In the off-season of 2000 New England Patriots fortunes changed forever.
All pre-season they’d been saying Peyton Manning couldn’t throw to the right. The question had been posed – how would the 36-year-old quarterback handle it if a defensive scheme shuts down the left hand side of the field?
Even Manning wasn’t sure of the answer.
Throughout pre-season he’d admitted he just didn’t know how his body would handle the recovery from surgery to fuse bones in his neck together.
Yet last Sunday in his final pre-season hit out against the San Francisco 49ers, Manning found the answer to the question everyone was asking.
It started seven minutes into the first quarter with the Broncos on three and six.
Manning throws to Brandon Stokley who’s run a curl route on the right hand side.
His 8-yard pass is a bit off forcing Stokley to bail him out. It was a shaky start.
Two plays later it’s third down again and, as if he has a point to prove, Manning goes right again.
Denver’s superstar quarterback is hit as he throws, but a perfectly waited 38-yard pass falls between two San Francisco defenders and into the lap of running back Lance Ball.
It was a statement – if defences try to clog up his stronger left side, Manning will have a field day on the right.
The 49ers game was Manning’s best performance of the pre-season and one that gave us the biggest insight into whether the former NFL MVP will be a success in Denver.
The answer? Yes, he will.
One of the best football minds of his generation, Manning will be able to work through his physical limitations to pick apart opposition defences.
“Peyton is like a coach on the field,” explained Broncos head coach John Fox.
“He paints a great picture. He’s going to direct traffic as well as maybe anybody in the league.”
The real issue is how much a flawed Broncos side will limit his ability.
A defence that flattered itself last season, a lack of depth at running back and receivers who will look like pro-bowl players mostly because of the passes coming their way is hardly an explosive mix.
Nonetheless, in Denver Manning will remind everyone why earlier this year so many NFL clubs were scrambling for the signing of a 36-year-old who hadn’t taken a snap in over 12 months.
Whether Manning’s Broncos team-mates will justify his faith in them is another question all together.