Thursday, March 8, 2012

Top 10 Possible Peyton Manning Destinations



The Indianapolis Colts -- or, rather, their crocodile-tears owner, Jim Irsay -- have released Peyton Manning.

Yeah, Jim cried during the press conference. Bullshit: He valued the money that he could save more than he valued the man who made the Colts the most beloved sports team in the State of Indiana (after the collapses into mediocrity of the post-Lou Holtz Notre Dame, the post-Bobby Knight Indiana University, and the post-Reggie Miller Indiana Pacers), and made him something other than the son of the son of a bitch who moved the Colts out of Baltimore.

Can you imagine what a god Peyton would be in Baltimore, which has always been a football town first, if the Colts had stayed? It would be, "Cal who?"

There is some sense to the move: The Colts, in Peyton's injury-wiped-out season, went 2-14, and have the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. They seem almost certain to draft one of two sensational-looking quarterbacks: Andrew Luck, the latest in a long line of great Stanford University quarterbacks that has included Jim Plunkett and John Elway; or Robert Griffin III, the big but quick Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor University.

I haven't seen much of Luck -- I've seen more of people talking about him, about how wonderful he is as both a player and a person, than I've seen of him playing -- but I saw Griffin lead Baylor to their first-ever win against the University of Oklahoma, and I was tremendously impressed. RG3 just turned 22, he has his bachelor's degree in political science (but can't become President because was born in Japan, the son of 2 U.S. Army Sergeants stationed there in 1990), is pursuing a masters in communications), has handled the interviews I've seen very well, seems not just smart but mature, and, based on what I've seen (admittedly, not nearly as much of Luck as of Griffin), Griffin would be my first choice.

But it sure looks like the Colts are going to draft Luck. The 2nd pick belongs to the St. Louis Rams, who already have Sam Bradford, a former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma who has already led them to the Playoffs once and certainly should not be given up on. The 3rd pick belongs to the Minnesota Vikings, who seem committed to Christian Ponder. So it seems unlikely that Manning (or the Luck/Griffin 2nd choice) will go to any of those.

The next available quarterback is likely to be... Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M. I haven't paid as much attention to college football these last few years as I used to, and that includes not having seen the annual Thanksgiving weekend clash between Texas and Texas A&M. So I have no idea how good Tannehill is. But he certainly hasn't been hyped to the level of Luck and Griffin.

Of course, teams can trade draft picks. But, barring that, here are my choices for the...

Top 10 Possible Peyton Manning Destinations

10. Kansas City Chiefs. I'm actually seeing Internet "whispers" about the Chiefs going after Manning, which does make some sense: They went from AFC West Champions to 7-9 in one year, and Matt Cassel isn't exactly an inspiring quarterback. The Great Plains loves its Chiefs, and there is precedent: They got Joe Montana after the San Francisco 49ers let him go, and he got them to within a game of the Super Bowl.

The AFC West is wide-open at the moment, with the San Diego Chargers in disarray, the Oakland Raiders still in their transition from the ownership of the late Al Davis, and the Denver Broncos still in position to wonder if Tim Tebow is enough to get them to the promised land. Might the Chiefs get Manning to close the deal that Montana couldn't quite close?

9. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have the 7th pick, so they're almost certainly not going to get either Luck or Griffin. They seem committed to Blaine Gabbert, who had a rough rookie season last year, but, let's be honest: If you CAN get a Peyton Manning, you'd prefer to have people asking in 5 years, "What's a Blaine Gabbert?" (I know, I know: If Gabbert turns out to be a great one, in J'ville or elsewhere, I'll sound pretty silly for saying that. But, for the moment, it's the name Blaine Gabbert that sounds pretty silly.)

8. Cleveland Browns. The Browns have the 4th pick, but they already have Colt McCoy and the veteran backup Seneca Wallace. They need a boost, and can you imagine how big Manning would become if he led the Browns to the first World Championship they -- or any Cleveland team -- have won in 48 years? Since December 27, 1964? The Browns could trade up, which might send McCoy elsewhere.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have the 5th pick in the draft, and don't presume that they are completely committed to Josh Freeman. Freeman looks good, in spite of a difficult, injury-riddled season for the Bucs.

But they just hired Greg Schiano as head coach, and as the man who built Rutgers University into a respectable (if not great) football school, Schiano proved, among other things, that he doesn't exactly have patience for quarterbacks. Unless he asks general manager Mark Dominik to trade up in the draft, he may ask owner Malcolm Glazer to open the vault for Manning. And since Glazer has shown his willingness to splurge (ask fans of Manchester United, the soccer team he also owns, who hate him for having saddled them with a debt bomb but ignore the 4 Premiership titles and the Champions League they've won with him as owner), there is a chance that Manning could be wearing the Red & Pewter in 2012.

6. Seattle Seahawks. The 'Hawks have the 12th pick, and currently have Tarvaris Jackson and Josh Portis as quarterbacks. Jackson is 28 and his career record as a starting quarterback is 17-17. Portis will be 25 when the season begins and has never taken an NFL snap. The 'Hawks need something better, and may want to trade up.

5. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have the 8th pick in the draft, and have Matt Moore (not to be confused with their 1980s tight end Nat Moore) and Pat Devlin, plus J.P. Losman as an unrestricted free agent. Losman was a flop in both Buffalo and Miami, Moore will be 28 and only last year did he get regular NFL snaps, and Devlin has yet to take any. Could Manning "take his talents to South Beach"? Okay, Sun Life Stadium (or whatever corporate name Joe Robbie Stadium has this season) is 10 miles inland... but Manning can live wherever he likes in South Florida, and that stadium IS the one where he won (so far) his one and only Super Bowl.

4. Arizona Cardinals. This franchise has had just one quarterback, Kurt Warner, who has been both consistently good and consistently healthy in the last 30 years. If you have Playoff hopes, do you really want them to rest on the arm of Kevin Kolb? Also, he’s coming out of the Midwest, and lots of old Midwesterners go to Arizona when they get old: Warner, Bob Uecker, Michael Wilbon. (Joke.)

3. New York Jets. The Era of Big Mouth may be over if Rex Ryan can't build another Super Bowl contender in 2012, and Rex may decide that Mark Sanchez, at least at the moment, isn't working out. He could bring Peyton in as this year's starter, so that Sanchez can learn how to be a winning quarterback. Who knows, if Peyton lasts 2 years... Super Bowl XLVIII... at the Meadowlands... Could it be Jets vs. Giants? Manning vs. Manning? Peyton vs. Eli? Don't forget, for the moment, Eli has more rings than Peyton (2 to 1).

2. Washington Redskins. Right now the 'Skins have 2 quarterbacks on their roster: John Beck, who'll be 31 when the season begins and has started a grand total of 7 games, none of them victorious, over 2 separate seasons over 5 years; and Jonathan Crompton, who'll be 25 and has never thrown a professional pass. They have Rex Grossman, who is listed as an unrestricted free agent, and who is one of the most mocked quarterbacks of recent times, and was such even as he got the Chicago Bears into Super Bowl XLI in 2007 (where they lost to Peyton and the Colts). That the 'Skins are even considering letting Rex go when all they have in-house is Beck and Crompton, when signing Manning is no shoo-in, and when the draft, as always, is a crapshoot, shows just how little confidence they have in Rex.

Daniel Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999. They made the Playoffs that year as NFC East Champions. In the 12 seasons since, they have made the Playoffs twice (2005 and '07), won a grand total of ONE Playoff game, and have not won the NFC East despite it being a 4-team division from 2002 onward. The last 3 years, the Redskins have been 4-12, 6-10 and 5-11. And they have the 6th pick in the draft, which means that both Luck and Griffin are likely to be gone by then. So the Redskins need a better quarterback than the one Tannehill currently looks like he'd be.

Say what you want about various politicians, but, right now, no one is more hated by residents of the D.C. area than Snyder. He needs a winner. He needs it badly. Manning may be his shot. We know Snyder is willing to pay big bucks for famous and accomplished players. It hasn't worked out yet. Maybe Manning is the one that will.

1. Hollywood. No, I don’t mean an as-yet-hypothetical team to be moved or expanded into Los Angeles. I mean the movies. Football-themed movies usually don't do great, but they usually make a profit. Peyton has the looks, he has the charisma, and unlike a lot of actors who've played athletes, he'll look like he knows what he's doing, both in the locker room and on the field. And he is a lot closer to the age that Roy Hobbs was supposed to be than Robert Redford was when he played him; can you see a remake of The Natural with Peyton in the role? (Maybe not, he'd look weird playing baseball. Especially batting lefthanded.)

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