Last season, by most accounts, Peyton Manning had a bad season. I'm simply here to make two points:
1. Peyton Manning's 2010 season was not that bad.
2. Peyton Manning's 2010 season was not entirely his fault.
450 of 679, 66.3%, 4700 yards, 33 TD's, 17 INT's.
Just analyzing them on their own, we can come up with a few things. First, he threw a LOT of passes. The single-season record is 691, set by Drew Bledsoe in 1994.
Second, he completed a LOT of passes. Bledsoe only completed 400 passes in 1994, for a completion percentage of around 59%. Manning set the all-time single season completion record, with a decent 66.3%.
Third, he threw for a LOT of yards. 4700 yards is good for 11th highest all-time for a single season. It is also Manning's personal best.
Now, onto the most widely criticized part: 17 interceptions is not that good. Manning has only had 3 seasons where he threw for more than 17 interceptions. However, Manning averages 15.2 interceptions a season. His 17 interceptions are not far off.
Interestingly, his interception rate of 2.5% is his sixth best rate, actually better than his career rating of 2.7%. It is also better than his 2009 rate of 2.8%, the year he last won MVP, I remind you.
Finally, on the subject of interceptions, Manning threw 11 interceptions in 3 games, all of which were losses. Outside of those three games, he threw 6 interceptions in 13 games.
Call it whatever you want, a slump, a rough patch, whatever- the fact remains that for the rest of the season, Manning threw interceptions at a VERY low rate. Now those three games are important and deserve equal consideration, but people are putting a little too much weight on them.
Let's take a look at Manning's stats for those three games:
105 of 148, 71.4%, 1046 yards, 8 TD's, 11 INT's. INT rate 7.4%, TD rate 5.4%
That averages out to:
35 of 49, 71.4% 349 yards, 3 TD's, 4 INT's
If you take the remaining 13 games, here are his stats:
345 of 531, 65.0%, 3654 yards, 25 TD's, 6 INT's. INT rate 1.1%, TD rate: 4.7%
Which averages out to:
27 of 41, 65.0% 281 yards, 2 TD's, less than 0.5 INT's.
Now, as a whole, Manning's 2010 season wasn't that great by his own standards. I would definitely put it in the lower half of his seasons.
I think it's important to look at the circumstances surrounding the season to really understand his performance.
Let's take a look at the list of Colts offensive skill position players (wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs) who missed actual game time during the 2010 season:
That's a long list. In fact, aside from Reggie Wayne, that is every player who started a game for the Colts at an offensive skill position all year.
However, I'm sure all of you are saying: Except Reggie Wayne? That's a BIG except! I agree with you. Wayne is incredible talented and a great receiver. That is why he was almost constantly double-covered throughout the season.
In addition, the #2 receiver for the Colts throughout most of the season was Pierre Garcon. Sounds like a pretty good 1-2 punch, and it normally was, except for this: Wayne and Garcon combined to drop 21 passes this year. That's more than any pair of starting receivers in the entire league. Yes, that includes T.Ocho, who combined for 19.
2. Running Game
Only four teams were worse at running the ball than the Colts in 2010. Here they are:
Cincinnati Bengals, 4-12, 3.6 rushing average
St. Louis Rams, 7-9, 3.7 rushing average
Seattle Seahawks, 7-9, 3.7 rushing average
Miami Dolphins, 7-9, 3.7 rushing average.
Indianapolis Colts, 10-6, 3.8 rushing average.
321 of 527, 60.9%, 3204 yards, 17 TD's, 17 INT's. Interception rate 3.2%, TD rate: 3.2%
450 of 679, 66.3%, 4700 yards, 33 TD's, 17 INT's. Interception rate 2.5%, TD rate: 4.9%
I think these stats speak for themselves. While not incredible, Manning was far more impressive than all the other QB's with inefficient running games. And don't even get me started on QB's whose teams actually ran for less yards (Cardinals, Redskins, and Seahawks):
Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb, and Matt Hasselbeck's stats averaged:
237 for 414, 57.2%, 2994 yards 11 td's, 14 INT's. Interception rate 3.4%, TD rate: 2.6%
450 of 679, 66.3%, 4700 yards, 33 td's, 17 INT's. Interception rate 2.5%, TD rate: 4.9%
Given his situation, Manning performed incredibly.
3. Offensive line
Now, this is perhaps the most subjective of all the categories. Some people have claimed the Colts offensive line wasn't that bad this season. That, simply, is not true.
Manning had less time to throw, was constantly harried, and had no real pocket all season long. In the Chargers game (where Manning threw four interceptions) the announcers examined the tape and revealed that the ball was leaving Manning's hand less than two seconds after it was snapped. Philip Rivers had much more time in the same game.
The Colts had far too many journeymen starters on the offensive line last year, but with the addition of Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana, Manning should see his numbers bounce back. Ultimately, the fact that the Colts drafted two offensive linemen with their first two picks should tell you all you need to know.
4. Special Teams/Defense
I'm not here to argue that a bad defense and poor special teams play lost the Colts games. I'm including this to show how the other units on the field can affect Manning's production.
I know that people will cry foul on this matter, but it needs to be addressed: outside of Adam Vinatieri, the Colts' special teams units are some of the worst in football. The defense wasn't that bad, but in terms of Manning's production, there is one stat we need to look at.
The Colts return unit is horrible. An average drive for the Colts offense started at the 27.51 yard line. Only two offenses started with worse field positioning than the Colts.
It's easy to see why as well: the Colts averaged 6.9 yards per punt return, good for 28th in the league. For reference, the much-maligned San Diego Chargers averaged 10.5 yards per return.
It doesn't get any better for kickoffs, as the Colts averaged a measly 19.6 yards per return, good for 29th in the NFL.
Finally, the defense was 28th in the NFL in creating turnovers.
As to how this affects Manning's stats, it means he has more ground to cover, less red-zone opportunities, less short-field opportunities, and more passes to throw than other top QB's.
In terms of wins, this is a stat to chew on. From 2001-2009, the average winning percentage of teams with "below average starting position" was .372%. The Colts winning percentage this year? .625.
Talk about a case of overreaction: if anything has been written about Peyton Manning this offseason, it is that he is too old and on the decline. Quite frankly, Manning performed admirably under horrible conditions.
The reports of Peyton Manning's demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Colts QB may have had a down season, but if his team can stay healthy and the offensive line can improve, this team still has a chance to return to 2009 form, and there is no reason to believe Manning and the Colts will miss the playoffs this year.