For now and the immediate future, the Denver Broncos offense is in the hands of quarterback Brock Osweiler. Now the question becomes whether Osweiler is a legitimate long-term solution. His 250-yard performance during Sunday’s win against the Bears was a promising step in the right direction, but there’s obviously a level of uneasiness that comes from the fact that when you watch Osweiler you realize holy crap, that’s not Peyton Manning back there.
Here’s what the Broncos have been dealing with and what the future might hold:
Oct. 4: Denver beats the Minnesota Vikings 23-20, but perhaps in spite of Manning, who went 17-of-27 for 213 yards, a touchdown and two picks. Over the next three games—against Oakland, Cleveland and Green Bay—Manning throws more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (1).
Nov. 15:Manning has a miserable day in a 29-13 loss to the Chiefs and is benched in favor of Osweiler. Ironically enough, Manning became the all-time leader in career passing yards in that game, but went a mere 5-of-2o for 35 yards and four picks.
Nov. 16: Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports Manning has a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot and “has had difficulty walking.”
Nov. 22: Osweiler gets his first start against the Chicago Bears and throws for 250 yards in a 17-15 win. It’s not a lights-out performance—not that you could realistically expect one, even against the Bears—but it’s a promising step in the right direction. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reports Manning is “doing all he can to overcome a variety of injuries, including a partially torn plantar fascia and a rib injury that, while not involving any broken bones, remains very painful.” Florio adds “Manning firmly believes he’ll play again this year.”
Nov. 23: Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak announces Osweiler will start Sunday against the Patriots.
Nov. 24: The Broncos release a statement that Manning will miss “at least a couple of games.”
“Peyton and I had a good visit today, and we’ve got a plan in place for his recovery,” Kubiak said in a statement. “His foot will be in a cast for at least a week, but he’ll be able to be part of meetings and do some workouts with the rest of the team. We expect him to be unavailable for at least a couple of games. We’ll proceed from there and will continue to support him as he does everything he can to get healthy.”
Schefter then reports the Broncos are looking to work out former Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder:
If Manning does, in fact, miss the next two games, that would mean he’d be available for only four more regular-season games—and that’s in a best-case scenario. Even though the final stretch features three divisional games plus a game against the Bengals, it might behoove the Broncos to shut Manning down for the rest of the regular season. At 8-2, Denver is probably in no real danger of losing the AFC West division and would be a favorite for a wild card spot even if it did.
Besides, Manning isn’t getting any younger and has been ravaged by injuries over the past few years. His arm strength is practically non-existent. He wants to play in 2016, but where he’ll do it is less than certain. Even if the organization has no intention of making Osweiler the long-term solution, it’s in a situation where it can at least give him a puncher’s chance.