Peyton Manning often does a great job of saying what most smart people are thinking when it comes to answering doubts about his game, or doubts about his future in the NFL. Manning was accepting the Bart Starr award on Friday as one of the league’s most outstanding leaders in the community, and spoke to the media for the first time since the Broncos lost to the Colts in the playoffs.
There were major questions after the Broncos fired their coaching staff of whether or not Peyton would return because of the departure of Adam Gase, who is now the offensive coordinator in Chicago, but Manning was campaigning for Gase to get another job, even going so far as to say he had spoken to other teams and given them glowing recommendations.
More from Predominantly Orange
- Broncos chances of landing Sean Payton dwindling, but not gone
- Denver Broncos dream coaching staff for DeMeco Ryans
- Denver Broncos: “Sleeper” David Shaw checks every box
- The Broncos’ coaching search likely has not gone to plan
- Special Chiefs Suck Offer: Bet $5, Win $150 if Joe Burrow Passes for ONE YARD vs KC
If anything, you could argue that Manning wanted Gase gone, which obviously he would never say nor has it ever been said, but that clearly shouldn’t have any bearing on weather or not he returns to the Broncos. What people have a more legitimate concern about is whether or not Manning would fit in Gary Kubiak’s offense, which utilizes rollouts, bootlegs, zone blocking scheme, etc… Would Manning fit that offense? Well…
“I know that’s been a hot topic of discussion,” Manning said. “ … But if I choose to come back, I feel pretty comfortable, aside maybe from Tubby Raymond’s Delaware Wing-T offense, I feel pretty comfortable playing in any offense. I really do. I don’t see that as really being a factor.”
What will be a factor for Manning is whether or not he can do it physically. He keeps saying things like he doesn’t want to drag his decision out and that he’s at peace about it. That seems to indicate at least verbally that he’s moving on from the game of football, but you never know. Most people including Manning’s teammates expect him to come back for one more season.
“I’m kind of still determining that,” Manning said. “That’s a little bit of the time. I’m taking some time to assess some things and to see. That’s something that’s important to me is not whether I can physically do it for myself, but can I physically do it to help the team? I’ve always wanted to be part of the solution to helping and never a problem or a limiting factor for the team. I want to be able to look Coach Kubiak and John Elway and Joe Ellis in the eye and say, ‘Yeah, physically, I honestly feel I can contribute and help.’
“It’s one thing to play and have a uniform and be on the roster. It’s another to truly contribute and help. And that’s the only thing I’ve known in football.”
Maybe I’m just being pessimistic for once in my life, but it doesn’t feel as though Manning feels like he can, as he says, look the Broncos’ coaches and front office in the face and tell them honestly that he is physically able to do it anymore. John Elway said when he retired that it was the toughest decision he ever had to make, but he physically couldn’t contribute anymore.
That could be where Manning’s at right now. He was certainly at that point at the end of the 2014 season where he was playing through the thigh injury and whatever else, but the problem was you could see the dejection on his face very visibly because he wasn’t helping the team — he was hurting. With the Broncos’ improved running game and the emergence of C.J. Anderson, the passing game should have flourished and it deteriorated. It lost chemistry, it had no flow, and every route was terribly designed for the down and distance, it felt like. Manning and his receivers were not on the same page, and because of his injury, he lost timing on his throws and we saw in that playoff game that the arm strength isn’t a problem — it was everything else.
I love Manning, love what he’s done for the Denver Broncos and to be honest with you I really do hope we haven’t seen the end of him. I just can’t shake this sinking feeling that the best thing for him to do is to call it a career unless he feels beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can come back and be a playmaker, not a facilitator. The Broncos need him to run for five yards when he has an open field and he escapes pressure. They need him to be able to get outside the pocket and let routes develop because he doesn’t have the arm strength for these quick strike routes.
The Broncos need Manning to be willing to adapt, and that — perhaps above any injury issue — is what’s really in question for me. Only Manning knows what he wants to do, and it feels like he doesn’t really know if he wants to play football anymore.