If the Denver Broncos lose without a healthy Manning, they’ll always wonder what might have been

The Denver Broncos aren’t likely to win the Super Bowl with young, extremely flawed backup Brock Osweiler at quarterback.

No, they aren’t likely to win with legendary 39-year-old Peyton Manning under center, either. But since this season is Super Bowl or bust in Denver, why not give your highest-paid and most experienced player one final chance?

Manning has been defying odds his whole life, and of all teams the Broncos should know not to count out aging quarterbacks in search of championships.

Last year, Tom Brady was left for dead by the national media after an ugly start to the season. He was washed up, they said.

A few months later, he was Super Bowl MVP.

These circumstances are different. It’s later in the year, and Manning has been dealing with an injury. But Manning has made it clear he believe he’s healthy enough to play now.

“If they need me to play and be in there, then I’ll be ready,” Manning said Sunday. “If they don’t feel that’s best for the team, then I’ll respect that decision and do what I can to help the team.”

Yet Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has already stated he’s sticking with Osweiler.

That’d be easier to understand if the 25-year-old was rolling, but he’s been decent at best. He doesn’t stretch the field, he struggles with second and third reads, he takes too many sacks, and his numbers are pedestrian. The Broncos have remained afloat with Osweiler under center for the same reason they didn’t drown with Manning — the defense is dominant.

But in the playoffs, that won’t be enough, which is why the chips are stacked against Denver regardless of who’s under center.

So why not go with Manning? Because if you try and fail with Osweiler knowing Manning’s on the bench, you may find yourself wondering for years to come what might have been.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.