Other than garbage time or late-season games when the Colts had nothing to play for, Peyton Manning has never been pulled for another quarterback in his NFL career. But if the Broncos need a Hail Mary this season, he will be.
Broncos backup Brock Osweiler confirmed on Monday night that he was warming up late in the game against the Falcons because if the Broncos had gotten the ball back with just enough time to throw one deep pass into the end zone, Osweiler — not Manning — would have thrown the pass.
“I was going in for the Hail Mary,” Osweiler told Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “I’m not sure what the dividing line was as far as me going in, but I was getting ready to go in.”
That could mean Manning’s arm strength isn’t all the way back from where it was prior to last year’s multiple neck surgeries, although it might just be a reflection that Osweiler can throw a ball farther than Manning ever could. In 2000 Patriots coach Bill Belichick pulled Drew Bledsoe and left Tom Brady on the bench to give the stronger-armed backup Michael Bishop a shot at a Hail Mary, so pulling a starting quarterback in that situation wouldn’t be unprecedented.
As it turned out, the Falcons ran out the clock and preserved a 27-21 win, and the Broncos didn’t get the chance to throw a Hail Mary. But if they had, Manning would have watched it from the sideline.