PFF’s Monson On Manning And What It Really Means

Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson examines Peyton Manning’s play against the Vikings and discusses what was the real issue: Decision making.

I said as much in my Gut Reaction earlier this week, but Monson takes time to illustrate where Peyton made good decisions as well. Specific examples of those I’ll point out:

* His breakdown of the downfield pass to C.J. Anderson. While it’s true Peyton in his prime gets a touchdown, the important thing is it’s still a positive gain for the offense, which is what you want on every play.

* His breakdown of the check down pass to Owen Daniels, which was the correct decision and the real issue was Daniels dropping a pass that would have resulted in a first down.

I know it’s easy for people to either be too defensive or too critical of Peyton and what he can do, but here are the things we need to keep in mind regarding any position we take.

1. Most of Peyton’s interceptions came because of poor decisions. There have been a couple in which a defender made a good play (tipped ball, jumping the route) but most have been Peyton making a bad decision.

2. Peyton’s decline may affect a few plays, but the bad decisions wouldn’t be compensated if Peyton was in his prime. In other words, most of Peyton’s interceptions would have been interceptions if done by any other quarterback, regardless of who it is. A poor decision is a poor decision and the cliches surrounding QBs don’t compensate for them like some think they do.

3. Calling Peyton a “game manager” shouldn’t be taken as an insult. We think of “game manager” as an average quarterback, but averages QBs are better described as “game managers who have serious flaws that leave plays on the table.” In Peyton’s case, his arm strength, which was never great to begin with, has declined, but that only affects what Peyton can do on longer throws. That’s not the same as, for example, Alex Smith, who is too quick to check down when he may have open receivers downfield. Remember that effective game management is knowing when to attack downfield, when to go underneath, when to check down, etc., and those who do one thing too much are not effectively managing the game.

4. Sticking with that point, “game manager” quarterbacks can still be effective in an offense. Those “game managers” who succeed are what we might call “good quarterbacks capable of great games.” That is how I would describe Peyton at this stage of his career, but would not describe Smith at this point (Smith is strictly average). If you want examples other than those two, quality “game managers” would be Andy Dalton (let’s give him credit; he has improved) and Carson Palmer, while those who are not quality “game managers” would be Josh McCown and Ryan Mallett.

5. Monson hints that Peyton should be able to cut those bad decisions down, just as he did in 2011. I think it’s possible, too. Just like the offensive line was going to be a work in progress, so was Peyton adapting to what he can and can’t do effectively. The main issue is cutting down mistakes (in Peyton’s case, bad decisions).

There are legitimate criticisms to make about how PFF evaluates players, but one need not be so defensive about Peyton that you don’t recognize when PFF is correct. At the same time, just because PFF rates Peyton low overall this season isn’t a sign that the Broncos should have cut ties with him before the season and get it over with.

It’s really a matter of Peyton cutting down mistakes. That area is fixable; it just requires Peyton to recognize it. And I believe he will.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.