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Should Denver start Peyton Manning against the Patriots?

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I think this is a serious question in theory, and ought to be one in practice, but I would be shocked if Gary Kubiak will give it any consideration.

Anyone who saw yesterday’s game can appreciate, in every sense of the word, that at this point Manning is being held together by whatever the high-tech medical equivalent of duct tape might be. Sometimes his passes look like the work of the old (meaning the younger) Peyton Manning; more often they can look like a pale imitation of the former; and sometimes they resemble the proverbial duck that has come within range of a well-armed blind.

Manning had several throws yesterday that almost tumbled over end-to-end. The one time he threw deep he missed an open Demaryius Thomas badly. He lobbed a softball over the middle on an intermediate crossing route that William Gay jumped so easily that he quite possibly would have it returned for a pick-six, save for Emmanuel Sanders doing his best Charles Woodson imitation and breaking the play up.

Manning has also lost what mobility he once had, and he makes an extremely tempting target for pass rushers. The Broncos longest play of the day came when he fell on his face while dodging one, and then jumped up and found an open receiver when the Pittsburgh defense seemed to assume for a moment that the play was over.

The Broncos’ offense sputtered mightily against a dubious Steelers’ defense, effectively generating just 13 points, even though Denver had great field position all day. (Three “drives” started deep in Pittsburgh territory, and yielded nine points, no thanks to the offense, which made one collective first down on those three positions).

On the other hand:

(1) The Bronco receivers had a half-dozen flat-out drops. Manning didn’t look good by any means, but his teammates made him look worse than he actually was.

(2) While saying that Brock Osweiler is at this point a physically superior quarterback to Manning is like saying that Barack Obama is better at electoral politics than Jeb Bush, it’s far from clear that the right call is to yank Manning for a guy who, although he has played fairly well in his grand total of six career starts, is a guy with six career starts heading into the AFC championship game.

If you could graft Manning’s head onto Osweiler’s body you would have a superstar quarterback. That option isn’t available. So do you go with an all-time great who may or may not have a bullet or two left in the chamber? (Manning took a couple of ferocious hits yesterday, after missing almost all of the previous two months of action, so who knows what sort of shape he’s in now). Or do you roll the dice with the promising kid who has never been in anything like this situation before?

I think it ought to be a really tough call, but unless you’re a Bill Belichick type, which is to say a coach with a genuine DGAF attitude, you’re going to go with what feels like the safer option, and that’s Manning. Of course if the Broncos’ offense looks as bad against NE as it did yesterday they’ll probably be down 13-3 or something at halftime, and then Kubiak may re-evaluate.

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  • Todd

    I know Manning finished second in INTs this year (in way fewer snaps than the other contenders), but I also think it’s much more likely that Osweiler ruins the chances for a win due to turnovers than Manning. Manning is much better at getting out of bad plays (he probably has games where he audibles to a productive draw play 8 or more times), and shifting protections where necessary. I would say a healthy Osweiler might be more likely to put up more points on Sunday, but he would also be more likely to score more for the Patriots. Broncos best chance is to have a lower scoring, fewer mistakes game.

  • wickwack

    I think it was a huge mistake to bench Osweiler against San Diego. His passer rating this season is 18.5 points better than Manning. And Manning has literally no upside; frankly, he’ll only get worse as his physical skills decline. Manning has always done poorly in the playoffs. I think his mental skills are great against average opponents. But top defenses don’t have big weaknesses, and they’re too fast for the duck-throws to be successful.

    Osweiler is clearly a very talented player. But the one thing you worry about with a young starting QB is confidence. And yanking in the middle of a game is a signal that either (a) You can’t trust Osweiler, or (b) You’ll yank Osweiler at the slightest excuse. Either is a terrible mindset to have facing a postseason for the first time in your life.

    So now, if Osweiler is needed this postseason (either injury, or Manning sucking, etc.)…good luck.

    • runsinbackground

      I agree; Osweiler seems to make plays in inverse proportion to Manning’s plausibility as a replacement. Benching him against the Chargers, about as clear a vote of no confidence as Kubiak could have given, has made that dynamic a permanent feature of the Broncos’ post-season. Once again, we in Denver are in the position of standing or falling due entirely to the performance of our best-in-the-nation defense.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Manning has always done poorly in the playoffs.

      This is really a gross exaggeration. He’s underperformed his regular season totals, and he hasn’t been as good a postseason QB as Brady, but he’s had plenty of great games. (And I think you have to ask how much of Brady’s postseason advantage comes from being coached by Belichick rather than guys like Jim Mora and Jim Caldwell and John Fox. Dungee was a pretty good coach but his strength was motivation and defense building, not offensive tactics.)

      Now, as for whether he’ll play well this weekend — I don’t like the odds.

      • ajp

        Playoffs? Don’t talk to me about playoffs!

        At the very least, Manning’s first couple of playoff losses in Indianapolis are much better attributed to Mora than Manning. So if nothing else he deserves that mulligan. Not even a mulligan really. Now I need to stop myself before I go off on Mora again.

        That being said, I bet Manning does stare at his bedroom ceiling late at night, wondering how his career might have shaken out differently under a coach like Belichick.

        I don’t really feel bad for Manning since unlike, say, Dan Marino or Jim Kelly he managed to snag a ring. But his talent was really wasted on some mediocre coaching for several years, and that’s a damn shame.

      • mpowell

        Manning has underperformed his regular season ratings historically badly. As in, more than any other QB. And he has, what, 25 games worth? He had a great comeback against NE in a game he threw, I think, 2 picks in the first half. He also put up a lot of offense against a KC team with no defense one year. I am not sure he has had any playoff games where I came away impressed. I’m not sure it’s an exaggeration. I’m also not sure it matters so much for this question since this is such a different Manning though.

        • efgoldman

          He had a great comeback against NE in a game he threw, I think, 2 picks in the first half.

          And in which Belichick made a really questionable coaching decision (fourth and two).

      • CrunchyFrog

        (And I think you have to ask how much of Brady’s postseason advantage comes from being coached by Belichick rather than guys like Jim Mora and Jim Caldwell and John Fox. Dungee was a pretty good coach but his strength was motivation and defense building, not offensive tactics.)

        Dungy also never came close in Indy to duplicating the top-level defense that he had in Tampa Bay. That’s the other challenge for Manning: average-to-worse defenses. Even in Denver they haven’t been above average until this year. Part of the reason for that record-setting offensive production in 2013 was that they had to make up for the defense: in the Dallas game (51-48), for example, there were few drives that didn’t end in a TD for each team and it was only a late Romo interception that gave Manning the opportunity to bleed the clock and position for a last second FG.

        A number of people have looked at each of Manning’s playoff losses and found only one bad performance. Yes, his playoff stats don’t match his regular season stats, but that’s normal since you are playing playoff teams, not Buffalo and Jacksonville.

  • ajp

    I love me some Peyton Manning, but I think it might be time for him to…what’s a good metaphor-stop wearing the bat suit, etc. It really seems like he’s been running on fumes the past few seasons. I don’t know why Brady’s still got it but Manning seems to have lost it, but there you go. Hopefully Brady looks at Manning-and Favre before him-and realizes that much as you love football sometimes it’s time to let go, and hanging on until the point where people start asking “why is he still playing?” isn’t a good look for anyone.

    • jamesepowell

      By any reasonable age/health/fitness measures, they’re both too old for this.

    • Brady is one hit away from being in the same shape as Manning.

      (Another reason I was startled that Belichick put him in against Miami in week 17, then game-planned as if BB didn’t care who won. If you’re not gonna jockey to keep home-field, why smear Brady with honey & dangle him in front of Suh?)

      • LFC

        @ThusBloggedAnderson:
        Completely off-topic, but are you aware (I assume you are) that WordPress says your blog has been deleted?

        P.s. If you gave some kind of valedictory or whatever on your blog before deleting it, I missed it.

      • CrunchyFrog

        Brady is one hit away from being in the same shape as Manning.

        Not sure about that. The nerve damage that Peyton suffered was extreme, and not likely the result of just one hit. It was amazing that he played as well as he did for 2.5 years.

        However, at his age (2 years younger than Peyton), it can’t be long before Brady starts showing signs of age. If he wins his 5th super bowl this year, a record that may not be broken in his lifetime, I wouldn’t be surprised if he opts to retire to save his body from the inevitable really bad hits it would get in his twilight years on the field.

        • Captain Oblivious

          Both are pretty big boys and have taken a lot of big hits and gotten right back up again. IANAD so I don’t have any special insights into Peyton’s current physical condition, but he didn’t look that bad this weekend, and the wind wasn’t helping.

        • ajp

          I mean, that’s vague enough that it’s something you could say about literally any football player given the nature of the sport. They’re all “one hit away” from being knocked out of their prime/never playing the same again, etc etc.

          Brady’s had his injuries over the years and yet he has always bounced back-he still performs like a top QB in his prime. But Manning-I dunno, his injuries have just seemed to *accumulate* in a way they haven’t for Brady. And he’s a pretty rough looking 39-even for a football player.

        • ajp

          You would think, right? I understand Peyton chasing that second ring-especially given the fact that his brother has two. Brady has 4, he could conceivably win a 5th-what does he have left to prove?

          But these types of guys, I guess they’re not like you and me. Brady didn’t get to where he is by packing it in early. He worked his ass off to get to the top-as long as he’s playing like he is now he’s not going anywhere-you’ll be prying the football from his frozen, dead fingers. Same with Manning-that’s a guy who is probably willing to leave the football field feet first at 45 if that’s what it takes to get his second ring.

          Manning does have less to prove in one respect-he never had a Belichick. Who knows-maybe Brady wants to prove he can win without Belichick and vice versa. Imo that’s much tougher psychological baggage to deal with than “only” have one Super Bowl ring.

    • CrunchyFrog

      I love me some Peyton Manning, but I think it might be time for him to…what’s a good metaphor-stop wearing the bat suit, etc. It really seems like he’s been running on fumes the past few seasons.

      I strongly felt he should have retired after last year, and this year has only reinforced that feeling. I wouldn’t say he was on fumes “the past few seasons” – in 2013 he set most of the season passing records. He started 2014 well, but double ankle injuries started a decline that got worse as the season went on. So he’s really been below par for only about a season and a half – but trending down the whole way.

  • Casey

    The Broncos have been in the situation of playing the Patriots after beating the Steelers in the playoffs twice in the last 10 years: 2005/6 and 2011/2.

    2006’s defeat was the end of the Plummer Era, though they waited till halfway through the next season, when the team was 7-2 and had one of the best defenses in football, to give the team over to Cutler. 2012 was, of course the end of the Tebow Era.

    So, based on recent history, it’s probably going to be a curb stomping, followed by a quarterback change. I don’t think it matters who we start. It’s been our destiny to lose to the Patriots in the playoffs all season. Vegas thinks Denver has a 40% chance of winning. That seems awful kind.

    • CrunchyFrog

      In 2005/6 they played the Steelers after beating the Patriots, not the other way around.

  • Scott P.

    My understanding is that Osweiler is physically incapable of playing, at least right now, so it’s Manning or whomever is the third stringer.

    • Paul Campos

      Osweiler was the backup yesterday. The only other QB on the roster is Trevor Siemian, who was inactive against Pittsburgh, so clearly Osweiler is ready to go.

    • slothrop

      Right. He injured his knee in the San Diego game. It’s unclear to me whether there were some extenuating circumstances – like some bad reads. The turnovers were not entirely his fault. If Osweiler were healthy, I would prefer he started. Mannning looks like the specter of Craig Morton.

      • CrunchyFrog

        On the first point, yes he has been injured and in fact didn’t start taking practices again as the backup until late last week.

        On that note, does anyone else think that Kubiak could have handled the messaging on the QB situation better? He could have said:

        1) I took Manning out of the KC game because he’d been injured and was a serious risk of making it worse.

        2) We are keeping Manning in active until he heals. That decision is purely health-based.

        3) Manning’s health has this week reached the level where he is able to practice full-time. He’s definitely showing signs of rust, so he’ll be the backup this week and we’ll see how things go after that.

        4) We took Brock out because he was injured, and couldn’t play at his full level.

        5) Manning will be the starter because the doctors say Brock won’t be able to practice again for a while.

        I mean, everything up there is accurate in terms of injury, even if some of the decisions were influenced by other factors.

        Regarding Craig Morton – no, he’s nowhere near that bad yet. Morton was Dallas’ quarterback when they won the lowest scoring playoff game in NFL history, 5-0. And that was in his prime – when he got to Denver he was even worse.

        • Bill Murray

          but Morton was no Frank Tripucka or Pete Liske

        • slothrop

          Morton was a better quarterback in 1977, than Manning is now, it seems. I think it’s possible that, should the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl, Manning might be the worst starting quarterback in Super Bowl history– Rex Grossman was better (24th overall QBR).

          • ajp

            That’s the kind of irony that Manning should take as a sign from the cosmos that it’s time to pack it in.

        • EliHawk

          I would love if somehow there were a Super Bowl that ended 2-0, if only for the insane overreaction from the NFL commentariat that would follow.

  • jamesepowell

    I’m wondering if some of those drops were because Manning had a touch less on the ball. Timing, rhythm, sync, whatever.

    • Michael Cain

      I’m sure more than one Denver coach has said a less polite version of “No excuses. We don’t pay you a million dollars a year to drop the ball when Peyton hits you in the hands with it.”

    • CrunchyFrog

      The Broncos talked a lot after the game about wind affecting the passing game. Interestingly it didn’t seem to affect the Steelers game, but that might have been because Ben had more speed on his passes. But the kicker did say it was the worst wind he’d ever kicked in. On the last Denver field goal (45 yards) the kick appeared to be dead center and the wind blew it so far to the right that it almost touched the upright.

  • glasnost

    If they start Manning they’re going to be absolutely demolished, so they might as well start Brock. It is very very likely that Brock will make mental mistakes that effectively hand over the game to the Patriots, but it’s at least possible that he performs brilliantly and A Star Is Born. But Manning’s ceiling is what we saw on Sunday, and there is not even a prayer of beating the Patriots with that.

    Because the worst that can happen is you lose the game, Brock is all upside. The not Brock choice is a 100% loss, so might as well take the gamble. 5% is better than 0%!

    • Nobdy

      You’re thinking win loss upside/downside. There’s also Sportscenter upside/downside.

      “You have Peyton Manning on your team, an all-time great first ballot hall of famer, and you start WHO? And he does WHAT? I don’t understand it. On the biggest stage you play your best guys” etc..

      You might get criticized for starting Payton but not demolished like you will if you start Brock and he performs poorly (which is likely.)

      • efgoldman

        There’s also Sportscenter upside/downside.

        Another reason that Belichick is a superior coach: he really doesn’t give a shit about that stuff.

        • ASV

          Kubiak isn’t Belichick. Yeah, he’s Elway’s buddy, but if he loses next week with Osweiler it probably makes the effects of a mediocre post-Manning 2016 worse.

  • c u n d gulag

    I’d start with the kid, and if needed, bring Manning in.

    This way, the vet can see the defenses NE’s throwing up there – even though they’ll bring the corners and safeties in, if he does come in – and have some plans.

    But, the football fan in me realizes this is almost surely it for Manning, so, why not sit back, and watch the two greatest QB’s of this era – and two of the greatest of all time – battle it out ONE more time?!?!

    But, imo, no matter what, I think NE’s going to the SB.

  • Seitz

    I would generally take the better head against a Belichek defense over the better arm/body, all else being equal. I think the offense is likely to stagnate with either quarterback, albeit for difference reasons, so I’m not sure it matters. Their only shot to win is with their defense, which, as good as it is, has shown large periods of being very ordinary (see: the first half against AJ McCarron). Unfortunately, they really need the 2000 Ravens defense.

    I’m a Broncos fan, but I’m resigned to losing this one. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around people being excited about Peyton Manning being healthy enough for the playoffs. Even Manning in his prime wasn’t a great playoff performer.

    • Manny Kant

      Given how awful Manning has been this season, I’m kind of astonished they went back to him at all.

      • CrunchyFrog

        It wasn’t a bad idea. First, Manning did have one – just one – really good game, against Green Bay after the bye. So the theory that he’d be better with time to rest and heal might have had some validity. Second, the team had turned the ball over FIVE times. So, few blamed Osweiler – two fumbles by ball carriers, one Osweiler fumble when hit from behind, and two INTs – one bounced off the hands of a Denver receiver and into the hands of a defender, the other was when he was hit while throwing. Even so, at that point the offense was psychologically frazzled. They’d been moving the ball all day but every possible bad bounce seemed to be happening against them. Putting in Manning gave them the change they needed to “reset” back to normal.

        In addition, as noted above, Osweiler was actually pretty badly injured, although Kubiak didn’t talk about it at the time, he spent a week and a half recovering before being able to practice again.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I would generally take the better head against a Belichek defense over the better arm/body, all else being equal.

      I agree that this is the best reason to start Manning.

  • ChrisS

    If they start Osweiler after Peyton Manning singlehandley led the Broncos to the AFC title game as a result of his steely resolve and winningtude, the Broncos will get thrashed in the court of public opinion. The ESPN screaming heads will have hot takes on hot takes.

    If you could graft Manning’s head onto Osweiler’s body you would have a superstar quarterback. That option isn’t available

    Let’s not dismiss this out of hand. There have been some medical advancees, sure there’s some ethical and moral repercussions, but if Peyton was given the choice, I’m sure he would say, “Ok, cut me.”

    • Seitz

      Didn’t they already have to graft Peyton Manning’s head back on to Peyton Manning’s body?

      • dl

        lol

    • mikeSchilling

      Remember when Ronnie Lott had a broken finger amputated so he wouldn’t be medically ineligible for a game? Well, a few week later he was out with a sprained neck ….

    • Captain Oblivious

      If they start Osweiler after Peyton Manning singlehandley led the Broncos to the AFC title game as a result of his steely resolve and winningtude,

      Except these actually matter, providing you have the skills to back it up.

      At the elite level, the difference between winners and losers is 90% mental.

      • efgoldman

        Except these actually matter

        Rapistburger, who’s been in a supe or three, doesn’t?

  • Captain Oblivious

    Interestingly, Brady and Osweiler had almost identical stats (23/42, 280 and 270 yds respectively) during their reg season game, except for one pretty key stat — 3 TD/0 Int vs 1 TD/1 Int.

    Denver’s rushing was massively better than NE’s in that game, scoring 3 TDs including the OT winner.

    Given that and how the Doncs won this weekend, I’d start Manning and hope that the running game clicks in earlier than it did against the Steelers. I’m not keen on turning over the whole season to someone with no playoff experience and only 7 reg-season starts, even if he did go 5-2.

    • efgoldman

      Edelman and Amendola were out in week 12. Hightower only played half the snaps, and was out when the Broncos had the big running plays.
      Also, FWIW (I don’t know if it’s true) Carter said this morning that Demarius Thomas led the league in drops this year.

      • liberalrob

        That would only be because Matt Cassel refused to throw to Dez Bryant…

  • Captain Oblivious

    This post is clearly Denverite click-bait, as there can be no question that Kubiak will start Manning unless the latter drops dead before the game.

    What time is it in Indiana?

    • efgoldman

      What time is it in Indiana?

      1954, approximately.

      • Denverite

        ding ding ding

    • Denverite

      Busy busy busy. And still a crapload to do before 9:00 am. Good news is tomorrow is my big day (opening and two witnesses). I only have one witness the next and then only crosses.

      The only issue is that I have to get a run in or I’m crap mentally, it was 20 below wind chill this morning (and similar tomorrow), and I hate dreadmills.

      (As for the substance of this post, it’s pure wankery. Manning won with a bunch of drops, and no, his ball didn’t look good, but in that wind, it’s not super-surprising. Combine that with Osweiler’s injury, there is absolutely no chance Manning sits.)

  • joe from Lowell

    I’d be very shy about starting a rookie in the playoffs under any circumstances.

    To start a rookie against Bill Belichick’s defense is crazy. Manning at least has a good chance of being able to figure out what he’s seeing.

    • Manny Kant

      Is Osweiler, strictly speaking, a rookie? Hasn’t he been in the league since 2012?

      • CrunchyFrog

        Correct. He saw only very limited mop-up duty and a few pre-season games until Manning went down this year.

  • max

    (1) The Bronco receivers had a half-dozen flat-out drops. Manning didn’t look good by any means, but his teammates made him look worse than he actually was.

    Yes. That seems to have been the wind. Maybe.

    If I were planning it out, I’d hold back Manning from practice during the early part. (That is, I’d have him just throw (with gloves) to wide receivers.) I don’t think the Pittsburgh front line was that bad in the first half, but what did Pittsburgh in was being gassed out in Mile High.

    Anyways, I’d put Osweiler in with the first team offense against a practice defense realigned to look like the Patriots. If Manning is still healthy I’d bring him in late in the week to practice and announce him as starter.

    At game time I’d start Osweiler and hold back Manning, because the obvious thing here for the Pats is to try and beat the snot out of Manning which would take him out of the game and then you’ve got Osweiler no matter what. If Osweiler is truly sucking, I’d pull him but after you’ve seen what tricks Belichick has opted for to start the game with on defense. (You could of course riff on Tom Landry and switch them out on every series sort of like Morton and Staubach, although Landry actually switched them out every down.)

    In the event, I don’t think either one of them has looked that good on the long downfield throws, so I’d working out a set of plays that lays off medium gainers (keep the shorts to the TE’s and the big bombs) because the picks will hurt most.

    max
    [‘I would very definitely anticipating a mean game from the Pats front like and I’d be working all out on my deception and confusion tactics.’]

    • CrunchyFrog

      Well, Kubiak isn’t very imaginative so I think we can all be sure that Manning will start and you won’t see Osweiler unless Manning is seriously injured.

      However, I think you’re on the right track with your ideas. Manning and Osweiler are two very different QBs – in fact, there is no other QB even close to Manning in terms of strengths and weaknesses, and may never be one. A defense prepares for them differently. With Manning a premium is placed on disguising coverages and blitzes but you don’t worry about scrambling, long passes, or very quick zipped passes into tight coverage. With Osweiler it’s almost exactly the opposite.

      So, Denver’s best interest might be served by prepping both QBs to play and planning to bring them in at different times and different packages. Sure, the defense can, in theory, shift to a different defensive strategy each time the QB changes out, but in practice this is very difficult. After a short while Osweiler would find a speedy WR uncovered deep or an open route for running, while Manning would find a TE or RB wide open because an LB was guarding against a scramble.

      There was a time, as I noted over the weekend, when it was normal for coaches to switch out QBs on a frequent basis, sometimes several times per game, just to get things going. John Madden was known for this, with a lot of success. But today that seems verboten because the most important thing for a football team is apparently the risk of bruising a QBs fragile ego.

      • Manny Kant

        Yeah, I don’t really get why, when you have two okay quarterbacks with different skill sets, you don’t just flip them in and out based on how their skill sets fit with what you’re trying to do. That’s what’s done with running backs, notably.

        • Captain Oblivious

          Unless you’ve been doing that all year, probably not a good idea. Good way to use up all your time-outs early and rack up DoG penalties.

      • efgoldman

        But today that seems verboten because the most important thing for a football team is apparently the risk of bruising a QBs fragile ego.

        Might also have something to do with the dearth of really good starting QBs, let alone second guys.

        • CrunchyFrog

          Possibly, but I think this is more like how the convention evolved that closers can never pitch in any inning except the 9th. A trend moves in the direction of not switching out QBs, or using your closer only in the 9th, and after a while anyone who goes against that trend is seen as destroying the confidence of the athlete.

          I’m going to hazard a guess that in the future one of the new genius offensive minds will start a new trend of using 2 or more QBs throughout the game. There was sort of a trend like that with the wildcat in 2008-9, but too limited.

          • efgoldman

            There was sort of a trend like that with the wildcat in 2008-9, but too limited.

            Because it didn’t take a defensive genius to recognize it or stop it, after a game or two. A surprise attack that isn’t a surprise…..

    • Captain Oblivious

      I think people are overestimating Manning’s fragility. He can take a hit (shit, he’s 6-5, 230) and the Denver OL did a good job protecting him against Pitt (1-7).

      If Osweiler were clearly the better QB right now, and if he didn’t have a banged-up knee, the case for starting him would be stronger. But that’s not the situation, and I think you have to go with experience.

      Also, although I doubt this would enter into Kubiak’s game plan, the longer-term picture suggests not further risking Osweiler’s knee by putting him into a game you’re probably going to lose anyway (and even if you win, you’ve still got to get through CAR or AZ — good luck with that parlay). He’s Denver’s QB of the future. Let the knee heel so he can play a full season next year.

      • CrunchyFrog

        He’s Denver’s QB of the future.

        One interesting subplot to all of this is the Denver free agent situation. Brock’s contract ends this year and in a QB-starved league Osweiler figures to be in high demand. The Broncos can use the franchise tag, but that would be something in the $17-20M range for one year. No one really knows if this guy can be a franchise QB over the long haul, but if he goes on the market there will probably be a team who offers him that kind of long term contract.

        In that context it’s in the interests of the Broncos to see how he does under pressure in the playoffs.

        • Captain Oblivious

          I was not aware of his FA status. But if anything, that argues (from a purely business standpoint) for starting Manning. If you do want to sign BO without having to pay the franchise price, the last thing you need is for him to go out there and sparkle against Belichick and Brady and maybe actually win the fkn game. That would definitely push his price up.

        • efgoldman

          No one really knows if this guy can be a franchise QB over the long haul

          He could be Matt Flynn, too. Or Scott Mitchell.

          • CrunchyFrog

            Exactly. But just like there was a bidding war for Jay Cutler (ante price: two first rounders plus your starting QB) among QB-desperate teams I am sure that some team(s) will offer Brock a salary much higher than his performance to date justifies, albeit with some trigger incentives. As this is a given it behooves Denver to decide for themselves what they think he’s worth before slapping the franchise tag on him.

            • liberalrob

              Do you really want to decide on your starting QB for the AFC title game based on wanting to evaluate your QB of the future?

        • Denverite

          I’m bearish on the Broncos resigning Osweiler. I think someone is going to overpay, and they need the tag for Miller.

          • CrunchyFrog

            Elway has pretty much been able to resign the free agents he wants – exception being the strange saga of Elvis Dumervil. That’s because he has a realistic price up front and also knows who is won’t try re-signing (Decker, Julius Thomas, Knighton, etc.). The question is whether Elway actually wants to chase after Brock or maybe take a shot at one of the recycling projects that will be come available this off-season. I really don’t know the answer to this.

  • mikeSchilling

    If you could graft Manning’s head onto Osweiler’s body you would have a superstar quarterback. That option isn’t available.

    They think me mad, but I’ll show them.

  • rewenzo

    The problem with starting Peyton so we can have “one last Brady/Manning Bowl” is that this is not going to be a Brady/Manning Bowl because one of those two (Peyton Manning) is no longer an NFL quarterback.

    There’s no value to me in having Peyton go out there and embarrass himself for one last embarrassing hurrah, and maybe hurt himself.

    • Downpuppy

      Manning is worn out. Brady is losing it.

      But they’re in the AFC finals, and all the other QBs are watching.

      (Damn, I’m mas macho today)

      • efgoldman

        Manning is worn out. Brady is losing it.

        Maybe more QBs should be “losing it” like Brady.

        • CrunchyFrog

          I’ve seen zero evidence that Brady is performing at less than his peak. I can’t stand the guy or his team, but that’s the reality and just adds to the frustration.

  • JMG

    1. It is easier and better for the team to start Manning and bring in Osweiler if necessary than to start the kid with the Hall of Famer looking over his shoulder. Because if the change has to be made, Osweiler is going to have to throw on every play to get the Broncos back in the game, something Manning just can’t do if their places were reversed.
    2. Wow, are there some pessimists in Broncoland. How much did the Pats win that regular season game by anyway, 20? 30?

    • CrunchyFrog

      Yeah, in Broncoland the attitude is that we’ll root and hope but we don’t expect a win. I think we realize that we have a pretty good – not great – coaching staff and that the team has been pulling rabbits out of hats all year, and even more so in the past couple months, to barely win games. The Broncos were down 14 to New England and punting after yet another 3-and-out when the punt was muffed, giving the Broncos a new chance, which was aided by a lot of luck after that.

      • Captain Oblivious

        I don’t have a dog in this fight — I hate both teams equally — but I don’t see the Broncs being that big an underdog. They’re playing at home, at altitude, and they have a great D and a stout OL. The ? mark is whether they can score enough points.

        • CrunchyFrog

          I can argue this both ways. Possibly we are overly pessimistic: I think by the start of the 4th quarter yesterday – before the fumble – the general view of the Denver/Pittsburgh game was that whoever won would get creamed by New England. It’s really not a good idea to look at one game and assume that trajectory will continue, as team performances vary so much from game to game.

          The funny thing is Denver does have a lot going for them. 5-1 in conference championships at home (the exception was hosting Pittsburgh 10 years ago) and 2-1 on the road. Normally I would say these kind of records have no value, except in this case they may indicate a stronger than normal home field advantage. Also, for all the criticism and faint praise we hurl at Kubiak he has successfully changed this team’s culture into one where comebacks and close wins are expected. Add a strong defense, especially against the pass, cold weather (which tends to favor the better defense), and a solid set of playmakers on offense, if they can actually hold on to the ball.

          • efgoldman

            cold weather (which tends to favor the better defense)

            And historically tends not to favor Peyton.

            • Captain Oblivious

              The current forecast for next Sunday is 46/22 F, which is chilly by my standards but a heat wave for Denver in January.

              • Denverite

                which is chilly by my standards but a heat wave for Denver in January.

                It’s about dead red average.

            • liberalrob

              If the scores stay below 20, the Broncos win. If they go above 30, NE wins.

  • rjayp

    Start Manning
    He fakes an injury on the 3rd play, and is taken to the locker room.
    Bring in Osweiler.
    Evaluate inscrutable Belladonnacheck defensive scheme.
    When the time comes (if needed), Manning makes heroic return.
    Broncos beat the spread (what? You wanted miracles, too?).

  • Jordan

    This is an interesting question in the pretty much exact same sense that “why didn’t leia hug chewbacca” is an interesting question. As long as you are going to invest your time in this children’s game, however, the answer to your question is no.

    • Heckaterra

      So wonderful of you to chime in on an NFL post with your oh-so-world-weary perspective. Interesting enough of a question for you to weigh in with just the right soupcon of condescension. Kudos.

      • Jordan

        Ya, that was a shitty comment. In my defense, I was pretty drunk.

  • Pseudonym

    Any chance the Broncos could make a one-day temporary trade with, to pick a totally random example, the Packers for this game? Or fuck it, just stick Eli in Peyton’s uniform? He seems to be the Patriots’ bête noir after all.

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