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Friend of the program Bryan Frye is back for another guest post. As regular readers know, Bryan operates his own fantastic site, http://www.thegridfe.com. You can view all of Bryan’s guest posts here, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.

Despite a fourth trip to the Super Bowl, 2015 has been the worst year of Peyton Manning’s storied career. Statistically speaking, he has never been worse, even as a 22 year old rookie starting all sixteen games for a 3-13 team.1 Relative to league average, Manning produced the worst completion rate, yards per attempt, touchdown rate, interception rate, passer rating, and adjusted net yards per attempt of his career.2 Manning ranked last among the 36 qualifying passers in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. And his normally stellar sack rate also took a hit, with the second worst output of his career (behind only 2001).3

If we look to advanced metrics to try to uncover some hidden gem about his performance that may be overlooked by standard box score stats, we don’t have much luck. ESPN’s QBR (which only goes back to 2006, mind you) takes into account far more than any other popular metric, and it normally adores Manning. From 2006-2014 (excluding 2011, obviously), Manning ranked 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in Total QBR.4 This year, he ranked 30th with a subpar 45.0 rating.

Football Outsiders’ DVOA and DYAR don’t do Manning any favors either. Not only was 2015 by far the worst season of his career by both metrics, it was also the only below average season of his career. From 1998-2014, his average season was 32.47% better than average by passing DVOA. His worst season by the metric was a 7.70% effort as a doe-eyed rookie. Over that same period, he averaged 1,664 passing DYAR per season, and his average season was worth 2.89 DYAR per pass.5 This year, Manning was 26.00% below average, as measured by DVOA, and he lost 328 DYAR from his career total. His -0.95 DYAR per play was easily worse than his previous low of 1.18 in his inaugural season.

If the stats aren’t enough, the infamous “eye test” also backs up the belief that this was Manning’s worst-ever season. He struggled to jive with Gary Kubiak’s offense, especially when asked to run bootlegs and throw on the run. His limited power to make pre-snap adjustments, in concert with his decreased mobility, resulted in him taking more abuse in the pocket than he ever had before.6 He threw errant passes and made uncharacteristically poor decisions, causing him to lead the league in interceptions until week 17, despite missing six games. He struggled with nagging injuries, had the worst game of his entire career, and was benched for an inexperienced and marginally talented fourth-year backup.

All that said, let’s not start dancing on the bones of a toppled god just yet. Sure, Manning’s performance this season was objectively terrible, especially by his lofty standards. However, when we look at his performances outside of his week 10 meltdown, we see an up and down season that resembled that of your standard over-the-hill gunslinger.7

The table below displays Manning’s weekly output in the twelve games he played this season. Read it thus: in week 1, Manning faced the Baltimore Ravens. In 44 plays, he averaged 4.64 Total Adjusted Yards per Play. In 2015, the league-average TAY/P was 8.53, so this means he was 3.9 TAY/P below league average. Even worse, he was 4.87 TAY/P below the average of other quarterbacks facing the Ravens in 2015 (labeled in the table below as TAY/P OE, over TAY/P Over Expectation). To provide a second opinion, I also threw in a column for DYAR per play. Against Baltimore, he was 2.36 DYAR/P worse than replacement.8

1Peyton ManningBAL444.64-3.9-4.87-2.36
2Peyton ManningKC487.52-1.010.61-0.1
3Peyton ManningDET439.671.150.310.88
4Peyton ManningMIN297.59-0.94-0.63-1.07
5Peyton ManningOAK377.11-1.42-1.4-1.49
6Peyton ManningCLE476.4-2.13-4.06-2.55
8Peyton ManningGNB2914.836.317.075.34
9Peyton ManningIND378.730.2-0.090
10Peyton ManningKC22-7.73-16.27-15.11-11.18
17Peyton ManningSD1010.51.981.441.1
19Peyton ManningPIT397.64-0.89-0.530.41
20Peyton ManningNE376.59-1.93-1.470

In week one, Manning faced a Ravens defense that didn’t have the year fans are accustomed to seeing in the Charm City. It was the first of four games this season in which he threw zero touchdowns and at least one interception. His stats were below league average, and significantly lower than the typical performance allowed by the Baltimore defense.

In week two, the Sheriff threw three touchdowns but countered that with an interception and low completion rate and yards per attempt. He led five inept drives before Kubiak seemingly relented and let him run a more familiar offense. He finished the game with a below average TAY/P. However, given the strength of the Chiefs’ defense against opposing quarterbacks, Manning fared slightly above expectation.

Week three saw Manning’s highest passer rating of the season (101.7). It was the only game this season his passer rating exceeded 100, which is certainly strange to see from a quarterback with six seasons of at least a 101.0 passer rating. He completed a high percentage of his passes and had a decent YPA, although he did manage another interception. By TAY/P, he was well above league average but only slightly better than you’d expect a QB to fare against the Lions.

In week 4, against a stout Vikings defense, Manning upped the ante with two picks (the first of three consecutive multi-interception games). He did add a touchdown, but it was the 72 yard scoring run from Ronnie Hillman that proved to be the game’s most significant play. Not only did it provide points, but it also kept Manning from having to drive the length of the field.9 On the day, Manning was below average, but not alarmingly so.

Against Oakland in week 5, Manning was below both league average and Oakland opponent average. His most egregious play was the redzone interception to fellow 1998 draftee Charles Woodson, but the rest of his play wasn’t very good either. After a career of bailing out his defense, Manning’s defense responded in kind. Chris Harris Jr.’s long interception return touchdown helped the QB pick up the W.

In week 6, Manning threw three interceptions and struggled to move the ball against an inferior Cleveland defense. He was below league average in completion rate, touchdown rate, interception rate, first down rate, and yards per attempt. About the only thing he did well was avoid sacks. He was well below league average in TAY/P, and he was comically bad relative to what other QBs did to the Browns.

After a much needed bye week, Manning looked like he was back on track against the Packers. Traditional stats didn’t love this performance, as zero-touchdown-one-interception games tend to be frowned upon. However, the aging field general averaged an incredible 11.72 net yards per dropback and picked up first downs on over half his plays. Given how well the Green Bay defense played against other quarterbacks,10 Manning’s performance stands out as the eighth highest TAY/P over expectation among all QB games with 20 or more plays.11 While some Broncos fans were hopeful that this was a sign of a turnaround, the game turned out to be just an outlier in an otherwise anemic year for the offense.

Returning to his old stomping grounds, Manning helped the Broncos build a 17 point deficit halfway into the second quarter. With the help of his defense and special teams, he looked to add to his record 43 comebacks and 54 game winning drives.12 It was not meant to be, as Manning threw an interception on first down of what would be Denver’s final drive of the game. His 8.73 TAY/P was better than league average but was below what you’d expect for a passer facing the Colts.

The week ten monstrosity that brought about the rise of Brock Osweiler was inarguably the worst outing of Manning’s career. In 22 dropbacks, the legendary passer gained 26 net yards, took two sacks, threw four picks, fumbled once, and picked up just one first down. His 25% completion rate was well below his previous worst of 45.16%. His 35 yards were the fewest he has gained in any game outside of two meaningless week 17 starts (in which he gained 5 and 6 yards on two attempts each). His four interceptions tied for the second worst number of his career, but his 20% interception rate was easily the worst of his career. The man who holds the record for games with a perfect passer rating (4) suffered the only game of his career with a 0 rating. It was also the only game in Manning’s career with negative adjusted yards per pass attempt (-7.25 AY/A). His -7.73 TAY/P was by far the worst score of the year among qualifying passers.13 Even after accounting for the Chiefs’ strong defense, Manning was still an incredible 15.11 TAY/P below expectation, easily the worst of the season.14

News broke that Manning played that game with torn plantar fascia in his left foot, and he was relegated to the bench until he was determined to be healthy enough to play again. That turned out to be in relief of Osweiler in the third quarter of a week 17 win to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. He quickly led a scoring drive and melted the icy hearts of a nation. The Broncos outscored the Chargers 20-7 from the point Manning entered the game. Far from some of his masterful comebacks in the past, this version of Manning looked different. Instead of carrying the offense, he took what the defense allowed and leaned on a revitalize ground game. His efficiency numbers were well above average, primarily on account of reducing risk and eliminating turnovers.15

Manning didn’t play particularly well in Denver’s divisional round victory over the Steelers, but he did manage to increase his turnover-free streak to two games. With a dominant defense facing an opponent without its top receiver and top two running backs, Manning’s newfound game manager approach was enough. By TAY/P over expectation, he was slightly below average, but Football Outsiders did rate him above average in DYAR per play.16

The AFC Championship Game was advertised as yet another contest between Manning and his career-long foil, Tom Brady. In reality, the game showcased Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware against a hapless New England offensive line. Statistically, Manning’s performance rated below average compared to the NFL as a whole and compared to typical Patriots opponents. He produced 157 yards on 37 plays (145 passing on 35 dropbacks; 12 rushing on 2 carries), for a paltry 4.24 yards per play. He led the offense to a touchdown on their first offensive drive, and he cashed in with another touchdown thanks to great field position set up by a Miller interception. Aside from that, his biggest contributions to victory were avoiding costly turnovers and checking to runs at the appropriate time.

The graphic below provides a visual for the above table. In it, you can see that most of the negative value from Manning’s season came from one game (which happened to be the worst game of his career). When you remove that one extreme outlier, his season-long stats increase dramatically. His marginal TAY/P jumps from -1.43 to -0.61, and his TAY/P over expectation jumps from -1.48 to -0.73. This is still a below average season, but it’s the kind of below average season a defense like Denver’s can use to win a title.17 And, thanks to the second-best fumble rate (just one fumble all year) and essentially a league-average first down rate, Manning fares a little better in TAY/P, relative to average, than he does in ANY/A.

manning 2015 graph

It is clear Peyton Manning can no longer be the player who won five MVP awards and deserved another one in 2006. The thing is, Wade Phillips and the gang don’t need MVP Manning to succeed. They just need a game manager who can avoid inexplicable turnovers (the kind Manning has made when forced to carry the offense and trying to do too much). Manning has never, at any level, taken a back seat on the offense. Now, in the twilight of his career, his best chance of hoisting another Lombardi Trophy is to follow the path of Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, and early-career Tom Brady by relying more heavily on the rest of his team and allowing himself not to play the hero.

  1. A team that also went 3-13 the prior year and earned the right to draft him first overall. []
  2. Using Pro Football Reference’s Advanced Passing Index Scores as my measurement of choice. []
  3. Of course, being Peyton Manning, he was still better than average; his Sack%+ score was 110 in the regular season. []
  4. Among all quarterbacks with at least 224 action plays. His second place rank in 2013 becomes a first place rank if you finagle the threshold to exclude Josh McCown’s 269 play, 85.2 QBR bout. []
  5. Using the average of his averages rather than a weighted average of all DYAR on all pass plays. The point here is to show his average season, not his average performance over the course of his career. []
  6. I covered this in more detail after his poor week 2 performance. You don’t have to call me a prophet, but I won’t stop you. []
  7. If you look at the average of those games, you could argue that it resembles a run-of-the-mill game manager. However, looking at the variance of good and bad games that went into making up that average tells you a different story. []
  8. Note that Manning’s DYAR data came from Football Outsiders’ Quick Reads from each week. Thus, the D in DYAR changed from each week as opponent adjustments became increasingly complex. I’m fine with it not being 100% accurate for the purposes I am using it. []
  9. Obviously we can’t know what would have followed if Hillman’s run would have been a boring 4 yard carry. Perhaps they would have marched down the field for a touchdown anyway, or perhaps they would have punted, eventually lost the game, earned the number two seed in the AFC, and lost the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro. Who knows? I sure don’t. []
  10. 7.76 TAY/P allowed, or 0.77 better than average []
  11. In case you’re interested, the top ten: Ben Roethlisberger v San Francisco 10.01; Andy Dalton v Kansas City 9.96; Kirk Cousins v Buffalo 8.73; Ryan Tannehill v Houston 8.47; Aaron Rodgers v Kansas City 7.64; Drew Brees v Jacksonville 7.44; Russell Wilson v Pittsburgh 7.17; Peyton Manning v Green Bay 7.07; Derek Carr v New York Jets 6.84; Tom Brady v Pittsburgh 6.78. []
  12. He now has 45 and 56, respectively. However, in week 9 he had not yet gained a 4QC or GWD against the Chargers or Steelers. []
  13. Landry Jones had a -11.75 game against Seattle, but he only had 4 plays. The next worst qualifying game was Brian Hoyer’s disaster against the Chiefs (-0.76 on 37 plays). []
  14. Fact that may interest only me: The two worst performances this season both came against the Chiefs. By marginal total adjusted yards, Manning’s -358 and Hoyer’s -344 easily outpace Nick Foles’s third-worst -279 against Green Bay. []
  15. The San Diego game was Manning’s first game all season without an interception. He has not thrown an interception in either playoff game. []
  16. Note that TAY/P over expectation measures Manning against the average of other quarterbacks who faced his opponent, whereas DYAR uses a much more granular approach to measure him against a theoretical replacement level quarterback. []
  17. If we want to even things out by also removing his best game, his marginal TAY/P becomes -1.16, and his TAY/P over expectation becomes -1.34. []
  • eag97a

    This is an interesting take on his season. But a quick check on pfr and it shows his his 2015 ANY/A+ is 74 which is almost 2 STD from TB’s lowest ANY/A+ of 102 (season 2001 and 2013). The kindest thing you can say is he is playing at or slightly above replacement level and with his experience avoiding risks and mistakes to help out his team. He has had an incredible career and a SB win might be a fitting capstone to it. We’ll see how he plays against Carolina in a few more days.

    • This sort of gets to the point I am trying to make (aside from a Tom Brady comparison that has no relevance to Peyton’s 2015 performance). His ANY/A of 4.52 gave him a ANY/A+ of 74 for the whole season, but his disaster in KC has a huge effect on that number. If you remove that one game, his ANY/A comes to 5.30, which still isn’t very good. That’s a ANY/A+ score of about 87, which is somewhere between bench level (90-91ish) and true replacement level (84-85ish).

      Obviously, removing the worst game from anyone’s season is going to make his stats look better, but it affects 2015 Manning’s season far more than anyone else’s because his worst game was by far the worst game anyone had this year (I won’t make the argument that this represents 10% of his regular season games, because it represents about 6.3% of his regular season dropbacks – or slightly more than 1/16).

      By TAY/P, the difference is even more stark. In the regular season only, his marginal TAY/P goes from -1.51 to -0.49 by removing that one game. That brings his total season value (marginal TAY) from -522 to -157. Again, still not good, but far from the disaster we see when we look at his season stats cumulatively.

      I’m not arguing now, nor did I argue anywhere in the article, that he played well this season. Outside of three games, he didn’t. I am, however, pointing out the dramatic effect one terrible game can have on how we view an entire season. If he can accept this new game manager role, I think Denver has a real shot in the Super Bowl. If he starts thinking he can do the things he did in 2004-06, I think he’ll make more mistakes than the Broncos defense can account for.

      • And I think the most relevant point is that we’re not just removing his worst game, but a game where he was injured the whole game. That day was such an outlier that it’s pretty clear he shouldn’t have been on the field. And if we are projecting how well he will play in the Super Bowl I do think it makes sense to discount that game entirely.

        • WR

          The thing about Manning being injured in that KC game that bothers me is, it seems pretty clear that he wanted to play in that game, so that he could pass Favre for the career yardage record. Would I be wrong to see that as another example of Manning putting individual achievements ahead of the good of his team?

          • James

            “as another example” – what other examples are there?

            • Richie

              I assume one example is how Manning supposedly never lets the backup QB take reps with the first team. But I would love to know how unusual this is.

              It’s funny how the target changes on this sort of thing. Jack Youngblood and Ronnie Lott (for example) were hailed as heroes for playing with injuries. But if Manning does it, he’s selfish.

              • WR

                What about when Manning lobbied for the Colts to select Reggie Wayne in the draft, when they had glaring needs on defense? Or when Manning publicly criticized his o-line after the playoff loss to Pittsburgh in 2006? It’s clear to me that Manning is an individualist playing a team sport. It’s the reason why he’s worked so hard to make so much salary, and supplemented it with his ubiquitous commercials. It’s his right to do that, but I have always felt that if Manning spent a little less time filming commercials over the years, and a bit more time connecting with his teammates, he might already have a couple more rings.

                Let me ask you something. Have you ever seen Peyton celebrate with his teammates, after a big win or TD drive? Because I honestly haven’t. Now, I don’t watch every game he plays, so maybe I missed something, but watch Manning closely after a TD. He just jogs over to the sidelines, and immediately begins conferring with the coaches. Or he sits on the bench alone, just as he did whenever they showed him on screen at the end of the afc game against New England. Even when he gets a big playoff win, he never wants to celebrate with a group of his teammates. It’s very strange to me. You can succeed in other sports like golf, tennis, and cycling if you are an individualist. But it’s hard to have sustained success in team sports operating that way. It didn’t work for Wilt Chamberlain, Barry Bonds, or Dan Marino. And it hasn’t worked for Peyton.

                This is one of the big reasons I’m disinclined to rate Manning ahead of Montana and Brady. I think the other guys have exhibited much better team leadership in big games, particularly when things have gone wrong. I’m sure many on here will disagree with me, but factors like that count for a lot over the course of a career.

      • eag97a

        I actually agree that one game can dramatically impact how we view one season. All I’m saying is that this season is really an outlier when compared to a normal PM season which unfortunately means he really has declined sharply and this probably is his last season. Seeing that Dilfer had an ANY/A+ of 90 during his SB winning season and Brad Johnson had an above average ANY/A+ during his SB winning season, if PM and the Broncos manage to win this SB it would be unprecedented and be a good addition to his long list of accomplishments. And in any case IMO ANY/A+ is a very good measure of passing ability but despite its good correlation with winning I don’t think it is a good approximation of qb ability.

        • It’s also interesting to me to note the difference in how he has played since he came back into the lineup. He seems to have made the right choice to transition from “broken gunslinger” to “steady game manager.”

          In his first 9 games versus his last 3, Manning had a higher completion rate, YPA, TD rate, sack rate, and first down rate. He also had a much higher interception rate (when trying to play like the Manning of old). Since his return, he has been pretty lame, but he has avoided interceptions. I could see Denver win this week with a safe performance from Manning. Of course, I can also see a blowout in favor of Carolina.

          • Tom

            Bryan – great post, really enjoyed it. Completely agree with what you said in the article and comments – this is the “new” Manning, and it was totally display towards the end of the Patriots game. I got the feeling that Manning was thinking to himself “Not this time…I’m not going to throw a game-ending interception in a playoff game”. I know one of the GOATS would not actually be thinking that, but I got the sense that he was being very, very careful, and had basically decided in his mind that he, alone, can’t win this game.

          • eag97a

            It might have been his choice or it could have been forced by the coaching staff seeing he couldn’t cut it anymore playing his normal high-octane offense. Regardless playing his current style has helped his team better than earlier in the year when he was TO machine. And this goes to my argument that prolific and efficient passing is just one of the ways to win football games. Granted that efficient passing is normally the best way to win games but certain in-game scenarios and specific match-ups and weather conditions will favor running/ball control and defense game plans. We will see in a few days if PM sticks to his new game manager conservative play but I suspect that try as he might to stick to the script he will be forced to take calculated risks due to the game flow. Interested in how Rivera will game plan against Manning and that offense.

      • Tom

        “If he can accept this new game manager role, I think Denver has a real shot in the Super Bowl. If he starts thinking he can do the things he did in 2004-06, I think he’ll make more mistakes than the Broncos defense can account for.”

        Well said; for me, that sums up the situation facing the Broncos this Sunday. If Carolina has one of those Blitzkrieg-type first half onslaughts, Denver will not be able to climb out of it, they don’t have the firepower. Even one turnover might be too many I’m thinking.

        • Johhny Ohrl

          Should be something like 52-7 CAR. 1986 SB re-loaded 🙂 The CAR-OL will do it´s work. And PM stands no chance against CARs standout D.
          And even if they (CAR-OL) only bring their B-Game, and DEN defense goes head hunting again without being penalized, Cam will just run away then, while dropping a bomb now and then. So like 20 passes, 250 yards… Thus still ending in a blow-out…
          But in case some absurd things happen, and PM will be handed this one, in another tight SB “thriller”, lots of alc will help me out to drown my anger, and my safety bet will be paid out on roughly 1/3 odds the next day.
          I´d rather lose my bet, the game will be called fair, and the game being over before we have to endure another Beyonce cry-out.

  • Johhny Ohrl

    Quotes: “Obviously, removing the worst game from anyone’s season is going to make
    his stats look better, but it affects 2015 Manning’s season far more
    than anyone”.
    “And I think the most relevant point is that we’re not just removing his
    worst game, but a game where he was injured the whole game. That day was
    such an outlier that it’s pretty clear he shouldn’t have been on the

    Oh Jesus… the love goes beyond… 🙂
    What if we remove BigMac´s games he played injured, his worst games when the sun didn´t shine, the bad weather games in general, and then some more? I guess a sure HOFer with a 10.0 Y/PP.
    Same goes with Warner. We just remove some games we don´t like so he´s up there at 130% above league average in any stat. And while we are at it, we remove complete seasons after 2001 until he got the starting job in ARZ. A true universe HOFer then…
    Jokes aside: PM played that bad game, the rest was average at best (speaking of this season). He “earned” 224 Mio $ in his career, yet comes up with just a single SB victory (where he needed the same amount of D help, he did need this season to get the chance to play in the SB) in felt 15 chances with playoffs HFA, bye-weeks, and awesome (offensive) talent around him.
    Fact is: He is the most over-rated QB in the history. Number twisting can´t remove that fact. And now that he became a true “butter-arm”, it´s not even funny anymore to watch his ducks. It´s getting embarassing.

    • Richie

      Who is BigMac?

      You are reading way too much into this article. The entire point is that Manning had some good games and some bad games. One REALLY bad game brought down his season-long numbers to make them look bad. This has nothing to do with comparing his HOF credentials, or rating his entire career.

      • Johhny Ohrl

        I had/have the feeling the super hero needed to be excused once more. Thus this article… But you may be right, I may see ghosts.
        Still, I think “hell breaks loose” if DEN indeed wins the SB behind PM´s kinda 17/27-156-MVP performance 😉
        Not only will the mainstream press hail him above all once and for all, but stats pages will feel vindicated too, lots of articles will follow like “told you (non-believers) so, PM was just unlucky on small sample size, etc… he is the GOAT, and so on”. In my, “see-ghosts-mind”, this article is just a warm-up in case.
        It´s not life changing, so all is good. It will be just annoying to see Forehead be hailed for the next two decades when one like me just wanna see or read about some Football…

        The QB you asked is Jim McMahon.

        • Richie

          So, you are prepared to dismiss Manning’s performance in the Super Bowl if he plays well?

          • Johhny Ohrl

            Depends on the definition of well… The above stats-line isn´t well, it´s just ok enough for a 10-9 win

  • PTP

    Enjoyable article.

    I side with most on the throw out game. The author isn’t throwing the game out as an excuse, he’s throwing it out because it doesn’t help us understand who Manning is right now. It’s fairly meaningless to this weekend.

    I, unlike the media, thought Peyton looked good in the Pittsburgh game. The media sided with Ben and he racked up yardage, but what, 200YAC or thereabouts that game, with some poor tackling, broken plays? Heyward-Bay was left open on a botched coverage, and had fewer drops than Thomas.

    With 20MPH winds, Peyton looked just fine to me.

    Last week he looked fine too, imo, and only started looking not fine when Kubiak got super-conservative. Those last five drives were Kubiak-specials – predictable, run on first down, and the Pats knew what was coming. If they call a game like that this weekend, Peyton could be 2003 Peyton and they’ll have little success, in my opinion.

    Since the last six games of last season and this season Manning has looked like he has and there’s no getting around it. But I think he got control of the offense in the GB game, and after his injury has carried forth his decent play. I hope they play loose this weekend and we see a game. Carolina’s D can’t keep making all the plays for these 14-11 or 21-0 blitzkrieg leads can they?

    Anyhow, nice article. In a week where we are going to read and hear so much nonsense, it’s nice to come to a place that looks a little deeper at football.


    • Richie

      “Last week he looked fine too, imo, and only started looking not fine when Kubiak got super-conservative.”

      That third(?) down pass on Denver’s last(?) drive where Manning threw deep and the ball hit Malcolm Butler’s hands was a scary play. It was so insane when Phil Simms said “that was a safe pass by Manning”.

      • PTP

        That was a rough one. It’s not an uncommon throw for him any longer, I think, when he doesn’t have perfect footwork. I think that’s what started going wrong for him in the middle of last year. He simply can not throw go routes like he had before and I really don’t think it’s his arm; it’s fundamentals/set up etc. You even seen him miss short ones like that, like that Sanders miss in the first half.

        Disclaimer – I watch football on TV. I am not a quarterback coach. 🙂

        Father time is what it is. It’s been a few years, imo, since we’ve seen Tom Brady not underthrow a fly pattern, either. I think that’s the first thing to go with quarterbacks aging.



        • James

          In 2014 Peyton’s stats were fine (Top 10, nearly identical to Brady’s) until the very end of the season when he tore his quad against the Chargers and then he had the horrible games against the Bengals, Raiders, and Colts. He definitely struggled against the Rams and Bills defenses before then, but he wasn’t the only one to do so (see Rodgers) and he had excellent games in between.

          But that’s just stats – I do remember Barnwell saying something seemed off about Peyton starting midseason and IIRC his pass attempts and TDs per game dropped as the Broncos began relying on Anderson more. Maybe he had a minor injury he and the team were trying to play through.

  • Johhny Ohrl

    I thought that article (here) was a “love letter”. Oh my was I wrong. I need to apologize… At least this one here is statistical sound and to some extend critical/neutral, but Bill Barnwell lost all respect I had for him. His articles got worse and worse since he joined ESPN. Now he hit a new low point (I thought impossible after his love letters to Kelly). His fanboism can´t be hidden anymore. Is he a Football guy or just another worshipper? That was rhetorical…
    I don´t even know where to start with all his completely wrong assumptions in this concoction:


    There was a time writers at least pretented to be neutral. Not anymore. And I thought Barnwell (as some kind of a stats guy) was the least possible to come to wrong conclusions.
    To save the Football world from more of this crap, please Football gods, give CAR that damn 52-7 win. For the sake of Football… Fans should not be mislead by writers who feed the greed, and milk the fans who buy No 18 game shirts and all the useless things that that guy advertises, simply because they were preached into believing they buy things from god personally.

    • Richie

      Did Peyton Manning punch your mom or something?

      I read the Barnwell piece. I don’t think it’s a love letter. To me, it reads more like an obituary to a great career. He’s not really putting his opinion in there. He’s recapping how the league has changed and the amazing feats of Manning.

      Anybody can say that Manning chokes in the post-season. I don’t agree, but I understand the argument.

      But to say he isn’t one of the greatest regular season QB’s of all time is just being obtuse. (I watched Shawshank Redemption this weekend.)

      • Tom

        Since we’re talking about it, the Barnwell article was pretty good, but somewhat disappointing. Because of the title of the piece, I was hoping to read more about how Manning’s style changed the way offense’s operate, etc., but instead, Barnwell just gives us a bunch of stats showing us how much more Manning passed with the Colts in 1998…and even then, what we get isn’t that great – the average team in 1998 passed on 55.1% of snaps, and the Colts passed on 60.9%. Well, I’m expecting to read that that was far and away the most of any team, and it was because Manning did this and this, etc., and instead, that was the third most of any team that season. Well, what team passed the most? Maybe THAT guy was pretty influential? And then more anti-climactic stuff: the average team passed on 46.7% of 1st-and-10’s, Manning’s Colts passed on…49.5%. OK, 3% more, I’m thinking well, maybe that’s a lot…nope, the Colts were just 9th in the league. And then he just leaves it like that…I’m reading it thinking, well damn it Bill, how is that so impressive? Make the connection…how did that season and what he did after affect the other teams? You can’t just say, “Hey, in 1998 teams didn’t pass a lot, and Manning and the Colts passed a lot…but not the most in the league, just a lot, so yeah, he changed the way the game is played”. Seriously? Even when he discusses the shotgun stuff, there’s no connection to HOW or WHY the other teams started doing shotgun more…was it because of Manning? Or maybe other guys were doing it at the same time?

        The frustrating part of the article, is that I’m a believer! In the early 2000’s, I was basically not watching any football, didn’t really even know who Manning was, and my brother calls me and is all excited, telling me, “Tom, you HAVE to watch this guy! He’s insane! Before they snap the ball, he’s running around telling people what to do, it’s like NOTHING you’ve ever seen before! And there’s like, all these weird hand gestures! Just watch one game, Tom, and you’ll see what I mean!” After that I was hooked…

        Anyway, that’s my rant on the Barnwell article…

        • Richie

          Ha ha. Yep I had some of those same questions as I read it.

        • Johhny Ohrl

          “the Barnwell article was pretty good”…

          For that you was highly critical of his article. You brought up some things I wanted to write about later (see my reply to Richie above). Thanks for saving some of my time.
          Great post btw. 1+

          • Tom

            I’m glad you liked the post, but just so we’re clear: I think Manning is awesome, it’s Barnwell’s article that I have an issue with, and not for the same reason you do. You think he was writing a love letter, I just think he wrote something that seemed like it was going to make a convincing argument as to why Manning is one of the greats and changed (to some degree) the way the game is played (which I believe) and it didn’t.

      • Johhny Ohrl

        “But to say he isn’t one of the greatest regular season QB’s of all time is just being obtuse”
        Did I say that? Rhetorical… Actually I said he is the regular season GOAT.

        “He’s not really putting his opinion in there”
        Oh yes he is. I will debunk every argument of this “love letter” later in the day. Just to show you guys why his article is a prime example of bad “journalism”.

        • Tom

          Johnny, as I was saying above, there’s really not much in the article to begin with; in fact, isn’t really even very convincing. So what argument in there needs to be debunked? And listen, I agree with you that there are bad journalists, and people who worship Manning, etc.; you could probably find a better target than that Barnwell article.

    • Adam

      It’s nice that you’re able to be objective about this. Would be a shame if you let emotions cloud your judgment.

      • Johhny Ohrl

        Am I getting paid for being a writer, or just express my opinions in a comment section? I thought it´s clear journalists shall apply at least some basic standards like being neutral… unless the article is being mentioned as opinion. But it isn´t.
        So this article comes over as a advertisment of a buddy. Is Barnwell on Kellys and PMs payroll? Seems like…
        Whatever, this piece of… has got nothing to do with being a journalist. Good to know for me I am not the only one seeing it that way after reading some comments on the ESPN article.

        • Tom

          Man, I’m all over this thread. Anyway, if Barnwell is on Manning’s payroll, Peyton is wasting his money. I just don’t think that many people were seduced into the Cult of Manning after that reading that in 1998 the Colts offense passed on 49.5% of 1st-and-10’s while the rest of the league passed on 46.7%.

    • Tom

      “To save the Football world from more of this crap, please Football gods, give CAR that damn 52-7 win”

      I love this, it’s awesome. Johnny, if the Panthers win 52-7, I’m going to email you a picture of me setting a Papa John’s Pizza on fire.

  • Adam

    Once we remove the KC game, this looks a typical season for an old, past-his-prime QB. Reminds me of Favre in 2010.