The Denver Broncos just traded for Mark Sanchez. Pretty funny, right? Just a month ago, the Broncos won the Super Bowl with a Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm. He retired, their backup left and now they're probably going to start Sanchez, famous for jamming his head into a person's butt so hard that he dropped a football.
I agree, it's funny. But Denver isn't necessarily doomed with Sanchez at the helm.
First of all, the Broncos are good enough to be successful with a bad quarterback. They just were last year. Although Peyton Manning is possibly the greatest quarterback ever to play the sport, he dropped off rather sharply this past season. If you don't believe me, listen to the Broncos -- they ran a post on their own website saying the team had "sub-optimal, replacement-level" quarterback play last year.
Statistically, Manning was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last year -- worse even than his own backup, Brock Osweiler. His Pro Football Focus comprehensive grade put him 29th out of 36 eligible quarterbacks. He couldn't throw the ball deep, which hampered Denver's offense.
Saying Manning was good last year just because Denver was the best team in the NFL is a fallacy. Even in the Super Bowl itself, Manning went 12-of-23 with just 141 yards, no touchdowns and a pick. Thanks to a truly dominant defense, the Broncos managed to win it all in spite of their quarterback failings.
While Manning deteriorated, Sanchez has shown signs of improvement. Yes, Sanchez was a dismal quarterback for the team that drafted him. In four years with the New York Jets, he completed just 55.1 percent of his passes with more interceptions -- 69 -- than touchdowns -- 68.
But in his two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, he's done a lot better. His completion percentage has drastically increased, up to 64.3 percent. He's averaging 7.6 yards per throw, up over a yard from his rate of 6.5 with the Jets. And he's thrown more touchdowns than interceptions! All of these are better than Manning's 2015, when he completed under 60 percent of his passes on under 7 yards per attempt with nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
A team with an ineffective quarterback can be successful. Last year's Super Bowl champion Broncos were proof of that. So were the Jets teams that went to back-to-back AFC Championships with Sanchez under center. And he's gotten better since then.
Is Mark Sanchez a better quarterback than Peyton Manning overall? Of course not. Manning is a legend, while Sanchez has been a punchline for most of his career. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Sanchez has never been in the top half of quarterbacks in the league.
But is Sanchez a better quarterback last year than Peyton Manning was? He didn't play much, but when he did, he certainly was. He'll probably give the Broncos a better chance than if Manning had decided to return for a painful farewell tour. If Denver's defense stays strong, it can still win the Super Bowl, even with the Butt Fumble Man in charge.
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Incredible Numbers: Peyton Manning's long list of NFL records