The last time he stepped off a football field, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was wrapping up a 33-touchdown, 17-interception, 4,700-yard season in Indianapolis. The yardage was Manning’s career high, and only once before in his 13-year career had he thrown more touchdown passes.
Multiple pro scouts told NFL Network’s Albert Breer, however, that despite the lofty numbers, Manning was showing signs of decline. He was 34 then, and is now 36.
“The falloff was significant on film,” one scout from an AFC rival team told Breer. “He showed stiffness and lost athletic traits. What made him so special was never his athletic ability or movement skills, but you could see it with his arm strength, too.”
The scout was specifically critical of Manning’s diminished velocity.
“His rotation was fine, his accuracy was fine,” said the scout. “But as far as the ball getting from Point A to Point B, and how much time he was giving defensive backs to drive on the football, there was enough there for concern.”
Observed another executive for a team that pursued Manning offseason, “Seeing some of the footage of him throwing, there was depreciation in velocity and zip.” The club exec does think Manning will be “fine,” and expects his passing velocity and arm power to “keep getting better” while recovering from neck surgeries.
Our guess is that Manning will immediately resume his highly productive ways in Denver, and keep it up through the 2013 season or so. As Florio has noted, though, only the first year of Manning’s contract is guaranteed.
The Broncos can get out of the deal easily after that.