Rumors regarding the future of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning have been running wild the entire season, and the 14-time Pro Bowler may have confirmed a suspicion that has been held by many analysts and fans. While Manning will start the Broncos playoff opener on Sunday, January 17, he has not exactly looked like a Super Bowl quarterback this year. Injuries have caused the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer to miss multiple games this season, and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler was serviceable in his absence.
After a poor showing in the Broncos regular season finale game against the San Diego Chargers, Osweiler was benched for Manning. While he only completed five out of the nine passes that he threw, he did not turn the ball over, and managed the game efficiently enough for the Broncos to come out victorious.
If the Broncos expect to win in the playoffs, they are going to need Manning to be much more than a “game manager.” At this point, many fans and analysts believe that Manning will never come close to playing at the level that he once did, but many players inside the Denver Broncos locker room feel that he is the healthiest that he has been the entire year, according to ESPN.
THIS JUST IN: Peyton Manning will start at QB for the Broncos in their divisional round game on Jan. 17. pic.twitter.com/6IBBDUyNCw— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 7, 2016
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told reporters that he is fully confident in Manning for the playoff run.
“What I saw physically, watching him work, watching him go about his business the last two weeks… the way he’s throwing the ball, the way he’s moving around, I don’t have any doubt, he doesn’t have any doubt, so that’s a good thing.”
While it is all well and good that the team is confident in their quarterback, Manning also told reporters that he is ready for the stretch run.
“I wouldn’t have told Coach Kubiak I was ready to dress out last Sunday had I not felt good. I felt like I put it through a lot of tests during my rehab and tried to really test it, so I felt going into the game Sunday, had no issues coming out [of the game].”
Whether or not Manning is actually healthy or not remains to be seen, but his play has been severely declining over the past few seasons. In 2013, Manning threw for a historical 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. While still an exceptional year, Manning threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2014. The problem was, he slowed down towards the end of the year in 2014, and was largely ineffective when the playoffs came around.
While he is a year older and went through a serious injury, Manning is actually well-rested after only appearing in 10 games. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Manning and the Denver Broncos also have the luxury of staying in their home stadium until a possible Super Bowl appearance. Their potential divisional round playoff opponents include the Steelers, Chiefs, and Texans, all of which have their flaws on defense that Manning can still exploit.
Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, Manning is thinking about his future with the Denver Broncos, and as a player in the NFL in general. As first reported by the Denver Post, Peyton Manning believes the 2016 NFL playoffs could be his last “rodeo.”
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about that.”
Peyton Manning acknowledges this could be his last rodeo https://t.co/V5bDxYL950— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 8, 2016
Manning knows that age is starting do catch up to him, and his days as a top quarterback are coming to an end. If the Denver Broncos go on to win the 2016 Super Bowl, Manning could literally retire on top. If the Broncos fall short and Manning does not win his second Super Bowl, he could opt to return for the 2017 season. Until Manning officially announces his retirement, rumors are going to run rampant regarding the legendary Denver Broncos quarterback.
And even if Manning does decide to retire after the playoffs, Denver Broncos players are confident in backup quarterback Brock Osweiler for the future.
While Osweiler will likely never be Peyton Manning, he does not have to be for the team to have success. With a great defense, solid running game, and elite core of wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Denver Broncos could have a bright future in the post-Peyton Manning era.
[Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]