Does Manning have better weapons now than he did in Indy?

September 30, 2013
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It was bound to happen. With quarterback Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos off to such a fast start this year, the question was bound to be asked.
And this morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show it was.

While interviewing ESPN football analyst Ron Jaworski, co-host Mike Golic asked why Manning has been so good this year. “The weapons are amazing,” Jaworski answered.

Ok, here it comes. You could feel it. It has been on the minds of just about everyone in Indianapolis for the last four weeks anyway, so someone might as well go ahead and ask it. Golic bit.

“Is it better than Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai?” Golic asked. “I mean he had some weapons [in Indianapolis]. Do you think this is a better group?”

“I think time will tell. On the surface right now, it looks better.” Jaworski answered. “But boy those guys you just mentioned were absolutely phenomenal. That was a lethal combination that Peyton had to work with back in Indianapolis. But as you look at it now, this group may supersede them.”

Jaworski is a former NFL quarterback and as anyone at ESPN will tell you, he looks at a ton of game tape. So I’m not about to discount his opinion. Nor am I going to let it slide without a little more scrutiny.

Saying “time will tell” may be the truest thing Jaws said. There’s no doubt that Denver’s offense is a talented one. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker are more than capable receivers.

But Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison are Hall-of-Fame caliber players. Welker certainly fits into that category for the Broncos current crop, but I’m not sure I would put the other in that class—certainly not yet.

While I’d give Manning’s current team a nod at the slot position, I’d take Wayne and Harrison over any receiver Denver has on its current roster. I think Manning’s Colts team also had an advantage at tight end.

Yes, Julius Thomas is young and full of potential. But if I can go back in time and have my choice between Julius Thomas and Dallas Clark as they are coming out of college, I take Clark. Now as Thomas, a Portland State grad with a limited football background, continues to develop, I could be proven wrong.

In terms of running backs, I think Addai, who played alongside Manning with the Colts and Knowshon Moreno, Denver’s running back this year, are close to a toss up. But Moreno isn’t nearly as good as Edgerrin James was in his prime with Indianapolis. It’s almost easy to forget that during the 2000 season James rushed for 1,709 yards. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

During that 2004 season, the Colts had three receivers—Wayne, Harrison and Brandon Stokley—with more than 1,000 receiving yards. That was the year Manning threw 49 touchdown passes, and he probably could have thrown 55 had he really wanted to. Having three receivers tally 3,400 yards and a rusher run for 1,548 yards in a single season is pretty amazing.

During the 2006 season—which culminated in a Super Bowl title—Wayne and Harrison each tallied more than 1,300 receiving yards. During that same year, Addai had nearly 1,100 rushing yards. Clark had his biggest year for the Colts (statistically speaking) in 2009 after Harrison retired. That year, Clark had 100 catches for 1,106 yards. Those are big numbers for a tight end.

It’s true that Denver currently has three receivers—Demaryius Thomas, Decker and Welker—on track to break the 1,000-yard mark. That’s impressive. Julius Thomas is on track to crack 900. Moreno is on track to rush for 952 yards.

I haven't even touched on the special relationship Manning had with all-pro center Jeff Saturday and other offensive linemen in Indy.

The one constant among all these big numbers is Manning. Anyone who even casually watches football knows that he makes everyone around him play better. The better Manning plays, no doubt, the better all his other teammates perform.

So just as intriguing as the questions being asked about his teammates—past and present—are those beginning to arise about Manning himself. Is Manning playing better than he ever did when he wore the horseshoe on the side of his helmet?

Is it possible that after so many years in the league, after four neck surgeries and all those miles on his wheels, No. 18 is still getting better? If you live anywhere other than Denver these days, that’s the scariest question of all.

Either way, in the four decades I’ve been watching football, for my money, Manning is the most entertaining football player I’ve ever seen play. Hands down.

  • Sad and frustrating, but true...
    It's sad and frustrating, but certainly appears to be true. Manning's current team in Denver is more complete on both sides of the ball than what he had here over more than a decade. (And that doesn't even include the talented Denver players who are currently suspended or injured.) I still totally agree with the Colts' decision to dump Manning for Luck, but it's crazy that Manning was here for so many years and never had a team so dominating. It's hard to watch him have something like that in just his second year with Denver. However, he's playing with a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove to Irsay and Indy. Oh well... I believe Luck will ultimately bring us many more Super Bowl appearances --and Lombardi trophies-- than Manning. I love our current team. Regular season excellence with Manning was fun, but not that satisfying come January.
  • One Name
    Polian...enough said. Take the Colts minus Manning during his reign here and you have a below average, or bad team. He must be loving actually play with a team that has a defense.
  • You have Richardson...
    Hey, you guys have Trent Richardson now, so what is the problem? Or, did you get Trent Bitchardson? Time will tell if he can get past his 3 yards and a cloud of defenders closing down on him as he jukes around looking for the hole that was there before he got to it.
  • Tony Dungy says Jaws is crazy
    Tony Dungy said this morning on the Dan Patrick radio show that Peyton's teams in Indianapolis had more offensive weaponry than does his team in Denver this year. Of course, Tony, who coached the Colts during the Peyton era could be biased.
    • Ridiculous!
      Doesn't anyone remember that the Colts started exactly as the Broncos have every season for a decade? Come on! The winningest franchise IN THE REGULAR season with a 4 TIME LEAGUE MVP and they snagged ONE Lombardi trophy. Let's see how Denver looks in the playoffs. Remember last season?
    • Mr Choke
      Do not forget this is Mr Choke. Choked last year and will exit playoffs early this year.
      • talent
        Have you seen the holes Denver's runningbacks are getting? That's one thing we NEVER had, EVER, even with Edge here. Room to run. No wonder their opponents are looking befuddled.
      • Did Bill Polian and Jim Irsay fail Manning
        The big question is why weren't the Colts able to fill the roster with guys who could open big holes for their running backs the way Denver is doing. You have to wonder if Bill Polian and Jim Irsay deserve a passing grade for their work during the Manning era. You also have to hope that Irsay will do better in his second try with a franchise QB.
      • When Manning wins a Super bowl at Denver, then the talk can start. To compare Indy under Manning and Denver is like comparing Oscar Robertson to Michael Jordan to LeBron James. Different circumstances, different variables.
      • No. Indy was anchored by multiple HOFers
        No. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and possibly Edgerrin James are potential HOFers (James unlikely but his numbers are worthy). Add in elite talent like Glenn, Saturday, Lilja, Stokley, Clark, and even Pollard, Garcon, and Faulk (even if just for a year) then you have a supporting cast that is far superior to what Manning has now. James is FAR better than Moreno/Ball. Even Addai/Rhodes could be more effective. Harrison/Wayne/Garcon/Stokley/Clark is more potent than D Thomas/Decker/Welker/J Thomas. The O-Line that Indy boasted from 04-07 was near the top in the NFL. Denver just lost their starting LT. The key to Denver's success is similar to Indy's... Manning. Manning is the glue for both teams and the style that Manning plays you really don't lose that at his age. A pocket QB with an off-the-charts Football IQ. So to answer your question... No, the talent in Denver isn't quite as good as it was in Indy for most of those seasons. Denver is extremely potent because Manning is at the top of his game and their system fits his game. The Colts w/ Luck are running a modified version of it with great success as well. Kudos to Manning & the Broncos as well as to the Colts & Luck because it appears it was one of those very rare Win/Wins for both teams.
      • IndyLosers
        can't wait to see the broncos stomp the colts this regular season and watch colts fans whine and cry about losing peyton. I'm a fan of neither team, but the constant moaning and groaning of colts fans is sickening. How lucky to go from HOF qb to what looks like could be another in Luck. who really cares if Manning has better weapons now, which he obviously does. Manning let a crap team to a superbowl win. And now all indy fans want to do is dump on Irsay, Manning, Denver, Polian, etc. Denver is MUCH better than indy ever was. whether they finish it off this year is yet to see. but there is no question at this rate Peyton's record season will have a DEN instead of a IND behind his name
      • Manning didn't choke.
        Manning set the Broncos up in a winning position and Chump Bailey choked to let the Ravens win in the last seconds of the game with a huge catch. You should watch games you comment on.
        • choke
          A poor throw INT in OT of a playoff game is well, yeah, basically a choke.

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