We have just witnessed the biggest Free Agent singing in NFL history and it will surely impact the entire NFL. For two weeks now I have been thinking of doing a piece on the Peyton Manning situation. Now that he has finally made his decision I have decided to put fingers to keyboard and share my thoughts. In my opinion there are two major discussion points surrounding “The Decision” of 2012: Peyton’s decision and the genius play of the Denver Broncos.
I am an optimistic person so let us begin with the winners of the situation; the Denver Broncos. John Elway, John Fox and every executive involved in the acquiring of Peyton Manning should receive an award. This in my opinion has to be one of the greatest executive decisions in NFL history. Whatever it took for John Elway and the executives to convince Peyton to head to Mile-High Stadium, it was worth it. Despite a .500 record and a divisional round playoff win, the Broncos football team was in quite an extraordinary situation. The team is young and talented but definitely has its holes. A fantastic, young, and energetic defensive line highlights a team that can run the football and attack the Quarterback. Young yet unproven receivers, a questionable secondary and the biggest question mark at Quarterback ever had Broncos fans excited, confused and worried at the same time. With the acquisition of Peyton Manning, the Broncos are instantly favorites to win the division and be a consistent playoff team for the next few years. It appears that there is no health questions surrounding Manning’s neck because it would appear these teams all wanted Manning, without any regard for health concerns. In my opinion, Manning is back and will play at an extremely high level. Manning brings a brilliant offensive mind to Denver where Fox can focus on making that good defense into a great defense. Whether it was the relationship with Elway or just the mutual respect, Manning was drawn to play in the same environment that the legend Elway was successful in. The Broncos are instantly better in so many ways. Erik Decker and Damarius Thomas are instant stars at wide receiver. Decker who is a good slot receiver, will thrive in the Manning short pass offense. The Denver running game is very good with Willis McGahee and that offensive line. The Broncos are sure to add another back in the offseason and with the threat of Manning at QB, as opposed to Tebow, the running game will be all the more dangerous. Broncos fans, just for a second imagine that defenses don’t expect the run every single play; yes, it will be that amazing. The defense was great at times last year but overall is a solid defense that is just overworked. With Tebow, the defense found itself on the field a majority of the game after more 3 and outs that I can count. Any defense with Manning at the helm is instantly better just because they are not as tired. Manning eats up clock, goes on long drives, and keeps his offense on the field. Broncos fans, close your eyes again and just imagine Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller chasing down opposing QB’s when they are not tired; yes, it will be that good. But all the aforementioned reasons why the move was amazing for the Broncos fail in comparison to one of the greatest moves ever performed on the management side in the NFL. John Elway and the Broncos executives have miraculously found a way to get rid of and replace Tim Tebow without one word of complaint. For those of you who don’t understand how big this is understand one thing. Tim Tebow was a god, a savior in Denver. Tebow owned the city and was a sign of hope for all who lived there. Unable to complete simple passes, Tebow earned the love of the city which through complaints was able to boot their starting QB for the former Heisman winner. So here was the question Elway and his buddies were faced with. How do you get rid of and replace a heroic, mythical, and revered fan favorite without causing a riot and uproar? Oh, you simply acquire one of the greatest, top 5, most brilliant minded Quarterbacks of all time. Do you not understand how amazing this was. The Broncos were stuck, they had no way out of the Tebow situation and had no choice but to stick with the poor throwing yet heroic play of the run-happy QB. If you told me a few months ago that you can replace Tebow and there would not be one complaint I would have thought you are crazy. But I was proven wrong; the Broncos have replaced the second-most beloved QB in the league today with the even most loved QB in the league. A city which booted its starting QB and suffered through record-low setting QB performances has been rewarded with the model of QB consistency. Though there are questions as to his post season record, Manning is undoubtedly the greatest regular season QB of all time (just check his regular season record) and will make the Broncos a 10 win team. Just for your records, Peyton Manning ranks 3rd all-time in completions (4,682, passing yards (54,828), passing TD’s (399), & passing yards per game (263.6). “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.” In this case, the greatest trick the Broncos ever pulled was convincing the Denver world that Tebow never existed. They did this all by adding #18.
In my eyes there is a second discussion point and that is whether Denver was the right fit for Manning. Does Manning suit the Broncos? Yes. Do the Broncos suit Manning? Maybe. I believe that Peyton chose the safe place to play. Denver is an amazing city but it’s a controlled environment, similar to that of Indianapolis. Manning will have full control over his offense, similar to Indianapolis. Manning now has an owner and team of executives who love him and will do everything to make him happy, similar to Indianapolis. Manning will have to take a team and a city on his shoulders and try to make good players great, similar to Indianapolis. The problem is that Denver is too similar to Indianapolis. I understand there is value to being in a place that is comfortable and that will allow one to feel at home. There is a huge benefit to only worrying about football while making other issues disappear. But in my humble opinion, given everything surrounding the situation and Manning’s age, I think Manning took an easy rode out. The place Manning should have landed was in the San Francisco bay. The 49ers are a very solid and deep team with amazing tools in every position. Without hating on Alex Smith too much, the team made it to within 2 punt fumbles of going to the Super Bowl with an average QB. The team is stacked with one of if not the best defense in football, solid running game with Gore, fantastic TE with Vernon Davis, and now a solid young to veteran receiving core of Crabtree, Moss, and Manningham. From a football perspective, the 49ers were the best choice for Manning while the Broncos were in fact the worst. Add in the fact that the 49ers play in one of the two worst divisions in football and Manning’s decision is a little puzzling. Obviously a major reason deterring Manning from the 49ers would be the pressure. The 49ers are ready to win it all here and now and the addition of Manning would have made them favorites to win it all, anything less would be a major disappointment. Manning has high expectations in Denver but not as high as they would have been on the California coast. Additionally, I understand Harbough is a tough nosed guy who likes to be involved in every facet of the game but I also think Harbough is a smart coach who will bow to Manning’s skill, knowledge and genius. Manning wants to be the man and I think the thought of having such a dominant personality at coach scared him away from making the smart football decision. I won’t go into the weather factor being that Manning played his entire career in a dome but just think about what San Fran is like in December and what Denver is like in December.
In conclusion, the NFL landscape drastically changed this week and out came but winners and losers. Seattle and Denver came out on top while teams like Miami, San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee were left wondering what could have been. I love Peyton Manning. You will never find a bigger Manning fan in the world. I have often said I think he is the greatest QB I have ever seen play but I do feel like he made the wrong choice. I have often heard others say John Elway was the best QB they have ever seen. While I don’t fully agree with that, I can tell you he may just be one of the best NFL executives I have ever seen. I hope Manning goes and wins three Super Bowls, quiets the conversations between him and his brother, wins another MVP or two, and breaks every one of Farve’s records; I just wish he would have done it in a San Francisco uniform.