As if things couldn’t get worse after the Broncos’ loss to the Colts on Sunday, the team is now leaking excuses to Adam Schefter.
It’s a bad look for everyone involved, something you’d think would make Broncos fans be like, “Oh, that’s why he played so bad. I get it now.” No. Starting with the coaching and training staff, who had to have known the severity of Manning’s injury from the start, there should have been an executive decision made with only three losses that in the final month of the season, Brock Osweiler would start and come what may.
Playing the ‘what if’ game has always been something that I absolutely hate, so I’m not going to do it. What I am going to do is criticize Peyton Manning for not swallowing his pride and putting himself on the bench when he knew he wasn’t being effective on the field and was also playing with a pretty severe injury.
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Manning might look around the league and see guys like Aaron Rodgers playing through major injuries, maybe Philip Rivers plays through torn knee ligaments, and maybe guys like Tony Romo play with injured backs. The point is, there’s a line between toughness and arrogance, and Manning crossed it. It was flat out stupid for the coaches to allow this kind of stuff to go on, and clearly Manning calls all the shots when it comes to whether or not he plays. The coaching staff just lets him do whatever.
Manning has made mention before that he called in the pass play that got Brock Osweiler his first touchdown pass, not Adam Gase. He mentioned that he called all the deep pass plays that were so ineffective on Sunday that I nearly threw up my chicken tacos at halftime.
The fact that Manning is also deciding whether or not he plays when it compromises the ability of the team to win football games is a significant red asterisk on John Fox’s name, and should be considered if and/or when he is fired.
You have to commend Manning for wanting to be out there for his team, but as Pete Prisco wrote at CBS Sports, Manning’s teammates in Denver noticed something different — something worse — about him in practices. He was throwing picks much more frequently than he had been before. I can specifically remember Vontae Davis nearly coming up with two or three interceptions on Sunday alone. The Bengals made Manning look like Kyle Orton.
If Manning was so ineffective in practices and wasn’t even able to do so for a majority of the last month of the season, the only way you justify him playing is by his own demands. He made the final call on a weekly basis, and for the final month of the season, playing through the injury was not a good one.
Of course, John Fox and every other head coach in the league will tell you they go with the quarterback who gives them the best chance to win. In any case, when Peyton Manning suits up on a given week, the fans are to trust that he obviously gives them the best chance to win. However, I don’t think he considered the severity of his injury and how badly it was affecting his decision making on the field. There was clear evidence of that on a 3rd-and-5 for the Broncos’ offense when Manning rolled out to his right, had about 35 yards of field in front of him with no one in sight, and he tried to force a pass to Emmanuel Sanders that ended up incomplete.
The coaches are at fault for allowing Manning to play. Manning is at fault for not getting himself healthy and costing the team significantly in terms of quality of play at the QB position. The Broncos could have established a ground game with Osweiler in as the quarterback and might have been better off for it. The problem is, we’ll never know.