I imagine playing quarterback in the NFL isn't exactly like a riding a bike. I haven't ridden a bicycle in probably close to three years but I feel pretty confident that if I were running away from a bear and the only mode of transportation available to me were my own two feet and a trusty old banana seat Schwinn I could get back into the hang of riding no problem. Who knows, I can probably still pop a wheelie and ride with one hand. I don't think I've lost too much of my bicycle riding skill even though it has been dormant for awhile.
Playing quarterback doesn't seem, at least to me, to be quite as simple as walking right back into it. I'm sure for Peyton Manning this process of new team, new environment, daily preparation and generally re-learning what his body is capable of plays a huge factor in how comfortable he feels playing a position that he has previously mastered over his entire career. We all know, because we've all seen it, that Peyton Manning is a generation quarterback. There hasn't been one like him and there quite possibly won't be another like him for a long time, if ever. I thought this when he was a Colt and I definitely want to believe it now that he is a Bronco.
I believe that Peyton Manning is one of a kind not because he is the strongest, biggest, fastest or even most accurate... because he isn't. When Ron Jaworski talks about Manning's arm strength not quite being there he's missing the thing that makes Manning great. There are plenty of quarterbacks that have played during Manning's era that have seen far less success who are better in some or all of these areas.
It's Manning's football smarts that leave him in an echelon all by himself. I don't believe there is anyone who can read defenses and orchestrate his offense to take advantage of those defenses like Peyton Manning. In this way, what Peyton Manning does in those 45 seconds as the play clock runs down is of far greater value than his rocket laser arm.
His smarts are Manning's greatest asset and the Broncos seem to be missing their greatest asset on this football team. An asset they are prepared to pay nearly 100 million dollars for but sure don't seem ready to truly exploit. Manning's physical self may be in recovery but I can't believe his mind isn't just as sharp as it has always been. Yet the Broncos are finding ways around their strengths to play football games and, not quite shockingly, it isn't working.
Why is that?
The Broncos Coaching Staff Is Slowing The Process
I want to just say that I think the job that Mike McCoy and John Fox did last year was absolutely stunning. What the 2011 Denver Broncos accomplished under the circumstances they found themselves in is a testament to their football savvy and their determination to win. Mike McCoy has earned my respect as an offensive coordinator for that.
However, this is not the 2011 Denver Broncos anymore and the fact that we are still running a similar conservative style offense designed to establish the run before establishing the pass is beginning to drive me crazy. I understand that any new offense, especially one so dependent on the quarterback requires time to install but simply abandoning that offense until necessity requires it (read, down by double digits in the second half) doesn't speed that process along.
There seems to be a lot of time spent defending the Broncos offense right now. I don't feel the need to defend this offense at all because it isn't the offense I believe the Broncos want to run. It is definitely not the offense Peyton Manning is used to running and I want the offense that Peyton Manning is used to running here in Denver. I expect to look back on these three weeks and recognize that it was only a shadow of the final product.
Yet, Mike McCoy and John Fox seem hell bent on running their slower paced pound the ball with the run style of play that found them success last year. In the words of Mike Ditka... STOP IT!
We brought in an offensive specialist. Just like you don't pay a tax specialist millions of dollars to balance your checkbook or Bono to cover Carly Rae Jepsen, you don't pay Peyton Manning millions of dollars to play someone else's offense. Not Kyle Orton's, not Tim Tebow's, not Jay Cutler's and not Mike McCoy's.
Tax accountants help keep you out of jail. Bono makes music that transcends generations. Peyton Manning runs an offense that only he can run and has confused defenses for over a decade.
What do we know about the real Manning offense we expect in Denver:
- It is predicated on a sense of urgency that forces defenses into mismatches because they cannot substitute and constantly wears them down. What we have now is a slower paced offense that allows for substitutions and cripples Manning's ability to catch the defense off-guard.
- It doesn't require the run to open up the pass. A first down pass can be a very effective method of moving the ball forward. Instead of passing on first downs the Broncos have returned to their heavy first down run game, which is troubling for two reasons. The first is that there is nothing wrong leaning heavily on McGahee because he is absolutely one the Broncos most dynamic playmakers, perhaps only second to Manning but running him in predictable ways takes that away from him. The second is that it allows defenses an extra down to get Manning into a third and long situation.
- The runningback needs to be able to catch the ball in the flat just as much as he needs to be able to run between the tackles. All of our runningbacks can do this with skill, yet how often do you see the runningback lay a block, then peel away to catch a ball in the flat?
- Manning has to be allowed to make his own play decisions at the line of scrimmage and then has to have the flexibility to change them again and again. This effective when the huddle is abandoned and Manning can use most of that time calling and changing plays at the line of scrimmage and quick the snap the ball when he wants to.
- This no huddle style hurry up offense benefits from the thin Denver air. One of the most disturbing trends to me has been how long it has taken the Broncos to go to the no-huddle at home. I understand away, when silent counts are required, it can be very difficult but at home when crowd noise shouldn't be a factor running the no-huddle should be a staple of this offense and currently it is not.
What I am seeing on the football field are very few of these aspects. Instead the Broncos are playing a slow-paced game that relies on the predictable to set up something not quite so predictable later on. This can't be the future of the Manning era Broncos, could it?
Not a chance but the Broncos coaching staff isn't doing it too many favors right now.
Peyton Manning Has To Play His Game
I understand that running the no-huddle isn't as easy as simply running the no-huddle. It requires chemistry with your offensive line and with each of your skill position players and chemistry isn't something that just happens in an offseason or a couple of games. Let's be honest too, sometimes chemistry simply isn't possible between players given any amount of time. That's a scary reality for some teams to face.
I don't believe that chemistry is out of reach for this team but even great chemistry cannot overcome a Manning playing an offense he was never brought here to play. I don't want to see Peyton play Foxball or whatever we are calling this McCoy offense that really found its stride with a run-option quarterback in Tim Tebow that added some legitimate wrinkles to make it work. I want to see Peyton Manning start working on what he came here to do and that was bring his offense to Denver.
It's time to start taking away some of the playcalling from our offensive coordinator and it's time for our conservative head coach to recognize that John Elway has provided him with one of the greatest offensive minds in the history of the game and one of the beautiful things about it is that mind doesn't stand on the sideline.
This general does his work from the trenches so why are we letting some lesser mind dictate everything from the sidelines? Let Peyton play his game. That is when, my friends, we will see the offense we've been expecting for the last three weeks and we will all realize that, oh yes, this was why we were so excited about Manning in the first place.
At some point the Broncos simply have to step outside their comfort zone and let Peyton be Manning.