What Are the Denver Broncos' Options If Peyton Manning Fails to Remain Healthy?
Peyton Manning is recovering well so far after missing the 2011 season with neck injuries. As Jim Corbett of USA Today notes, Manning looks good on intermediate throws and expects to be healthy enough to play Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Peyton Manning is unable to stay healthy though, where do the Broncos go from there? Do they rely on backup quarterbacks Adam Weber, Caleb Hanie and rookie Brock Osweiler? Should the Broncos go after another quarterback like Colt McCoy?
In the following slides, we'll take a look at some options for the Denver Broncos if Peyton Manning is unable to remain healthy.
Option 1: Caleb Hanie
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After beginning his career in Chicago, Caleb Hanie signed with the Broncos in March and is slated to be No. 2 behind Peyton Manning.
In Chicago, Hanie was Jay Cutler's backup. After Cutler went down with an injury, the Bears' playoff hopes went down, too. With Hanie in as QB, the Bears finished the season 0-4. In those games, he completed 51 of 102 passes for 613 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. His career numbers aren't much better, as Hanie has played in 10 games (four starts), completing 59 of 116 passes with three touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Those numbers are well below average for a backup quarterback.
If Manning isn't able to stay healthy, Hanie probably isn't the best option. Although he was signed to be No. 2, his numbers show he isn't capable of carrying a team if the starting QB is injured. This signing proves Elway is confident in Manning's recovery process, but we should move on to Option 2, just in case.
Option 2: Adam Weber
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Adam Weber is starting his second season with the Denver Broncos, but he hasn't seen much action on the field. After signing with the Broncos last July, Weber made his debut in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. He threw one pass for 86 yards. Although Weber has very little experience, he is able to play with his favorite college receiver and former roommate, Eric Decker.
Looking back to his collegiate statistics, Weber was the fifth quarterback to end his career with 10,000 yards in the Big Ten Conference. He's also Minnesota's leader in career passing yards (10,917) and career touchdown passes (72).
After being re-signed following Brady Quinn's contract expiration, Weber has a second chance to make an impression on the QB depth chart. Looking at collegiate statistics doesn't help very much in the NFL, but with the presence of Decker, Weber would feel comfortable as backup quarterback.
Giving Weber a chance at No. 2 on the depth chart would be a risk, but he deserves a chance. Although Hanie was signed to be the backup, Weber could put up numbers similar to his college days, especially with Decker on the field.
Adam Weber is definitely at the top of my list for backup QB if Manning fails to remain healthy.
Option 3: Brock Osweiler
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Brock Osweiler was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. As a rookie, Osweiler is unlikely to see much field action, especially as Peyton Manning's backup, but he is still an option. In fact, Chris Corbellini from FOX Sports said Osweiler had the strongest throw in Day 1 of minicamp. Yes, even better than Peyton Manning.
John Elway signed Osweiler to learn under Manning and to be the quarterback after Manning retires. At 21, Osweiler has plenty of time to learn under the veteran and still have a full, vibrant career. And although Elway doesn't expect Osweiler to play for years, it's possible he could play if Manning is out and the backup quarterback in unavailable. If this slim chance were to occur, Osweiler is very light on his feet and converts his basketball experience onto the football field when moving laterally.
If Elway thinks he has potential, I think he has potential, but definitely not as a No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback. After some grooming under Manning, Osweiler should be more comfortable as an NFL quarterback, but not this year.
Option 4: Colt McCoy
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Although McCoy is still a young quarterback, he has a considerable amount of experience. He started 13 games for the Browns in 2011, finishing with 2,733 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also had a spectacular college career at the University of Texas, where he won 13 of the top 15 major college player awards his senior year, was the 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up and 2008 AP Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He also set records for most career touchdowns, most career wins, most career passing yards and also became a dual-threat quarterback.
Could McCoy be a good fit as backup for Manning? If he remains unsigned at the beginning of the season, McCoy would be a safe bet. He has NFL experience and growing potential. Although he may not have been as great of a fit as Cleveland was hoping, McCoy could be a great addition as No. 2 in Denver.
Weber Is Best Option at No. 2
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If Peyton Manning is unable to remain healthy, Adam Weber is the best option as No. 2 QB.
Some of you may think I'm crazy, but I'm a believer in team chemistry and truly believe having Eric Decker as a receiver will translate college memories into great NFL stats. Weber took reps as the No. 2 quarterback in minicamp and is said to be competing for the backup job in training camp.
Although Weber doesn't have much NFL experience, he knows the Denver Broncos' offense and playbook better than newcomers Hanie and Osweiler. Of course, there would be a learning curve seeing as Weber has very little field experience compared to Manning, but he will be a great asset for the Broncos.
Making the jump from practice squad to taking snaps as the No. 2 QB in minicamp is a big step. Taking over if Manning can't stay healthy seems likely for Weber and would be a great start to his NFL career.