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The Broncos moved on from Peyton Manning months ago

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When Broncos general manager John Elway opted to hire Gary Kubiak as his new head coach instead of promoting Adam Gase, he sent a message that Manning's time in Denver was coming to a close.

The beginning of the end for Peyton Manning in Denver didn't come when he threw his fourth interception against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. His fate was foretold when the Broncos chose not to retain offensive coordinator Adam Gase during the offseason.

Gase clicked with Manning over the previous three years and earned his endorsement for any coaching jobs he hoped to pursue. The Broncos interviewed Gase last January after they dismissed John Fox, but ultimately hired Gary Kubiak. Fox and Gase both signed on with the Chicago Bears, who will take on the Broncos this week.

Promoting Gase to head coach would've been a signal that the Broncos were fully invested in Manning for this season. From 2012-2014, the Broncos finished second, first and fourth in points scored with Gase and Manning working together. Manning spoke highly of Gase in his acceptance speech for the Bart Starr Award over the winter.

"Adam Gase and I probably spent as much time together as any Bronco employee these last three years and sorry that changes are part of it," Manning said. "I guess you become used to it, but you don’t become numb to it, there is an emotional attachment to guys that become friends."

Of course, the Manning who's taken the field this season is a far cry from the Manning who Gase was coaching. The 39-year-old Manning has thrown a league-leading 17 interceptions and is battling a plethora of injuries. Most notably, a partial torn plantar fascia in his left foot that will keep him sidelined on Sunday when the Broncos visit Chicago. Manning is reportedly dealing with a rib cage injury, as well.

But on top of his obvious physical limitations, Manning hasn't meshed with Kubiak's offense this season. Manning prefers to sit in the shotgun and spread defenses out, whereas Kubiak has insisted on keeping him under center and developing a more balanced attack. In September, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora quoted one NFL evaluator who said, "It's obvious [Manning] isn't really comfortable unless he's doing his thing in the shotgun. Kubiak is going to have to meet him in the middle more."

Given the erosion of Manning's arm strength, he would probably struggle regardless of which offensive system he's currently working under. But his apparent uneasiness with some elements of Kubiak's scheme may have only exacerbated the problem.

Though Kubiak said Monday that Manning will be the Broncos' starting quarterback for as long as he's healthy, that might not be the case if backup Brock Osweiler plays well against Chicago. ESPN's Mike Sando reported Wednesday it's "no lock" Manning will get his job back.

Osweiler's contract is up at the end of this season, so it makes sense if the Broncos want some time to evaluate whether he's capable of being their quarterback of the future. But the truth is, this transition has probably been in place for several months, dating back to the day general manager John Elway opted to hire Kubiak at the expense of promoting Gase.


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