Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is human after all. The 39-year-old is in the midst of what has been far and away the worst season — from a personal standpoint — of his illustrious 18-year career in the National Football League. Things hit an all-time low for the 10-time All-Pro when head coach Gary Kubiak pulled him from the game in favor of backup quarterback Brock Osweiler about halfway through the third quarter of the team’s 29-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
As it turns out, Manning has been dealing with both a rib cage injury and a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. The team knew of both injuries heading into the game, and if Kubiak had to do it over, he would have held the future Hall of Famer out of the lineup to allow his nagging injuries to heal in time for a playoff run. Here’s what he said about the matter:
Let me just say this: Obviously, I’m very disappointed in the football game. I’m disappointed in myself, and this is on me. I probably should have made the decision not to play him in the game. I needed to probably make that tough decision there. He practiced Friday, you know, felt good, and came out of practice Friday, Saturday, and as you all know, his ribs were bothering him a little bit, and I probably should have, right there, said no.
Manning has since been officially ruled out for the Broncos’ Week 11 game against the Chicago Bears, which is actually a good thing for the franchise going forward.
Before we go on, let’s be clear about something: We’re not saying that Manning’s injury is a good thing or something that we are happy about. He is still the Broncos’ best option at the position and is arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. And truth be told, with the way the Denver offensive line is playing, they would struggle to score points with Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers taking the snaps. With that being said, there are several positives that could come from this situation.
First and foremost, the team will finally get an extended look at Osweiler, who they chose in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Given that he arrived in Denver during the same offseason as Manning, Osweiler has never really had a chance to play a meaningful snap in the NFL. What makes the situation all the more confusing is that Osweiler is slated to become an unrestricted free agent following the season. While it will be a limited sample size, the Broncos will finally get a look at Osweiler in meaningful game action. Even if Manning returns for the team’s Week 12 matchup against the New England Patriots, this game against the Bears will give them a much better idea as to whether or not they want to attempt to re-sign Osweiler to a contract extension this offseason.
With that, there is also the real possibility that Osweiler thrives in Kubiak’s offensive system against a Bears defense that ranks in the bottom-third of the league in points allowed. If he does, the Broncos may ultimately opt to roll the dice with the 24-year-old quarterback, who is a much better fit for Kubiak’s offense than Manning, for the remainder of the season. We believe that scenario is highly unlikely, but hey, we also never thought we would see Manning get pulled from a game.
The other major benefit for the Broncos is that Manning may have the luxury of letting his body heal before the AFC Playoffs kickoff in January. At this point, home field advantage, and possibly even a first round bye for that matter, is nothing more than a pipe dream for Denver. They are two full games behind the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, and there is very little chance the Broncos can catch either team in the standings with the difficulty of their remaining seven games.
They are, however, three full games ahead of the Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the AFC West. If they are able to lock up a division title by Week 14 or 15, the Broncos will have the luxury of more rest time for Manning heading into the postseason. If they have Manning and their defense at full strength, it will be tough for anyone to beat the Broncos in January.
Despite the rampant speculation that we have seen the last of Manning, we still believe that the record-setting quarterback has plenty of gas left in his tank to go on another postseason run in 2015. And as weird as this may seem, his injuries may have been the best thing that could have happened to the Broncos at this point.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.