Ravens provided Super blueprint
PeytonManning is Trent Dilfer. All this fuss about who should start at quarterback for the Broncos in the playoffs has been loud, outrageous fun. But the debate between Manning and Brock Osweiler also misses the point.
It’s not about the quarterback. It can’t be about the quarterback, if Denver is going to have any realistic shot of winning the Super Bowl.
Are the Broncos legitimate championship contenders?
“I feel great about our chances. We’ve got a great football team,” running back C. J. Anderson said after Denver secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs.
The lone way the Broncos will hoist the Lombardi Trophy, however, is on the strength of the topranked defense in the NFL. The quarterback’s job? Don’t mess it up.
That’s how the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl 15 years ago, led by linebacker Ray Lewis, with some quarterback named Dilfer along for the ride.
Everybody in Broncos Country has an opinion on the quarterback coach Gary Kubiak should start in the playoffs. The decision is tough because, quite frankly, neither Osweiler nor Manning is playing at anywhere near an elite level.
Osweiler is young and inexperienced. Manning is over the hill.
Truth be told, neither Denver quarterback is significantly better than Dilfer was during the 2000 NFL season, which ended with Baltimore beating the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. But, at age 39, Manning is Dilfer, to such an extent it’s almost eerie. Let’s compare the regular- season statistics of Dilfer in 2000 with Manning’s production in 2015. The numbers don’t lie.
Dilfer: 1,502 yards passing, 59.3 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 76.6 quarterback rating, 7- 1 record in eight starts.
Manning: 2,249 yards passing, 59.8 completion percentage, nine touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 67.9 quarterback rating, 7- 2 record in nine starts.
Yes, the stadium was filled to capacity with goose bumps when Manning entered the game in the
third quarter against San Diego and sparked Denver to a comeback victory. He called smart audibles against the Chargers, but his passing performance was average. To call Manning the hot quarterback of the moment? That would be a stretch.
Truth be told, what Manning did best was turn around and hand off the football. After being humbled by injury and booed at home when he was benched during a loss to Kansas City in November, Manning has accepted this offense isn’t all about him, and the game plan can’t be catered to his whims, if the Broncos are to succeed.
Of the 28 snaps Manning took against the Chargers, 14 were under center, including two kneel- downs in the victory formation as the fourth quarter expired. Manning threw nine passes for 69 yards. The Broncos ran 19 times for 139 yards. That’s how Kubiak’s offense is meant to work.
If the Super Bowl is won by an elite quarterback, Denver is in trouble. At least six quarterbacks in the tournament are distinctly superior to anybody on Denver’s roster: Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson.
I have argued that Denver should start Osweiler and use Manning in relief for two primary reasons: 1) There’s reasonable doubt the health of Manning can hold up behind unreliable pass protection, and 2) The skill set of Osweiler fits better with Kubiak’s run- heavy attack. When the Broncos have rushed for more than 125 yards in a game this season, their record is 7- 0.
But I will not try to trick anybody into believing the stats of Denver’s 25- year- old quarterback have been spectacular, despite his big victories against New England and Cincinnati.
Osweiler: 1,967 yards passing, 61.8 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions, 86.4 quarterback rating, 5- 2 in seven starts.
The defense is in charge of Denver’s championship dreams. The Broncos need three victories to make those dreams reality.
“Let’s keep going. We’ve got three games?” linebacker Von Miller said Sunday. “Let’s knock these three games out.”
Manning is Dilfer. Osweiler isn’t much better.
If the Broncos want to win the Super Bowl, it can’t be about the quarterback.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning runs off the field Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High after playing in his first game since Nov. 15. Manning led Denver’s win over San Diego. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post