have been running the football
- Against the Raiders he played nearly 50 of the 60 minutes in the last game of the season with the outcome of the game firmly in hand and the Broncos not being affected in the standings by the outcome of the game.
- Manning played the final series in a game that was already decided against the Arizona Cardinals. He was still attempting passes with the team up by 21 points.
- With the Broncos up by 24, and the 3rd quarter winding down, the Broncos let Manning play another series and score another touchdown against the lowly Raiders in Oakland. The end of the quarter led to national joke of Brock Osweiler running to grab his helmet and finish the 3rd quarter and play the rest of the game but Manning trotted on the field and had to finish out the 3rd, not relinquishing control.
Relinquishing control is the key to all the above. John Fox and a pushover offensive coordinator in Adam Gase allowed Peyton Manning to run freely. Fortunately a new sheriff is in town with Offensive minded Gary Kubiak and with him a different philosophy. Part of his philosophy has to be, how do we keep Peyton healthy since love it or hate it, Peyton Manning is the best option for Quarterback in 2015. That said, the Broncos can also use 2015 to see if Brock Osweiler is the best option for 2016 and beyond while allowing Manning to get the rest he needs. So how do the Broncos accomplish keeping Manning healthy enough to finish the 2015 NFL season and be ready for the 2016 postseason you ask? With the following criteria:
- Manning does not play more than a quarter of preseason games 1,2 and 4 and no more than a half of Game 3. He is not allowed to throw extra passes and keep his helmet on, but must wear a baseball cap and watch the game.
- Manning can not make more than 40 passing attempts in a game with the ideal goal being 30-35 attempts max. His attempt totals can not exceed 500 which would only be the 3rd time in his career that has happened.
- He is to sit on the bench if the Broncos are up by more than 18 points with 20 minutes or less remaining in ANY game.
- He has scheduled rest games against the Vikings, Raiders and Browns in Weeks 4-6 where he can not play more than 8 quarters in those 3 games. This is allowed to give him some extra rest headed into the Week 7 Bye.
- He can not play in Week 14 against Oakland AT ALL. The Raiders, at home, after playing six straight weeks and facing the three toughest opponents on the schedule during that timeframe, Manning must be rested for the last 3 weeks of a tough ending to the season with Pittsburgh, Cincinatti and San Diego. Brock Osweiler and the talent around him could have beat the 2014 Raiders. The year has changed, the Raiders still suck and the Broncos can win with a back-up.