For one, all of those men had their name and identity tied into their respective franchises. With Peyton Manning, it was the franchise’s identity that was tied into him. Peyton did such a job creating a name that the closest comparison one could imagine would be Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Michael WAS a brand name, and the Bulls were a subsidiary of that. The same can be said about Peyton Manning. Had the Dolphins cut Dan Marino a few years shy of his retirement, the case could have been made for him, as well.
The second reason this is such a unique situation is the pure gamble the Colts are taking right now. Colts owner Jim Irsay has completely dismantled this team from president Bill Polian to possibly not bringing back receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. He’s doing this to make the Indianapolis Colts and himself a name and not Peyton Manning. He would probably feel as justified if Andrew Luck reached the heights Manning did in terms of branding. However, the problem is this is a franchise that went from 10 playoff appearances in a row and two Super Bowl trips to the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft while missing just ONE player. This team now has more question marks than ever, and every leader on this team is right now on the phone with Peyton Manning, willing to go wherever he ends up.
Which leads us into our discussion point: Where will Peyton be playing in 2012? I’ve kept the list short since this is a topic we’ve discussed on the show and probably one we will be breaking down in the weeks to come. That said, today we are going to look at the top five places Manning will entertain playing for and why. Feel free to chime in on here, on our Audibly Offensive Radio Facebook page, or you can hit me up on email at email@example.com or twitter at AOLemke.
This perhaps is the most conventional choice for Peyton. It’s fairly well known he has a house there already, is familiar with the community, and there’s not a player in the NFL who wouldn’t want to be playing at home there in December. John Elway once told Marino he felt like he could play three more years if he were in Miami just because of how good his arm felt at that temperature.
Peyton is going to look at this team and see a strong wide receiver target in Brandon Marshall, a solid offensive line, a good to sorta good running back corps with Reggie Bush and a defense that still needs help. Pretty much everything he had to work with in Indianapolis. Miami has some room under the cap and will give him the contract he wants. Between him and new head coach Jeff Philbin (the former Green Bay Offensive coordinator), Peyton would have a strong grip on planning what this team would be running on the field.
The cons are just as prevalent with upper management not exactly the strongest or most reputable. Owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland have a tendency to get in their way (see Jeff Fisher), and that could very well end up costing them yet another big name acquisition. They will be highly motivated to bring Manning in, and Manning is more than likely leaning in that direction, but hopefully the Dolphins don’t shoot themselves in the foot.
MIAMI SIDENOTE: Brady vs. Manning twice a year? Yes please.
I know this SHOULD be considered a long shot, but I would be remiss to not include it. I know Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain (the big fat one, not the shoeless badass one.), who is an extremely reliable source, has already reported the Texans have no interest, but I have to think that might not be the case. Matt Shaub has proven himself to be more of a liability than a quarterback, unfortunately, and has missed almost as many games as he has played in. It was enough for Houston to pick up a quarterback in last year’s draft, and TJ Yates was the one who had to lead them to their first playoff win.
The Texans have to be considered a Super Bowl level team with Shaub under center. They have a solid offensive line, one of the top running backs in the game, a fantastic receiving corps and a stalwart defense. It’s almost safe to say the position they need to fill the most would be at the quarterback spot. If Shaub stays healthy, then you have something to plan around. Despite playing good enough, Yates was not what the Texans needed at that time. The other problem in Houston is figuring if this organization wants to win NOW. If they are able to pony up and get Manning at QB, then that question is already answered. This is the opportunity to take an organization that has been fringe at best and have them saddle up at the big boy table and put their chips all in. I personally can’t think of a better situation for Peyton to go to.
HOUSTON SIDENOTE: Being able to play in a division he knows and stomp a mudhole in Jim Irsay’s team twice a year? Yeah. That’s a big one.
I really believe a lot of variables would have to fall into place for Manning to come to the Wild West. The biggest one would be if owner Bill Bidwell would be willing to take on yet another high level quarterback contract after just giving up a 5-year, $63 million deal with $21 million guaranteed to Kevin Kolb. Bidwell is not known for being very generous with his cash, and Peyton’s deal alone could send this spiraling.
As far as what Arizona has to offer, it’s not too far distanced from Miami. His interest is peaked because of Larry Fitzgerald, far and away the NFL’s best receiver. Beanie Wells has been able to turn himself into a solid running back, and the offensive line is decent, not good, not great. John Skelton was able to get Arizona some traction toward the end of last season and Ken Wisenhut is a very good, very open, offensively minded head coach. The other big boon would be playing in that new University of Phoenix stadium with a retractable roof.
However, the defense is shaky. The division, which has previously been so porous, is actually starting to get very, very good. Having to stare down at the 49ers defensive front twice a year is not a prospect any quarterback is going to want, especially one with four neck surgeries in a year. Even if Bidwell were able to pull open those purse strings for Manning, it would likely be the last time he would open them for awhile. Arizona needs to do some serious restructuring on defense. Bringing in some veterans would be the smartest way to do that, but this is a franchise that spends very little.
ARIZONA SIDENOTE: Seriously, Larry Fitzgerald. He’s just that good.
I have no doubt Pete Carroll was on the phone the second the press conference was over. First, he probably called his owners and front office to make sure what he had to work with, then called Manning’s agent and registered those number and his interest immediately.
The question is how Manning would respond to a coach who can be overemotional, an offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, who didn’t like relinquishing control to Bret Favre when they were in Minnesota, an offense that is basically Marshawn Lynch, and a team that is too young to even remember when Peyton Manning was drafted. In fact the entire situation in Seattle is about potential. The defense has the potential to be good. They have the potential to finish second in the division and first if the 49ers have an offensive dropoff. They have potential.
Manning however, is not looking for a maybe team. He wants to win, and he is going to want to win now. Seattle would almost certainly be about nothing more than money and comfort, and Manning needs neither one of those. More than likely, Seattle would be willing to bring along some friends to play with Manning, such as Garcon and Wayne as they are that much under the cap. They will have a high draft pick to bring in some more toys but at the end of the day, this franchise is too young and too inexperienced to win at the level they would need to.
SEATTLE SIDENOTE: Gotta love the weather in Seattle right? Oh wait. No. No you really don’t.
John Elway wants this to happen. I think we all know that much. He is tenuous at best on Tim Tebow and would love to get a real quarterback behind center to lead this team. For as much about Tebow as the team was at the end of the year, I think most of the team would get behind this acquisition as well and hell, Tebow could do a lot worse than going back to being a No. 2 for a few years and learning under someone who knows everything there is to know about this position.
It’s a team with an extremely good defense that absolutely steamrolled lesser teams last year. It has a running game that still needs work but has very good upside, and a offensive line that can be sturdy and would probably stand up better with a pocket QB. The receivers are young but show a lot of growth and ability to go after and get the ball, which is something Peyton loves in players. Not to mention, you have a management team Peyton knows and respects. Peyton would have a lot of control over the offense in Denver, and Jon Fox would be more than happy to let Manning be Manning.
Ask Kyle Orton or Brady Quinn about the downside of being a quarterback in Denver with Tebow on the team. For as gracious and humble as Tim Tebow is, his fans are not. They placed billboards over the city, they signed petitions, they placed full-length ads in newspapers, they did everything to put pressure on Elway and the Broncos organization to make sure Tim Tebow was their quarterback. What is going to make any situation worse, Tebow responded big, winning a lot of games, getting them into the playoffs and beating a HEAVILY favored Steelers team. You can make any case you want to about the defense being the real reason they won those games but for the people who pushed for Tebow, they only saw him victorious at the end of the day.
How is Peyton going to feel if he struggles on any given Sunday, and the fan base is immediately down his throat and calling for the backup quarterback to step in? It’s not a situation that leads to cooler heads prevailing and as public relations minded as Peyton is, this could be seen as a minefield.
DENVER SIDENOTE: Weak division could be a ticket to getting Manning back in the game and into the playoffs immediately.
Here are some quick hits for the next group of suitors that could entertain the idea of Manning as their quarterback and why I believe they are already out of the conversation.
One city, two Mannings. Peyton could easily be a superstar in the New York market and could make the Jets/Giants rivalry even more grotesque. Which I think would be the main contributing factor to exactly why Manning wouldn’t want to play for the Jets. He’s always shown himself to be the bigger man in situations like this, and I can’t see him wanting to take away anything from his little brother, Eli. Rex Ryan also poses a problem as he’s not exactly Manning’s cup of tea and the idea of playing under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano wouldn’t be something Manning would look forward to either. A lot of good in terms of personnel and money, but the downsides are things that Manning has always kept away from in his career.
After seeing just how badly the Donovan McNabb situation was handled by everyone in that organization, it would give Peyton a lot of reason to pause. He would also be forced to play in the same division as his brother, which I think he would bristle at slightly. The money would be great, but the organization is consistently in a state of disarray. I know that Peyton and Mike Shanahan have a strong relationship, but the coach is already on the hot seat and if this year doesn’t go well for Manning as a Redskin, he could be dealing more with Dan Snyder instead, which NO ONE wants to do.
Well Jerry Rice came out and said do whatever it takes as long as you sign Peyton, but I don’t know how much the 49ers organization is going to take that to heart. For starters, you do have the Alex Smith situation. Smith was one of the best stories about the NFL last year as his potential was finally unleashed, and you can see Jim Harbaugh wanting to stick with his guy. They have a great team, fantastic management, great coaching and a division that is basically theirs for the taking. The question is whether the 49ers would be willing to take more of a risk on Manning – who despite being Peyton Manning, and we don’t know if he is still Peyton Manning – over Alex Smith, who seems to be flourishing under this new regime. Smith would give them room in the cap to actually improve on some other areas of need. End of the day, I think San Fran sticks with what they know and continues contract talks with Alex Smith and lets Manning go somewhere else.
That’s my breakdown of where arguably the best quarterback to play the game could end up. For as much as we have anticipated this day when Peyton is no longer a Colt, it still feels slightly shocking to me and will be hard to see him run out of a tunnel in a different jersey next year. Hopefully I brought some clarity to the situation. I would love to hear what everyone else thinks, so SOUND OFF and make your voice heard.