This is going to be tough for some of you Denver Broncos fans to comprehend, mostly because you folks aren't the most rational fans in the world. Seriously. I live in AFC West country. Plus, I had season tickets and covered the San Diego Chargers for years, and the dirty little secret here is the Broncos far outweigh the Raiders fans in terms of unreasonable expectations. I won't even argue this. It's an accepted fact.
For starters, the debate about the best quarterback of this generation is done. I mean, most discerning football fans already knew this. But even the most ardent Peyton Manning fan has to now admit Tom Brady is the best quarterback of his generation. I mean, the same defense that turned Manning into Bobby Hurley against UNLV in 1990 allowed Brady to put the ball up 50 times against them and throw four touchdown passes. That defense, which looked like the Ultimate Warrior going up against the Honkey Tonk Man at Summer Slam 1998, let Brady overcome the biggest fourth-quarter deficit in Super Bowl history.
So, it's over. Don't make me fly over Middle America and drop off leaflets for those few isolated holdouts hiding in the Rocky Mountains. Because for you and me, we both know it is over.
No amount of passing records, insurance commercials or keep-away ball pranks can ever convince anybody that he is the best of his era. Not that it's a bad thing. Manning is certainly a great NFL quarterback. Easily one of the top-20 quarterbacks of all time. Plus, he was invited to the "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special." So, things aren't so bad for him. The only thing is, he's never going to be considered better than Brady.
And that's not a good thing, that's a great thing.
Manning now has the chance to end his career as a winner. He's got one more chance to erase those last two Super Bowl blowouts (yes, losing by 14-points is a blowout) and go out as a winner. That has been made much easier without that nagging ego trying to convince him that he's the best quarterback of his generation, because he's clearly not in that conversation any more.
And to be honest, I kind of like Manning's chances in 2015. I really love the hiring of Gary Kubiak. No joke. He did a great job in Houston where he never really had an elite quarterback. Matt Schaub had some nice seasons, including three 4,000-yard passing seasons. But Schaub is not at the talent level of Manning, even in the late stages of Peyton's career.
The reason why I love Kubiak is because of his zone-blocking scheme. I know, it's the kind of term football hipsters like to throw out there to sound important. But it really is. This offense will only work if you run the ball a lot. The Broncos know this. I mean, this is why Kubiak was brought in.
Look at how well the Broncos did last year when C.J. Anderson was given the chance to run the ball. Denver won. The Broncos only ran into trouble when Manning threw the ball more than 40 times. In fact, the last three times Manning had more than 40 attempts last season was against the St. Louis Football Club, the Bengals and the Colts (in the playoffs). The Broncos lost all three.
So, the key is going to be to convince Manning to be more of a game-manager next season. Not on the level of Trent Dilfer, but more as the guy who is a threat to throw the ball from time to time. Thankfully, Kubiak will have an easier time convincing Manning to do so because he's not on this foolhardy quest to prove to everybody how great he is.