Peyton's Decline

I'll go on record as somebody who wants us to pursue Manning, on the condition that the doctors and our scouts back up his physical soundness. However, I also always like to dive into the numbers to see if they tell us anything not always obvious when watching on Sunday. With Peyton, maybe the numbers are indeed telling us something. Peyton's freakishly great peak year came in 2004, when he went 49 TDs, 10 INTs, 4500+ yards and a ridiculous 121 QB rating. He was 28 years old then. In the years that followed, his QB rating went like this:

121, 104, 101, 98, 95, 100, 92

In other words, he declined in 5 of the last 6 years. Throw out the freak 2004 results, and he still declined steadily from 104 down to 92, an average of about 3 pts per year. If that trend continued through the end of 2012, we would have seen a QB rating of 89 in 2011 and 86 in the upcoming 2012.

Not a fan of QB ratings? How about this stat -- Yards per attempt. There are numerous sources I've read that say this is the the one QB statistic with the greatest statistical correlation to winning games. Checking this stat's trend lines, we see the following:

9.2, 8,3, 7.9, 7.8, 7.2, 7.9, 6.9

Again, except for the 2009 season, Peyton's numbers have steadily declined for the last 6 years. The decline amounts to approximately 0.3 yards per attempt annually. If we projected similar declines for 2011 and 2012, we would get 6.6 and 6.3 Yds per attempt in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Like his projected QB ratings, those are pedestrian numbers, very similar to our own Mark Sanchez.

Peyton's INTs have also increased, as follows:

10, 10, 9, 14, 12, 16, 17.

Those last 2 years were the highest number of INTs since 2002, and came in years with only 10 and 16 sacks, respectively, suggesting they were probably not a result of increased pressure on the QB.

His TDs have held up consistently;

49, 28, 31, 31, 27, 33, 33.

Here we see no discernible trend, but even here, if we dig deeper, we see a disturbing decline in TDs per attempt, as Peyton's attempts over those years rose as follows:

497, 453, 557, 515, 555, 571, 679.

So, we can see his attempts rose by 226 from 2005 to 2010, or almost exactly 50% more attempts, yet his TDs remained more or less constant varying between 27 and 33 each year.

Again, that last year, 679 attempts and 33 TDs, is actually nearly identical to Sanchez's 543 attempts and 26 TDs for 2011 in terms of TDs per attempt.

Now, I don't want to be accused of equating Manning to Sanchez. Even a diminished Manning is much better than anything Sanchez has ever shown. Still, the declining numbers are what they are. They show a long term 6 year trend of steadily declining performance, a trend that started years before Peyton got hurt. His injuries may have contributed to the decline, but they were hardly the sole cause.

The numbers pretty clearly show Peyton has been in a long term decline, and if that decline continues he will soon be a very pedestrian QB, at least as far as the numbers are concerned. His intangibles are extraordinary, his past greatness unquestioned, but his numbers have to give supporters of bringing him in (like me) at least some doubt. Maybe, just maybe, Peyton, even at 100% healthy, is no longer truly great.

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