It’s weird to think of Peyton Manning as a backup quarterback trying to win his way back onto the field, but that’s the situation right now with the Denver Broncos, not pulling Brock Osweiler from the starting job just because of one loss.
While the Broncos were winning (three in a row), no one had any argument about Osweiler starting. The moment one loss happens, in which he didn’t look very good while the offensive line did a very poor job of protecting him, the whispers and noises about changing quarterbacks immediately happens. Manning is just now getting back to practice so there’s no real threat on Osweiler, but the seeds have been planted and the media pressure in case the Broncos lose in Pittsburgh as well, which means their division title will be in jeopardy (Chiefs are scorching), will be immense.
It’s hard to tell if Manning was benched because of injury or ability. Both reasons make sense. That, and maybe knowing that the Broncos offensive line can’t offer Manning the protection he needs at his age. Osweiler is big and young, and can take hits. He also doesn’t try to force his will on the offense, something Manning, thanks to everything he’s done in Denver and in the NFL over 17 years, seems to have earned the credit to do.
But in this sport, it’s all about what can you do for me now. And Manning, despite playing in just nine games, is still looking like the safe pick to lead the league in interceptions with 17, and looked bad through wins and losses with his inability to make deep throws or operate through the shotgun. Osweiler, in four starts, has already taken more sacks than Manning, but the rest of his numbers, including completion percentage, TD-INT and passer rating, has done a much better job.
His sacks are something to worry about, taken out in 9.1% of the dropbacks. As big and strong as he is, Osweiler will also have his limits, and an injury to him will be truly disastrous to the Broncos, who probably don’t want to start thinking about who to start before the playoffs begin. Right now, Osweiler is still the one who gives the Broncos the best shot of winning. Once Manning returns to 100% health (or simply feels like it’s time to return), it’ll be more of a week-to-week evaluation, although time is running out.