As always, the current NFL season has given us — fans and talking heads, alike — plenty to discuss and debate. Though, one question has remained a constant in the wave of media: Is Peyton Manning — 39-year-old quarterback of the Denver Broncos — done? While, of course, both sides have been heard, the general consensus is that, well, he is. And his latest career-worst performance in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs has only added fuel to that fire.
And, really, it makes sense. Totals of 35 yards, four interceptions, zero touchdowns and a 0.0 quarterback rating (you literally couldn’t get a worse rating if you tried) in three quarters of play along with a fourth quarter benching, don’t exactly scream that of “starting-caliber quarterback.” And the latest reports that Manning is suffering from a tear in the plantar fascia of his left foot do little to quell concerns of his durability. I get that. And it is why I can understand those clamoring that the doors are shut on the future Hall of Famer’s career. However, I just don’t buy it.
Rewind back to a year ago and we’ve seen this same narrative before. The New England Patriots had just fallen to the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 41-14 and it not only resulted in a fourth quarter benching of starting quarterback Tom Brady but also triggered numerous cries that the Patriots and — more specifically — Brady were done. That same year, the Patriots became Super Bowl champions in what became a career season for Brady.
Now, am I suggesting that this year’s Broncos will have an identical turn around as last year’s Patriots? Well, with that number one ranked defense, a Super Bowl isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But more so that context serves to remind you that, in the world of sports hot takes, the mental makeup of a player or team and their ability to overcome any perceived shortcomings can often get lost.
And, by the way, we’ve made this mistake before already this season … with this same team. Three weeks ago, many suggested that, despite coming off a bye week, the “noodle-armed” Manning would have no chance against the Green Bay Packers’ second-ranked defense.
That chatter was shut quiet with a 29-10 Broncos defeat of Green Bay and a 340-yard Super Bowl-worthy performance from the “noodle man” himself in Manning. That day, Manning and head coach Gary Kubiak were on the same page offensively, the running game was at its best and the league’s number one defense showed up huge. Yet, here we are, two weeks later and the nay-sayers are once again out for blood.
Really, the doubt is understandable. Manning was undoubtedly the primary cause of the two losses on the Broncos’ record — one by a close three-point margin against the Indianapolis Colts and Manning’s historically bad performance last week against Kansas City. However, Manning had been dealing with the tear in his foot. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s tough to play quarterback (let alone, stand) when your foot is injured. What I will say, though, is this injury can be a positive for the Broncos, allowing Manning to get in peak mental and playing shape.
You hate for your starting quarterback to miss time, but for the 39-year-old Manning and the super bowl-aspiring Broncos, this is what’s needed. The extra time off will allow Manning to not only rest his bruised body and prepare his arm for the long stretch of the season but to also study how he can adjust his game and his offense, while accounting for his undeniable physical limitations. That latter part is crucial for Manning as, despite his declining physical abilities, he still hones one of — if not the — highest football IQ’s in the league. I remain confident in his ability to solve these issues.
It’s going to take a lot more craziness for me to believe that the game last week against Kansas City marks the end of Manning’s career. Manning has always been famous for having one of the best minds for the game of football ever, and now he has an extra week to recuperate and study. His storied career is not yet over. And once he heals and returns under center, he and the AFC’s third-ranked Broncos will prove there are many more chapters to be written.