It was a tough season for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, but addressing the media on Tuesday afternoon, it was clear that John Elway wants Manning back for another Super Bowl run in 2015. In fact, not only did Elway say he wanted Manning back, but he thinks he can still play at a really high level. He was asked if Peyton’s still got it in him to play another season:
“I think he does. I think that we’ve seen what he did this year,” Elway said. “Obviously, 10 games into the year, we had a little shift as far as what we did on offense, trying to create more balance. So therefore it was something new for him because he hadn’t had that balance before. So therefore, it was a bit of an adjustment for him, and I think he did a heck of a job adjusting. And so everyone’s trying to tie it to the numbers, but if you think about Peyton Manning and you think about the numbers that he’s put up for his whole career and the numbers he put up in the last six games — I think we won four or five of them in that stretch — they just weren’t quite the numbers, but Peyton was still making the right decisions and still playing as well as he’s ever played.”
No offense to Elway, but that final sentence is a lie. Manning was not playing ‘as well as he’s ever played’ or even in his time with the Broncos, for that matter. In 2013, when Manning threw seven touchdown passes in a game set the bar pretty high for that. But even joking aside, Manning was not himself the final couple months of the season and some will blame injury, some blame lack of arm strength, but whatever you choose to blame it’s clear that he wasn’t playing as well as he ever played.
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Elway has to know that, and Manning knows that. It’s the biggest reason why Elway said that he and Manning aren’t even going to talk about his future until Manning takes some time off.
“We sat and talked about the game. I said, ‘The last thing we’re going to talk about at this point in time, having been through what you’re going through now, Peyton, we’re not going to talk about your future,’ because he needs to get away,” Elway said. “I knew as a player, the last thing after that last game that you want to do is talk about your future. … I told him, ‘Let’s not even go into the future. Just know how much we want you back, but you need to take the time and get away from this.’ … But the bottom line is we want him back, and it’s going to come down to what Peyton wants to do.”
Ultimately, what Peyton wants to do is still up in the air and a broad topic of speculation at this point. So broad, in fact, that no one seems to really have any clue what to even predict. You’ll remember not too long ago that Peyton Manning was telling Denver media how ready he thinks Adam Gase is for a head coaching job in the NFL, and how he has actually called teams to give them his thoughts on hiring the Broncos offensive coordinator. Now, there are rumors floating around that the only way Manning stays in Denver is if Gase remains the head coach.
Wait…Was Manning not lobbying for other teams to hire this guy just a couple of weeks ago? Now it’s ‘bring him back or I retire’?
There is a large school of thought that Manning doesn’t want to learn a new offense, which is why retaining Gase is the smart decision. Is that really the smart decision though? The Broncos just fired head coach John Fox and Gase was part of the staff that underachieved. I am sure that Gase is a fine coach, and probably even a good head coaching candidate. Whether or not that is with the Broncos is another debate for another day, and I think you have to really think twice about hiring a new head coach based on who Peyton Manning might prefer for one season.
The Broncos would love to have Peyton Manning back in 2015, but it has to be by their own long term plan. Manning at this point is entering possibly the fourth year out of five years he signed up for when he initially came to the Broncos, so at this point, it’s do or die in his NFL career and the Broncos have to know that their time with Manning is minimal.
If Manning can figure out how to get back to the 2013 version of himself or even the early 2014 version when he looked great, the Broncos would obviously be better off having him return for another year. Let’s hope Elway and Manning each make the right decision moving forward.