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RealSport Roundtable: Should the Broncos bench Peyton for good?

With Peyton Manning having arguably the worst performance of is career last weekend, the Broncos have announced that, for injury reasons, Brock Osweiler will be their starting quarterback for their Week 11 game against the Chicago Bears. Some, however, are saying that the Broncos should go ahead and make that change permanently – Manning is unlikely to play next season, and Osweiler was drafted to be his eventual replacement, so it’s time to see what the understudy can do. We asked two of our writers to debate whether Peyton should be benched for good.  

The Case for Benching: Osweiler’s simply a better fit for this system

by Alex Perry

Week 11 of the 2015 NFL season will see Peyton Manning not start a game for the first time since the 2011 season. Manning, who is battling a foot injury, plantar fasciitis, broke the record and became the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader in a game in which he threw four interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 0.0. That game saw Manning benched with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter; in response to his poor performance against the Chiefs, Peyton even stated that his poor decisions and bad throws were the main cause for the performance, not his injuries. The question is now being asked by fans and analysts whether or not Manning should return from the bench or whether backup Brock Osweiler should take up the mantle as the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback.

The 7-2 Denver Broncos have so far this season relied heavily on a very strong defence which is currently rank 1st in yardage and 3rd in points conceded per game to win games. The Broncos’ defense has been able to get vital turnovers in the fourth quarter in all of the Bronco’s winning games, with the exception of the Packers game in which they ‘only’ achieved a safety in the fourth quarter. These crucial turnovers were enough to allow the Bronco’s to progress to 6-0; however in their last two games, the Broncos D has been unable to save the day, which has only highlighted Manning and the Broncos offensive struggles this season.

If there was any doubt before, it’s now inarguable the Broncos have been winning games despite Peyton Manning’s performances, not because of them. Peyton Manning’s performances this year have left many fans scratching their heads. Manning leads the NFL in interceptions with 17 and only has a QB rating of 67.6 for the season, with only the now-free agent Ryan Mallet scoring lower. It’s hard to argue that if this was any other quarterback, he wouldn’t already be on the bench. Not only is Manning’s performances of concern for the Broncos but his injuries this season, the rib cage and foot injuries, are also worthy of note. As Manning gets older the number of injuries and the time taken to heal will no doubt increase, this will give the Broncos a lot to consider when deciding if and when Manning should return from the sideline.

The biggest argument for benching Peyton, though, is this: it’s no secret that Peyton has had some trouble adjusting this season to Gary Kubiak’s offense. Changes have been made to make the system easier for Manning but he continues to struggle. It is hard to envision a successful offense when both the system and the starting quarterback must compromise a lot to fit together. Brock Osweiler, on the other hand, seems to fit better into Gary Kubiak’s system. Playing from under-center is a key part of that system, but so far this season the system has been altered to accommodate Manning, going from fifty five snaps under-center in weeks 1 and 2 to just four in week 3.

Osweiler has greater athleticism which enable him to play more comfortably from under-center. Osweiler also has greater arm strength than Manning which will give him and the Denver offense a greater ability to stretch the field, forcing defenses to drop deeper leaving more opportunities to open up underneath. The deep ball threat would also allow the Broncos offense to see more success in the running game and off of play-action passes. These factors would suggest that Brock Osweiler has a greater upside than Peyton Manning in Gary Kubiak’s system and may help to spark life into a struggling Denver Broncos’ O.  

The Case Against Benching: No-one can control this offense like Peyton – and besides, he’s earned it

by Pete Hallifax

In 1998, there were two quarterbacks coming out of college touted as the next big thing. There was debate over the merits of which one should be picked first. The San Diego Chargers traded up to the second overall and picked Ryan Leaf from the University of Washington. Tennessee’s Peyton Manning had been taken first overall by the Indianapolis Colts. What followed has been the subject of endless documentaries and articles. Less than a year after Leaf’s release from prison, Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre’s all-time career passing yards record.

It seems now to be a hollow achievement, in spite of the legends of years to come, as Manning’s at-best patchy (and at-worst, utterly dreadful) performances have led to the Broncos winning in spite of him for much of the season, and on Sunday to the ignominy of being benched for understudy Brock Osweiler. What also became clear in the last 24 hours is that Manning has not been playing healthy of late. He has been suffering with plantar fasciitis which developed into a partial plantar fascia (foot ligament) tear. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has already declared Brock Osweiler to be the starter for next week’s game against Chicago, and Manning’s layoff is mooted at around three to six weeks.

Assuming the best case scenario, this means that Manning will miss games at Chicago and San Diego, with the visit of the New England Patriots to Mile High sandwiched in between. Again, best case scenario assumed, Manning would come back to end the season with games at home against the Raiders, Bengals and Chargers, and a game at Pittsburgh in Week 15. Any game that Peyton Manning is able to play, he should play. It is unlikely that any team in the AFC West will be able to take their division crown at this point in the year, with two games against the bottom feeding Chargers to come.

The Broncos’ offense is tooled around his skill set, and the defense, whilst not performing to their early season standard the past two weeks, will still be a force enough to get the Broncos through their final seven games with, at worst, a 3-4 record. 10-6 should be enough to secure a playoff spot, as although Oakland and Kansas City are placed to make a run, the Raiders lack the experience as a team of pushing through the last throes of a season, and the Chiefs have a knack for inconsistency and are missing their star playmaker in Jamaal Charles.

With the scene set as it is, Manning needs to play. Being benched with an injury after going 5-20 for 25 yards and four interceptions is not the way that this story is supposed to end. Manning deserves the chance to lead his team on one final playoff run, and then ride off into the sunset. He deserves the chance to add to his already impressive career whose trajectory is set to land straight in Canton, Ohio. He deserves to play until he is ready to hang it up. It’s the least that he deserves.

Unfortunately, this league isn’t based on who deserves what – ask Steve Young about that one. It’s based on results, and right now the Broncos don’t know what the results with Brock Osweiler under center will be. In all likelihood, Osweiler will prove to be a serviceable backup, but no more. The Broncos’ offense is a car, and Peyton Manning is the driver. The level of control that he exercises over the team every time he takes the field is a burden that only he can bear. Who will step up to fill the void left by Manning? Demariyus Thomas has been disappointing, CJ Anderson is failing to live up to the preseason hype, and recent signing Vernon Davis admits to being ‘confused’ about his playing time. Emmanuel Sanders could step up and prove to be a strong leader, but how effective can he be when the other parts of the engine are misfiring?

The answer is simple. The offense needs Peyton Manning. He didn’t become a bad player overnight. This season has been, admittedly, below the normal standard. But what a standard this man has set throughout his stellar career. A league whose sense of history stops the game to honour his achievements can surely bear a little longer to allow one of the greatest to ever take the field to walk away on his own terms.

RealSport Roundtable: Should the Broncos bench Peyton for good?

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