Let me start by saying that I know what I’m about to lay out will never happen. Too bad, because it could make Peyton Manning a Super Bowl champ for the Broncos and extend his career by four years. However, again, this will never happen.

But if it could, football would be changed forever.

2.5 is a magic number. This is the time a quarterback in the NFL needs to be effective. In the NFL, the emphasis of the run-and-pass ratio is way overvalued. You can win a game by running a ton. You can win a game by throwing a ton. In the playoffs, the Patriots beat the Ravens, scoring 35 points and running the ball seven times for 14 yards. A certain balance between running and throwing seems to make sense, as long as whatever you are doing is efficient. However, nothing matters as much as 2.5 seconds.

In the Colts-Broncos playoff game, Andrew Luck almost always released the ball in 2.5 seconds or more and Manning was the exact opposite. In fact, during the first half, most of Manning’s throws were under 2.1 seconds; and in the second half, most of his throws were under 1.9 seconds. The Broncos never had a chance. In the span of one half-second, an NFL receiver can gain at least five yards, which is more or less the margin by which Manning was overthrowing his talented teammates in the first half.

All the bombs, and there were quite a few, were hucked up in under 2.5 seconds. One of the deep throws to Demaryius Thomas in the end zone was really a deep pass to Vontae Davis. This doomed duck was unfurled in 1.84 seconds. Had DT not shoved Davis out of bounds, it would’ve been a pick and the Broncos wouldn’t have had a chance for a field goal.

It got worse in the second half. Manning had lost confidence in the deep ball altogether and went back to dink and dunk. Now, passes were being released like lightning bolts in less than two seconds. Think about it logically, how is any receiver supposed to get down the field in less than two seconds? Usain Bolt isn’t lining out wide.

Creep, creep, creep – that’s what the Indy defenders were doing. Creep, creep, creep – shortening the field and filling the gaps. Creep, creep, creep – they were playing Manning as if he was the No. 9 hitter in the coed softball league at work.

Running lanes were blocked. Receivers were simply being jammed at the line. Julius Thomas, to quote Shannon Sharpe, looked “as soft as drugstore cotton.” To make matters worse, Demaryius Thomas dropped two balls on bubble screens that hit him right in the breadbasket and decided that blocking that day was optional. So, not only did the Broncos not have the threat of throwing deep, but they couldn’t effectively throw short. And when they did try to run the ball, they couldn’t see the light of day.

And most embarrassing of all, on the first drive of the second half, down 14-10, Manning did not take off and run for a first down when he had at least 30 yards of open field in front of him. Instead, he rolled out (which is highly unusual) and fired a ball basically out of bounds for Emanuel Sanders to not legally catch (a stunning 4.24 seconds).

If there was ever one play to highlight why Manning should retire, it’s would be this gutless or egotistical or arrogant or dumb decision. Is Manning that incapable of literally walking five yards for a first? If so, retire. Is Manning that scared of getting hit? If so, retire. Is Manning that cocky that he thinks he still has that kind of arm strength? If so, retire. Is Manning that obsessed with numbers and proving people wrong? If so, retire. Is Manning that unaware of how short of a distance he had to convert on a critical third down? If so, retire. It was probably one of the worst moments and decisions in Manning’s illustrious career. Andrew Luck may have run for a 75-yard touchdown on that play.

There were other awful moments – too many to mention.

But the dye was cast. Indy knew that Manning was gun shy. They knew they could cheat up. They knew Manning was worn down and worn out. They had physically and emotionally beaten this woebegone team. They did all of that to the Broncos in Denver. The crazy thing is that the Colts aren’t even that good. It’s a fair point to wonder what embarrassment would’ve happened if the Broncos had to play New England in Foxboro.

How important is 2.5 seconds? On Andrew Luck’s touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks, Luck took a leisurely 4.39 seconds to throw the ball. He had more time to kill than Tom Hanks on a deserted Island – Wilson!

However, I have great news for Manning. I have great news for all Broncos fans. Hope is not lost, but you need to buckle in for how to pull this off. You need to put a gag in your mouth not to scream, “You’re an idiot!” You may need to take a walk outside and count to 10 or maybe 1,000 before you pass final judgment. In fact, you should probably stop reading right now.

Ah, still here?

Okay, here it goes.

If you want Manning, you need less of him more often.

It goes without saying you need a QB who has the ability to throw in 2.5 seconds or more. It doesn’t mean every throw needs to take that long, but you need that option. So, you need a tough offensive line. You need the ability, once you have the lead, to pound the ball, as the Colts did in the final quarter. But most importantly, you need a QB who has confidence he can hang in there.

The mental and physical side of that thought process are equally important. So in order to achieve that solution, you need to be physically strong in all parts of your body. The only sport that doesn’t rest its superstars during the course of the regular season to be properly prepared for the postseason is the NFL. The Neanderthal thinking is that every regular season game is the Super Bowl. Despite having rotations at every defensive position and offensive skill position, NFL teams never rotate offensive lineman or quarterbacks. Not only that, but the fear of losing to Buffalo in October is so great that most NFL teams keep their starting quarterbacks in the game much longer than they should.

We’ve seen plenty of teams give up three-score leads. Enough of those Shakespearean tragedies have happened that taking out your $20 million stud, just isn’t an option. The Broncos have been the top-scoring team in the NFL for the past three years. During that same time, Brock Osweiller has thrown a measly 30 passes. If the Broncos have scored the most points and have big wins left and right, why hasn’t Osweiller played more? If Manning had a torn rectus in his quad area (I’m not a doctor), why did he play against Cincy and then the next week against the Raiders?

In fact, not only did he play against the Raiders, but he stayed in the game for a drive in the fourth quarter when the Broncos were up by three scores. For what reason? Was it so the Broncos could get a bye, which was important, because they needed rest? The problem was they waited too long. Manning did rest. He didn’t practice for two consecutive days during the bye week. The real question is why was there any practice during the bye week. Two days of rest wasn’t enough. A week wouldn’t have mattered. Manning probably would’ve needed at least three weeks of downtime to feel okay. The Broncos and Manning himself had churned this Maserati of a team into a ‘79 Ford Pinto.

The concept of resting your players has nothing to do with avoiding injury; it has everything to do with avoiding the accumulation of wear and tear over a very long season. Every other sport understands this concept.

In baseball, starting pitchers go at least every five days before taking the mound again. In between starts, these fireballers aren’t standing on their feet practicing for hours at a time. They are resting and rehabbing. Usually, they go through light pitching sessions and build towards their next start. They don’t huck hundreds of extra pitches or stand around the infield in their cleats, that’s why we see starting pitchers relieving in the World Series.

This year, sports fans witnessed the most remarkable performance in postseason history when Madison Bumgarner of the Giants pitched what felt like unlimited innings.

In hockey, starting goalies go maybe four or five games in a row and take a night off. There isn’t one hockey goalie who has every played 82 games. However, once it’s playoff time, they go back-to-back-to-back-to-back until they lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.

In basketball, the best coach in the league – and perhaps the best active coach in any current sport, Gregg Popovich – commonly shuts down his superstars during the regular season. And if he loses that game, it’s no big deal. It doesn’t matter if you go undefeated in the regular season; what matters is if you make the playoffs. Hey, it doesn’t even really matter if you are the home team. George Karl lost his job not because he couldn’t win in the regular season, but because he couldn’t win in the postseason.

The honest to god truth is it truly doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season as long as you make the playoffs – period. In the playoffs, you have to have your best team performing the best it can and that means in the NFL your best player, the quarterback, needs to be as fresh and as confident as possible.

When the Broncos won their first Super Bowl, they did so behind an amazing offensive line and running game. John Elway was burned out and hung on by handing off. However, the next year was different. Elway missed four starts and the majority of another game with an injury during the regular season. In those four missed starts, Bubby Brister led the Broncos to a 4-0 record. On the year, Brister threw 78 completions on 131 attempts for 986 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. These aren’t Hall of Fame numbers, but did I mention that Brock Osweiller has thrown 30 passes in three years with one touchdown? No, the numbers don’t matter; the rest that Elway got both in the first half and second half of the season is what was really important. Elway returned relatively healthy to finish out the season and became, at age 38, the oldest player to win the Super Bowl MVP.

In his final game, Elway was 18 of 29 for 336 yards with a TD (80 yards to Rod Smith), one interception and a three-yard TD run. Did I mention Manning didn’t run for a first down on third-and-five with 30 yards of open field in front of him? The year before, Elway started all 16 games. The Broncos went – ready for this? – 12-4, the same as this year. In the Super Bowl, where Terrell Davis was the MVP, Elway went 12 of 22 for 123 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. During that playoff run, the most yards Elway threw for was 223 yards. He accumulated three TD passes and two interceptions in four games. Elway was 37. He was obviously exhausted, but a tremendous team allowed him to hang on. The next year with significantly more rest, Elway was a new man. The Broncos earned a bye. They cruised through the playoffs and Elway stood up strong in the Super Bowl.

What was surprising was that Elway actually retired that year. He said his body just couldn’t do it anymore, however he waited until May 2 to make that announcement. The rumor mill has always contended the real reason Elway didn’t come back was because of his toxic relationship with Mike Shanahan. What if, at age 38 turning 39, Elway was able to more or less job share as he had done with Bubby the year before? Would he have come back for a third run at glory? We will never know.

The Broncos, unintentionally, with Gary Kubiak as the offensive coordinator, found the best path for success for aging, but talented quarterbacks. Rest during the season and reliance on your backup QB to pull through was the key. We hear the cliché, “Next man up.” Well, why doesn’t that apply to the most important position on the field?

Here’s where I’m bound to lose those of you who have soldiered on.

Rest Manning every fourth game and the game before the bye week. Manning’s record after a bye week is incredible, but that isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s typical for most quarterbacks. Fantasy Geek Tristan Cockcroft did an analytical study of QBs on bye weeks and here’s what he found:

Quarterbacks experienced the largest increase in production in games following the bye, particularly in home games. From 2008 to 2012, the position as a whole enjoyed an 8.0 percent boost in the week following the bye, and 17.9 percent in home games (that percentage comparing home games to other home games). And if those numbers don’t strike you, this might: That’s a 1.09 fantasy points per game increase for quarterbacks overall, and a whopping 2.51 per game boost in home games.

Fantasy numbers actually do matter when evaluating the effectiveness of quarterbacks. So to get the most out of Peyton Manning, not only do you need to rest him, but you need to rest him specifically in road games against non-division opponents before home games. Under this scenario, Manning never would’ve played in the St. Louis debacle this year. That game would’ve been Brock’s game to lose, as the Broncos played at home against the Dolphins and won the next week. Manning should’ve sat out the Seattle game as the Broncos had a bye week after that one and a home game against the Cardinals the next week. Manning needed to play against the Patriots on the road, as that game may have had tie-breaking implications down the line, but the next week on the road against the pathetic Raiders, give the start to Brock. In fact, give back-to-back starts to Brock in that scenario as the following week was against the Rams. Finally, let Brock battle the Bengals on the road and timeshare the final home game against the Raiders.

This would’ve given Brock 4.5 games that were his. The Broncos went 4-4 on the road anyway. All you needed was 10 wins to win the AFC West. Had Brock dropped an additional road game or even two, it would’ve been no big deal. The Broncos would’ve still won the AFC West and hosted a wild card game. That is exactly what they did during their first Super Bowl run as they exacted sweet revenge on Jacksonville. Wild card games are not a bad thing. Being a low seed is not a bad thing. Having a burned-out QB with no legs, a weak arm and an unsteady constitution in the pocket matters the most.

Sluggers in baseball sit all the time. Troy Tulowitzki has missed countless games with “heavy” legs. Nobody even blinks an eye when an NBA superstar is in a suit on the sidelines instead of in uniform. The funny thing about other sports is they hardly ever practice when the regular season starts, but in the NFL, they do nothing but practice, burn out their arms and legs and repeat absurd behavior. The only reason teams don’t totally beat the crap out of themselves is that there were provisions put into the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement to stop this bizarre form of torture. Bill Belichick at a recent Super Bowl dreamily reminisced about how they used to put players through three-a-days and it was just oh so wonderful. Of course, he was a coach not a human tackling dummy that may develop CTE in his late 30s.

Of course, Manning will have no interest in sitting out games because it takes a large ego to be so successful. It’s a shame because a fresh Manning is deadly. He could easily play well into his 40s if he was willing to do exactly what Elway did in his final year and take 4.5 games off during the regular season, take massive breaks from practice and not waste his time standing on his feet during training camp. Younger players need the reps; they have to have the reps. Brock Osweiller’s progress has been severely retarded by the insistence of playing Manning.

Peyton was asked during the Super Bowl blowout late in the game if he would let Brock play. “Nope,” was the response as he grabbed his helmet like a gladiator going out to be fed to the lions. Way to go. PFM, you are the toughest guy in the world. You showed everybody what it’s like to be a selfish jerk. You wouldn’t even let your backup have a brief moment to play in the world’s greatest game. What a shame.

I asked Manning if he was comfortable playing in a system that featured C.J. Anderson more than his right arm. He replied, “I’m comfortable with winning.”

If that’s the case, then prove it. Come back for another year. Play smarter. Rest more. Elway will improve the woeful offensive line. Hang in there.

For at least for 2.5 seconds.