We could debate for weeks if Elway's decision to cut Matt Prater rather than welcome him back with open arms was the right decision. But that won't change the fact that Prater is gone and Brandon McManus is the Broncos kicker now.
I for one think it was a good move. Risky? Yes. Do you know what else is risky? Giving your kicker who has intentionally violated NFL rules more than once a bunch of money and hoping he doesn't get suspended again the week before the playoffs.
I think Matt Prater has done wonderful things for the Broncos and I thank him for all that success as a Broncos fan. I absolutely wish him well with the Detroit Lions this year. But I agree with the decision to go with McManus now. And McManus is certainly aware he's entered a high pressure situation:
McManus before the Cardinals game:
"As a specialist position, no matter the preseason or the regular season, I think the kicks are the same, just because we don't have backups in the locker room with us. There are a lot of good kickers sitting on the street that could come in any day."
By making a change at kicker now the Broncos not only save some money (which they will need to pay some very deserving Broncos players next season), but McManus now has the whole season to get more game experience and establish chemistry with Britton Colquitt and Aaron Brewster. Before it starts to snow. Before a loss means the end to the Broncos season.
Let's move on now and take a look at McManus' first game under the microscope.
Some things in McManus' performance in the Cardinals game were rock solid. He's still booming it on kickoffs and looks like he will consistently be able to keep the ball away from any kickoff returner threat. PATs weren't an issue. What's nice about being a kicker for a high powered offense like the Broncos is that you get the chance to do a lot of PATs which gives you more chances to gel with your holder and long snapper.
McManus was 2 for 3 in field goals. The first FG from 44 yards (his longest attempt in a game) was beautiful. (Elway is brilliant!) His second attempt from 53 yards was a miss, going wide left. (OMG Elway is an idiot!) While it was a miss it was actually pretty close and he clearly has the leg strength to make these long field goals. He just needs to improve his accuracy.
The third FG attempt from 41 yards was a success but was also very, very lucky as the ball bounced off the left upright on its way through. That kick was clearly hooking left just like his second failed FG attempt, but luckily there are no bonus style points for field goals. While this third kick made me a bit nervous that McManus wasn't able to fully turn the page on his missed field goal, I think it's way too early to make any sweeping statements about how he will react in high pressure situations.
McManus told the Denver Post after the game about the kicks he hooked:
"My plant foot got a little deeper than you want. But overall I was happy with my performance. To me if I bank ‘em off the upright I could care less. As long as it goes in."
In the end you can compare everything McManus does this year to what Matt Prater MAY have done in his place. But we'll never know if Prater's hypothetical performance with the Broncos this season would be more like his amazing 2013 season or his concerning 2014 preseason performance.
I think McManus will settle in just fine with the Broncos. If he starts missing field goals on a regular basis of course that's going to be a problem, but he could have done a lot worse. A LOT.
Here's to McManus showing everyone that Elway once again is a magician in the front office. And while we're at it, here's to hoping we don't have many field goals at all this season because we're too busy getting touchdowns.