…but I’m not counting on that.
Peyton Manning’s impending release by the Indianapolis Colts re-surfaced today with breaking news that the sides have agreed to part ways. That news might be more significant than it seems on the surface. Peyton Manning was always going to get released or restructed prior to Thursday’s deadline. There was never not going to be news on Manning this week. However, it was more than possible that Manning would not opt to test the free agent market, if in fact he really wanted to play the 2012 season with the Colts.
From what I could gather, both Irsay and Manning wanted Manning to be a Colt in 2012, but Irsay didn’t want to commit to Manning beyond that. Manning wanted to finish his career as a Colt. Irsay wanted Manning to finish his career as a Colt as well, but with a greater emphasis on the word ‘finish’ than the word ‘Colt.’ Today’s news is that both sides agreed that there would never be a time for a mutually beneficial split that is not right now, so both sides have agreed to sever ties. That means that today’s news is not only will the Colts terminate Manning’s contract making him a free agent (which is something we all expected), but that Indianapolis is out of the running for his services next year. That’s big, because Indy was one of the obvious spots to expect Manning to take his next snap.
Right now, I would list the Redskins at third on the list of likely suitors for Peyton Mannings services, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals, neither of which would have to tear down their system to fit in Manning. The Dolphins are right in there with the Redskins because of how badly they want to get Manning signed (probably worse than the Redskins) but there is no obvious incentive for Manning to choose the Dolphins and join a division where he has to play Rex Ryan and Tom Brady a combined four times per season. Brady retiring would do a lot more for the SB chances of the Dolphins than adding Manning would.
The Redskins would represent a similarly difficult situation for Manning, especially with being forced to play Eli Manning twice per year and handle the Eagles and the Cowboys, although the biggest difference between the Dolphins and the Redskins is that the Redskins have established their coaching staff and mission to win, where the Dolphins would have to sell Manning on that commitment. However, a tiebreaker for Manning is unnecessary if the Redskins themselves decide they will be pursuing other options.
It would seem like the Redskins being the favorite to land the second overall pick in the NFL draft and then Baylor QB Robert Griffin III would be the largest impediment for the Redskins acquiring Manning. That’s a nice thought to have at least: Manning being the Redskins Plan B. Who knows, it may be the other way around: the Redskins want Manning first and foremost, and would start to look to trade out of the no. 6 pick if they can land Manning.
I do think the Redskins would have to be willing to wait Manning out while he considers more intriguing options in Arizona and Kansas City, both of which have up and coming rosters, but lack ideal stability at the quarterback position. If one of the two makes Manning a really good pitch, and gets his signature before the new league year opens, then the Redskins might actually be hurt a bit by this Manning thing because the leverage will shift somewhat from the Redskins back to the Rams in the RGIII sweepstakes if Manning signs elsewhere.
At this point, it would be difficult to swallow if the Redskins tried and failed to land both Robert Griffin and Peyton Manning. Just a couple of weeks ago, it seemed unlikely Manning would want to come to Washington and it also seemed unlikely Griffin would be actively pursued by the Redskins. We now know the Redskins are pursuing Robert Griffin III, and have interest in at least bringing in Peyton Manning for a visit. We’ve come a long way since it seemed like Brandon Weeden or Kyle Orton would be the best non-Grossman options available. However, failure to acquire both Manning and Griffin could be compounded by a need to announce to the world that the Redskins actually planned to target Ryan Tannehill the entire time. You could cetainly see a situation where Mike Shanahan sits next to Tannehill at a late-April press conference and tells the Washington media that he believed in Tannehill to run his offense more than either Manning or Griffin. And you will be able to see the continuation of the last two years of quarterback decisions at that press conference, right in front of your eyes.
The Redskins’ free agency season will almost certainly defer to the idea that the team has already “chosen” it’s next quarterback. It hasn’t yet, but the idea that it already knows is an important myth for the team to perpetuate in free agency. Manning will the key to this whole thing. And Manning is far from a certainty to choose (or to choose against) Washington as his next destination.
Sure, I’m making an assumption based on a lack of evidence that Peyton Manning, not Robert Griffin is plan A, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption. Unlike Griffin, the Redskins do not control where Manning will ultimately decide to play. And if Kansas City or Arizona puts together a package that makes Peyton Manning believe he can win the super bowl in the next two seasons by putting his name on the dotted line, then the Redskins probably don’t even have a fair shot at Manning.
But if the Redskins can get Manning, then they can continue their offseason as if they never had quarterback issues in the first place. There will still be plenty of work to do: anyone who saw the team play last year can tell you that. Manning as a Redskins would probably be a solid, unremarkable (but unquestionably productive) quarterback, who would garner more headlines because of his last name than his on-field accomplishments. I can’t blame the fans who would gladly take the excitment Robert Griffin III would inject into the franchise over what Manning offers, but Manning — not RG3 — is the once in a decade acquisition to be had here.