Peyton Manning: Mediocre Broncos Debut Means Nothing to NFL Legend

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 09:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos reacts as he walks off of the field after throwing an interception against the Chicago Bears during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 9, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Peyton Manning's debut with the Denver Broncos in Thursday's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears was lackluster, but it doesn't matter.

Manning is a legend, and his performance Thursday evening did nothing to change that notion. He went 4-of-7 for 44 yards, threw one interception, and his quarterback rating was a paltry 36.3.

Statistics in a preseason opener shouldn't inspire judgment of any player, but that especially goes for Manning. Just step back and think of his circumstances.

Manning spent 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts, but only 13 years actually playing the game. He missed the entire 2011 season after his fourth major neck surgery, and that started an offseason debate like we've never seen.

The Colts wound up drafting Manning's replacement, Andrew Luck, with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, and the Broncos signed Manning and his iconic arm to a lucrative contract.

Starting a new chapter in a storied career isn't easy, even for a player with Manning's tremendous abilities. He has had to adjust to a new offense, new receivers and fresh surroundings. It's easy to expect someone of Manning's stature to adjust immediately, but that's just not realistic.

In his 14 years with the Colts, Manning built an impenetrable rapport with his receivers. They knew where he was throwing the ball, and he knew where to put it. The offense was built around him from the moment they drafted him in 1998, and it was that way until last season.

Manning doesn't have that chemistry with Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas or Matt Willis. He has a feel for Jacob Tamme's game from their days in Indy together, but that's not enough to expect major production.

If this was an NFL rookie or someone who has been with their franchise for awhile, it would be one thing. But he's not. Manning has won four MVP trophies, and he shouldn't be judged just yet.

It's easy to jump to conclusions, but don't. Manning may create cause for concern down the road, but it's far too early to make any assessments whatsoever.

The only plausible fear surrounding Manning in Thursday night's contest was his health. Other than that, there's no reason to give his statistics a second thought.