Peyton Manning thinks Sean Payton’s offense is “great fit” for rookie QB Bo Nix: “It’s the kind of system I’d like to play in”

Peyton Manning thinks Sean Payton’s offense is “great fit” for rookie QB Bo Nix: “It’s the kind of system I’d like to play in”

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Peyton Manning and Bo Nix go back a while.

Nix, the Broncos rookie quarterback, was still at Auburn in 2021 when he went to the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, a popular destination for college quarterbacks. The two kept in touch from there, including when Nix considered transferring from Auburn, where his dad, Pat, also played quarterback. Among the people he called before making a bold move to leave the SEC and go to Oregon: Manning.

This spring, the Broncos picked Nix No. 12 overall in the NFL draft in hopes that he can be the man to end a run of quarterback futility that dates back to Manning’s retirement after Denver won Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

Manning, speaking downtown at the Mizel Institute’s annual event Wednesday night, made no bold predictions about Nix’s NFL prospects, but welcomed the 24-year-old warmly.

“I’m super happy for (Nix) to be here,” Manning. “I think it’s a great fit for him and I can tell how excited Sean (Payton) is to have Bo here. Zach Wilson is the one (Broncos) quarterback that I don’t know personally, but I reached out to him when he (was traded). It sounds like they’ve got great competition over there. That’s always good. It makes everybody better. I think the quarterback position is in good shape, and I think Sean’s system is extremely quarterback-friendly.

“I never played in it, but played against it and watched it and know the success that Drew Brees had and Tony Romo had. It’s the kind of system I’d like to play in.”

Nix, of course, put up prodigious numbers in two years at Oregon after graduating from Auburn and transferring before the 2022 season. Now he’ll compete with Wilson and Jarrett Stidham for Denver’s starting job. That race started in earnest Tuesday with the first day of voluntary organized team activities.

The day after Denver drafted Nix, he said Manning has been an invaluable resource for him.

“He’s always been so willing to reach out to me,” Nix said. “He’s very good at being available to those young guys. He’s like that at the camp, he’s obviously like that with the Broncos players. I’m excited to seriously be around him and spend some time with him.”

That’s been a hallmark of Manning’s post-playing career. He’s made a point of being an ambassador to football, to the Broncos and Indianapolis Colts and, really, to the quarterback position. His work outside of football is what earned him the Mizel Institute’s community enrichment award this year.

“I’m not sure I’m completely worthy, but community service is something that’s always been important to me,” he said, noting that his dad, Archie, and Colts head coach Tony Dungy showed him the importance of giving back.

He does that in the community but he also takes pride, he said, in representing Denver, Indianapolis and the University of Tennessee.

“I take seriously that role of being an ambassador for all the teams I played for, but living here in Denver maybe even more so,” Manning said.

Naturally, then, he’ll be watching the Broncos summer quarterback derby with interest. Stidham, like Nix, attended the Manning Passing Academy during his college career.

“He and I actually played golf together a few weeks (ago),” Manning said.

Stidham’s goal will be to hold off Nix and Wilson and use the one big built-in advantage he has: He’s been in Payton’s offense for a year, whereas the other pair is just learning the basics now.

Manning, though, knows the reality: Rookies drafted in the first round usually play early. He did it himself after going No. 1 overall to Indianapolis in 1998.

“I think any quarterback would tell you that being out on the field is where you learn more things than you do sitting on the sideline,” Manning said. “Any quarterback will tell you that. So when that happens for Bo and these quarterbacks, Sean will make that decision, but I do think experience is your best teacher. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. I went 3-13 my rookie year and didn’t play very well and we went 13-3 the next year. There’s no way that would have happened had I not played and kind of gone through those struggles and thrown those interceptions and figured out, ‘Hey, I can’t do that anymore. These guys are faster.’ You just kind of file it all away.

“Eli (Manning) played, I think, six games his rookie year and he said what he learned in the six he played was night-and-day to the 10 that he sat. So we’ll see how it all shakes out.”

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