Denver Broncos Rumors: Peyton Manning Could Move To The Bench If Shaky Play Continues

The Denver Broncos are rumored to be considering an almost unthinkable move, one that would send future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning to the bench.

It would seem like an odd conversation for a team that is currently 6-0 and already close to putting the otherwise mediorcre AFC West in the rear view. But Manning has shown some uncharacteristically shaky play.

The rumors have been growing for months, dating back to the offseason when many thought the Broncos might lose Manning to retirement and move on to Brock Osweiler.

The rumors grew even louder this week when the Broncos needed overtime to defeat the Cleveland Browns. In the game Manning completed 26 of 48 passes for 290 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions. But many NFL insiders believe the Broncos, a team that may sport the best defense in the league, is winning in spite of Peyton Manning.

Amid the rumors that Manning could be benched, other Denver Broncos players are standing up for him. Running back C.J. Anderson said Manning faces unfair expectations due to his history in the league.

“That’s not a quiet night, but people expect greatness,” Anderson said (via Sports Illustrated). “I’ve always said this about Peyton: When you play 17 years and you play at a high level every year, great things are expected. Peyton threw a few picks, but no one talks about that touchdown throw. That’s him being a great player.”

The writing may be on the wall for Peyton Manning. At 39 it seems inevitable that he hits a wall, and his neck injuries led Manning to make the curious and somewhat frightening revelation this offseason that he lost feeling in his fingertips. With that, Manning has lost some of his finesse, and has some difficulty with his accuracy.

There are still many who, like Anderson, think the criticism of Manning is off base. Analyst and former coach Brian Billick wrote on NFL.com that Manning is still good enough to make the Broncos a serious title contender.

“Yet, from another perspective, it’s understandable. There are legitimate concerns about Manning at age 39. His arm strength is diminished; he’s less mobile than he used to be (and he was never Steve Young in the first place); the run-based offense he’s leading is not well-suited to his talents. Also, he just doesn’t look the same in the pocket.

“Peyton was so good for so long that when his skills suffered a noticeable drop-off, people were prone to start overreacting. But Manning and the Broncos are right where they need to be in the title race (and, for Peyton, in the bid for one last shot at a Super Bowl ring).”

Others note that Peyton Manning is playing a different role than he had in past years. Rather than relying on Manning’s arm to win games, the Broncos are a defensive-minded team with a strong running game. Manning’s job is to take over as needed, picking up when the first two plans might fail. That may be a job that backup Brock Oswelier is not up for just yet, another factor in Manning’s favor.

Manning could still have a bit of a learning curve as well. He and the other players on offense are still learning coach Gary Kubiak’s system, and Peyton has said publicly that he is committing to fixing the problems that have come up so far.

The team’s record certainly helps the matter. The rumors that the Denver Broncos might bench Peyton Manning are still largely at bay, but if the team were to start losing then they could grow much louder.

[Picture by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]