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It’s time for the Broncos to stop walking on Manning’s eggshells.

Colin D. | January 14, 2015

“So long as number 18 is suiting up for the Denver Broncos the Denver Broncos will be built around Peyton Manning. The offense will be designed in his image and the defense will suffer for the tools Manning needs.”

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I suppose I’m spineless. After pissing and moaning about Peyton Manning relentlessly since the Super Bowl I flipped the script as soon as I feared that he might be retiring. As hard as quarterbacks are to find these days, I thought, Denver may as well give a legend one more year to get it done. And now I have changed my mind again.

Peyton Manning’s got to go.

So long as number 18 is suiting up for the Denver Broncos the Denver Broncos will be built around Peyton Manning. The offense will be designed in his image and the defense will suffer for the tools Manning needs. The offensive line will need to be great – not good – and many options will be needed in the short and intermediate passing game.

Manning’s lack of mobility is a handicap – especially versus playoff defenses. He’s incapable even of trotting for an easy five yards and he’s so insistent on not being struck by an opposing football player that he shits on easy yardage all the time. All this is something the Broncos could live with if Manning were still a consistent passer but he’s not.

In the Colts game I counted seven times Manning overthrew an open receiver. Other passes were at the catcher’s feet – as they were often this season. You can strike all this up to tears or strains or insist that the veteran quarterback was playing badly injured but I am just not buying it. I think that Peyton Manning’s skills have eroded. I think that his brain does not communicate with his right arm the way it once did.

So Manning has no legs. This we knew. Now we know he has no arm either. That’s bad combo for a $20M starting quarterback.

But Manning has a great mind and that’s presumably what has been carrying him through. Yet Manning makes terrible mistakes – a lot of them. He misreads defenses like a bottom tier player  – at least he did in the latter portion of the 2014 season. He has become jittery. He sees ghosts and they force him to make mistakes. Peyton Manning is sick of being hurt and it shows in the way he plays. I have never seen a quarterback more concerned for his own safety – more worried about being injured.

Tom Brady – who, by the way, has muted the debate completely between his legend and Manning’s – possesses something that Manning doesn’t. It’s called leadership. Number 18 is regaled for it but I don’t see it. I see a man who keeps pretty well to himself when the chips are down. Clips of Brady show him pointing at a clipboard with 2 coaches and four linemen hanging on his every word. Clips of Manning show him sitting alone at the end of the bench as though nothing is ever good enough for him and that everyone around him has let him down. Everyone seems to walk on eggshells around him. It’s never Peyton Manning’s fault.

The Super Bowl wasn’t Peyton Manning’s fault. Losing to the Colts was.

Denver was counting on Manning to slay the dragon that is Andrew Luck and to shove his Star Wars numbers right up Jim Irsay’s ass. He didn’t show up to play, though. For the third BIG game in a row he proved that the Colts made the right decision by cutting him – that Irsay and his cronies knew that Manning’s ceiling is “also-ran”. And now the Broncos might be starting to realize it.  

Peyton Manning is needy and demanding and in the end fails to deliver. It would be a mistake at this point to continue building the organization around him. Everybody knows what will happen next year if they do. The Broncos will go 10-6 or 11-5 and crash and burn in the playoffs. Osweiler will split after 2015 as an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos will have no clear path to the future at quarterback as they prepare for Peyton to play out his contract.    

Manning is very close to the end of his career and the Broncos cannot afford to cut him. But if they make it clear that he should consider retiring I’ll bet he would. Fact is, Peyton Manning doesn’t seem to enjoy football much anymore. He doesn’t really seem to like being a Bronco all that much and he for sure doesn’t deserve to be involved in selecting Denver’s next head coach.

John Elway inspired all of Broncos Country with his words at the press conference today at Dove Valley – held to explain the removal of John Fox and the other coaches who will ultimately leave. But he seemed determined to bring Manning back. At this point, having just fired the head coach, I don’t think he should do that. I think he – and we – should move on.

This isn’t a matter of what Peyton Manning is now versus what he used to be. This is a matter of what Peyton Manning has always been. Yes, he made it to a Super Bowl and beat Rex Grossman and probably locked up the Hall of Fame. But all he has done for Denver ultimately is break our hearts. The Broncos have given up plenty to have him here and to have him happy but the team and the fans of Denver deserve to build a legacy around a player we see develop before our eyes – a Bronco. Not a Colt. 

Written by Colin D.

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