Throughout much of Sunday’s playoff game against the Steelers, the Broncos offense was sluggish. The team flirting with another one-and-done playoff performance needed a spark. Coach Gary Kubiak decided not to give them one by making a quarterback change.
The decision to stand pat with Peyton Manning as the season was on the line was every bit as gutsy as every decision Kubiak has made all year regarding the handling of the quarterback situation — from when to make a change to when not to make a change to when to declare a starter on Monday to when to wait until Wednesday to when to act like decisions just made today had been made weeks earlier.
Two weeks ago, the team needed a spark and Kubiak shocked most by bringing Manning out of mothballs, replacing Brock Osweiler and nailing down the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Given the criticism Kubiak would have faced if he hadn’t made a change and the Broncos hadn’t snapped out of it, the decision this week arguably required even more resolve from Kubiak than all past decisions combined.
Osweiler, only four weeks ago, shredded the Steelers for 27 points in the first half of a game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who had been focused on Manning’s brand of Kubiak’s offense, may not have been ready for a Rocky-style switch. With the tension in the stadium rising to a level that even the state’s most popular agricultural product couldn’t have cured, Kubiak surely was tempted to make a change.
But he held firm with Peyton, the decision paid off, and now the Broncos are back in the AFC title game, with the Patriots coming to town.
Next week, if the Patriots confound Peyton, Kubiak again will be tempted to switch to the quarterback who beat New England in November. Whatever Kubiak decides, his track record this year suggests he’ll make the right decision.