Peyton Manning headed into this season with a new head coach and a new system. The prevailing thought amongst most was that he would take the offseason to figure out the new system and be ready to go by the season opener. The result was far different than many expected. Even though the Broncos started 7-0, Peyton Manning was not the same guy he once was. He was throwing interceptions and just generally looking uncomfortable in Gary Kubiak’s offense. The poor offensive play of Manning would eventually catch up to the Broncos, as they lost their first game to the Indianapolis Colts. Manning would not look great in that game, but in their game against the Chiefs, he would look even worse. Peyton Manning has threw four interceptions against Kansas City and then the unthinkable happened. Peyton Manning was pulled from the game and replaced with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. The young quarterback out of Arizona State was thought highly of by some coming out of school. But the only things the Broncos knew about Osweiler is how he looked in the preseason and practices. Many thought Osweiler would just be a replacement or slot holder until Manning got back. But many have been surprised by his play. He has led the Broncos to two straight wins, including a comeback win against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Osweiler has played so well that plenty have spoke of Manning not getting his job back (Manning is out with a foot injury). But there actually should be no controversy at all. Brock Osweiler should be at the helm from here on forward.
Some may think that Osweiler as the starter over Manning is crazy or a “prisoner of the moment” thought. But the reality is Osweiler fits this offense better. For example, Gary Kubiak likes to have his quarterbacks under center. Kubiak likes to run have the stretch runs for his running backs and use play-action off of that. When Manning was at quarterback, he was not comfortable lining up under center. At one point in his career he could do that and do it well, but at this point he just was not able to do that. The two came to a happy medium running the Pistol formation, but it still did not help the running game. With Brock at quarterback, the Broncos are lining up under center more. As a result, running backs Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson have looked better than they have all year. With the running game back on track with Osweiler, the Broncos can now run the play-action passes that Kubiak ran when he was in Houston and Denver as the offensive coordinator. And with the weapons the Broncos have, they are only going to get better and better as the season goes on.
But the offensive and its structure aren’t the only difference. At one point and time, Peyton Manning had arm strength that allowed him to throw the ball into tight spaces along with firing it down field. Fast forward to now and it seems like he is throwing all of his body into the intermediate to deep throws. And along with that, there is not as much steam on the football, which has led to more interceptions this season. The better options when he is there is to throw the intermediate to short routes and let his receivers make a play. But in doing that, Denver allows the safeties to creep closer to the line of scrimmage. In Osweiler, you have a guy that is considerably younger and has a better arm. That rocket on his right shoulder allows him to drill passes into tight spots. His arm also allows him to drop hit his receivers in stride on the deep passes. As a result of Osweiler’s ability to throw it deep, the safeties for teams are having to respect his arm more. With the safeties backed off the line, the running backs now have more room to work with in the box.
Manning is a future Hall of Famer and that cannot be denied. And it isn’t always fair for someone to lose their position due to injury. But the reality is that Osweiler is the better fir for Kubiak’s offense. He can make all the throws and he truly makes this offense run better. Manning has been a great for a long time, but the reality is Father Time has caught up to him and Oweiler was carrying the clock. Kubiak’s offense does not fit Manning. It’s time for Manning to step aside and let Osweiler continue to lead this team. With him there, the offense has more juice and explosiveness. Manning has aged very fast before our eyes. He is not the same guy he once was. Manning may be on the mend, but even when he is healthy he cannot be the answer for this team. The unfortunate thing for him is that his ending will not be the one he drew up.