But as we are seeing this year, Manning was still a valuable asset even at his advanced age. After the Broncos lost Osweiler, he and Elway should have come to an agreement for him to finish out the final year of his contract.
The situation would’ve been a win-win.
The Denver Broncos would not be saddled with a long-term deal to a mediocre quarterback, and they would still have a guy this year who could get them to the Super Bowl while Paxton Lynch waits and develops.
Say what you want about Manning’s numbers last year. They were awful. He could not carry any team.
But what he could still do was call plays at the line of scrimmage, move the ball, and make sure he was efficient enough to allow his defense to win the game.
Trevor Siemian is clearly incapable of doing that. After losing 16-3 to the New England Patriots at home, it’s clear the Broncos could have used Manning for one more year.
Remember the AFC Championship game last year? Manning threw two early touchdown passes and stayed conservative the rest of the game to let Denver win on defense.
The week before, he led a game-winning drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And in the Super Bowl, he led two field goal drives to open the first and third quarters. Things like that were all the Denver Broncos needed on offense.
Siemian couldn’t do any of it.
As a result, the defense is beginning to suffer because they can’t do it all. And that’s why you had the blow-up in the locker room Sunday after their loss.
But Manning isn’t the only Tennessee football player they miss.
Denver also could have used Malik Jackson back. It’s understandable why Elway did not want to give Jackson that big contract.
But the defense’s ability to make plays hinged on the push Jackson got up front to free up Von Miller.
That no longer exists.
Jackson is one of the few bright spots of the Jacksonville Jaguars this year, consistently making big plays while Blake Bortles loses the game for him.
Of course, the Broncos also let Britton Colquitt go. But that made sense. The skill of a kicker or punter is not as relevant at Mile High since the ball travels far anyway.
Manning and Jackson are different stories, though.
If Manning was still there moving the ball and Jackson was still there getting a push up front, the Denver Broncos would once again be the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
As it is, they lost both players, and that is likely why they will miss the playoffs.