Jason Whitlock raised eyebrows two weeks ago when he wrote the following about Peyton Manning:
Manning can't throw the ball accurately or with zip more than 20 yards. Manning is toast.
It was a lethargic takeaway from Peyton's three-interception debacle against the Falcons, and while Ted thinks the picks were a matter of poor decision-making rather than an issue of arm strength, Whitlock was certainly entitled to his opinion there.
Granted, the numbers through four weeks (small sample alert) don't exactly back up Whitlock's assertion that Peyton is inaccurate beyond 20 yards. According to PFF, Denver's QB ranks twelfth in the league in terms of accuracy on throws beyond twenty yards. At 46.7 percent, he's just a tick behind Tom Brady in that category, while placing slightly ahead of his brother (44.4%), Jay Cutler (43.5%), Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger (42.9% each), and far better than the strong-armed Joe Flacco (39.4%) and Matthew Stafford (38.5%).
We were going to let this one slide, because although we disagree with Whitlock's take, it's not a totally outrageous one, especially if it belongs to someone potentially unaware that Manning's passes have always wobbled. And besides, we weren't entirely convinced that Manning's arm was fine until a week later, either.
But yesterday, Whitlock decided to double down on his attack of Peyton's arm strength, despite the evidence of the past two weeks' game tapes:
Peyton Manning deserves praise for figuring out how to be an effective QB with diminished arm strength. His performance against the Raiders was quite impressive.
But it’s fool’s gold...you’re not going to win a Super Bowl with your offense playing inside a phone booth. Won’t happen.
Manning can not consistently stretch the field. Manning’s numbers looked spectacular on Sunday — 338 yards, three TDs and 30-of-38 passing. The overwhelming majority of those passes were short crossing routes.
This is again some incredibly lazy analysis; it's one thing to note that Peyton didn't go long very much on Sunday (as we did on Monday), and another to postulate that the cause is a lack of arm strength.
As noted in today's Lard, Bill Barnwell studied all of Manning's throws from the Houston and Oakland games; his take on Sunday's performance was much more nuanced than Whitlock's, and explained why Peyton didn't throw deep very much:
You could count the number of times Manning threw more than 10 yards downfield in the air against the Raiders on Sunday on one hand, and it wasn't because he wasn't able to; it was because the Raiders played super-conservative behind their pass rush and gave Manning a free checkdown on virtually every play.
Peyton Manning isn't the same guy he used to be, but the idea that he can't throw the ball is absurd. Expect the new Peyton Manning to be more inconsistent than the old model going forward, but he's certainly good enough to keep the Broncos competitive in 2012.
But enough about arm strength; let's all agree that Peyton isn't part of the NFL's QB Cannon Crew, and call it a day.
Except we can't leave it there - because, in yesterday's column, Whitlock made one of the most outlandish claims we've ever seen:
Keep in mind, in Manning’s one Super Bowl-winning season, Tony Dungy’s defense carried the Colts.
We've long maintained that the 2006 Colts, who allowed 22.5 points per game, sported the worst defensive unit of any Super Bowl-winning team. That may have changed in February, when the Giants won the title after allowing 25 points per game.*
* It should be noted, the G-Men held the high-scoring Falcons, Packers, and Patriots - who averaged 30.7 points between them - to a combined 13 points per game in the playoffs.
Just how bad was that 2006 Colts defense, anyway? Relative to other playoff teams in history (not just SB winners), incredibly bad.
A few nuggets, using PFR's Team Game Finder back to 1940:
- Only 22 playoff teams have ever allowed more than the 360 points the 2006 Colts gave up. None of them won as many games as the 12-win Colts, whose expected win-loss record was 9.6-6.4. Last year's Giants were the only team of those 22 to win the Super Bowl, and incidentally, the 2010 Colts - Peyton's last team - were also among the 22.
- The 2006 Colts allowed more rushing yards (2,768 of them) than any playoff team in history. The next-closest championship winner on the list is the 1951 Rams, who won the NFL title after allowing 2,206 rushing yards.
- They also gave up the highest per-attempt rushing average (5.33 yards) of any playoff team, ever.
- Only five playoff teams have allowed more than the 20 rushing touchdowns given up by the 2006 Colts. None of them, or the other teams that gave up 20 rushing scores, won the Super Bowl.
- This was the same defense that allowed Mike Bell 136 yards on 15 carries.
- They also gave up 375 rushing yards in a single game to the Jaguars; the 1975 Steelers are the only other SB winner to have given up more than 300 rushing yards in a game (310).
Those are some remarkable numbers; remarkably bad, that is. A team with a defense like that has no business winning Super Bowls, but of course, having a great QB is always the panacea.
And Peyton was Peyton in 2006, leading the league in TD passes and QB rating, while also posting the lowest interception rate of his career.
Whitlock is likely to triple down on his criticism of Manning later on, especially if the QB struggles in any way on Sunday. He can say whatever he wants about Peyton's arm strength, really.
But we will not abide his attempt to rewrite history and claim that the defense of the 2006 Colts carried that team to a championship.