Is The Peyton Manning Era Over In Denver?


Did Denver’s loss on Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts effectively end Peyton Manning and the Broncos run atop the AFC West?

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Manning’s Broncos fell 24-13 at home to the Colts on Sunday, which featured yet another un-Manning-like performance. He completed only 56.5% of his passes for 211 yards and a finished with a 75.5 passer rating. This continued a downward trend for Manning that began even before his reported leg injury against the San Diego Chargers in early December.

In his final five games Manning completed 60.65% of his passes (68.1% in his first 11 games) and threw more interceptions (6) than touchdown passes (5). This was with a new offensive shift which saw Manning throwing few passes and the Broncos running the ball more.

Manning’s drop off began in a week eight loss to the New England Patriots. In his first seven games Manning completed 69% of his passes and had a staggering 22-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His passer rating was 119. In this seven games he threw for at least three touchdown in six of them, with an overtime loss in Seattle being the only game where didn’t throw three touchdowns or crack a 110 passer rating. Manning was on fire.

But from that Patriots game on he was not himself. His completion percentage dropped to 64.06% even with the reduction in attempts. His touchdown-to-interception ratio dropped t0 17-to-12, and his passer rating dropped to 88.7. He threw for three or more touchdowns in a game only twice, and threw at least two interceptions in a game in five of his final nine regular season games.

Sunday only reinforced his decline even with time off and the healthy return of Julius Thomas. His 56.5% completions was the sixth worst performance of his career in 24 playoff starts, his 211 yards passing was his fourth worst performance, and his 75.5 passer rating was only two points higher than his terrible Super Bowl performance from a year ago. All of this coming against an Indianapolis defense that is ‘average’ at best.

History suggests things are not going to get better for Manning. Only three quarterbacks in NFL history have started 10 or more games while playing at the age of 39, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Of those three players – Warren Moon, Brett Favre, and Doug Flutie – only Moon threw for more touchdowns than interceptions, and none of those teams won 10 or more games.

Then there is the case of the offseason reshuffling the Broncos will have to figure out. Manning’s $19 million salary becomes guaranteed on March 9 if the Broncos don’t cut him (if Manning retires then all of it goes off the books). Wes Welker, Will Montgomery, Terrance Knighton are some of the players who may be finding new homes as the Broncos try to find a way to retain star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas.

Re-signing those two players alone plus leaving money available for the draft may be enough to wipe out the $25(ish) million in cap space the Broncos currently posses. It should also be noted Von Miller is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2015 and will likely be looking for a contract on the scale of Justin Houston and J.J. Watt.

Even if the Broncos are able to retain their free agents and fix some of their roster issues, it doesn’t change the fact Manning will be 39-years-old and coming off a string of games in which he looked – well – old.

Then there is the rumor that John Fox may be done in Denver.

Certainly Manning could find a special doctor in Germany to fix some of his physical ailments and come back with idea of going all-out for one final season in 2015. That’s definitely possible. But it’s looking more and more like the end of the Manning Era in Denver is coming soon rather than later, which means this offseason for the Chiefs just got that much more important for them.