No QB has a worse grade right now than Peyton Manning
Ryan Mallett, Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston – all these names make sense to be found at the bottom of the PFF quarterback rankings, but the name of the player tying Mallett for the lowest-graded quarterback in the NFL through the first two games is one that doesn’t: Peyton Manning.
Through two games Manning has a -7.4 grade, the same negative mark as Mallett and lower than any other quarterback in the league. He has completed just 58.8 percent of his passes (he is a career 65.4 percent passer), thrown for just 5.1 yards per attempt and has a passer rating of just 74.2 (his career rate is 97.3).
So what exactly has happened to one of the greatest passers in NFL history? His arm strength right now is horrendous, but that is nothing new. If you fire up any game since his comeback from injury you’ll find lame-duck passes a plenty and arm strength that would make Kellen Moore feel warm and fuzzy.
Last season, Manning’s downturn in form was blamed on an injury late in the year that hampered him, but the PFF grades saw a notable dip before that injury was ever a factor. Having led the league in PFF grade the previous two seasons, Manning was just 6th in the QB rankings after the first half of the season – the half he was healthy – putting up spectacular numbers but not quite matching them with his play. Over the second half of the season he was the 17th-graded passer, two places below the Titans’ Zach Mettenberger. His passer rating had dropped more than 30 points, and while he was still completing a high percentage of his passes, he was making far more mistakes, too.
Much of this was dismissed as the effects of the injury, but those issues have continued this season, even if the cause may be different. A theoretically healthy Manning is now in a new offense that does not play to his strengths, and seems to have left him uncomfortable and unsure of himself.
While before he was one of the best players in the league at dealing with pressure and making use of his checkdown receivers, he has already been sacked seven times in 2015 (having been taken down 28 times in 2014 and an average of just 19.5 the previous two seasons in Denver). Manning has looked unable to operate Gary Kubiak’s scheme with the same efficiency and familiarity he could operate the previous one. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that Manning has run more or less the same offense for much of his career. Suddenly asking him to learn a new scheme 18 years into his career is a big ask.
Maybe there is hope if Manning is allowed to run the offense he is more familiar with. The second half of the Chiefs game seemed a far more Manning-influenced offense than a Kubiak one, and Manning seemed at least to be more comfortable within it – though there was statistically almost no difference between the two.
On the other hand, maybe Manning has simply reached the tipping point that all players reach when Father Time stands up and delivers the knockout blow they cannot recover from.