In a tearful goodbye, Peyton Manning bid adieu March 7 to an accolade-filled 14-year run with the Indianapolis Colts.
While his release from the Colts was widely speculated, his search for a new team could prove difficult to predict. Reports suggest that at least 12 teams are in the running to land Manning’s services, ranging from the New York Jets to the Washington Redskins. But where would Manning best fit?
The perennial All-Pro expected to make a decision within a week of his release, and one would presume his new home will be the last of his professional football career. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk attempt to manage Manning Mania.
Riley: Manning’s new home should be a warm one. He needs a location outfitted with favorable weather for an aging arm and body, a top defense and lots of blue-chip athletes on the offensive side of the ball. Sounds like Miami, doesn’t it? The Dolphins defense finished sixth in the league last season and their offense includes Reggie Bush, Brandon Marshall and a top-flight offensive line headlined by All-Pro left tackle Jake Long. The fans around South Beach would treat Manning like they did Dan Marino, and the competitor in him would love to play against Tom Brady and Rex Ryan four times a year.
Green: Considering that the Dolphins will be breaking in a new rookie head coach, I could see Manning balking at the idea of going to Miami. And I doubt he would want to try to come in behind Marino’s legacy and be the savior for the Dolphins at 36 years old. Instead, the Jets defense is still a top-10 unit and the likes of Santonio Holmes, Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller on offense would push Manning to perform. Don’t forget the Jets’ offensive line features two stars in its own right in D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. Manning would also share the same stadium with brother Eli, which I’m sure his father would love, but the alignment of conferences would keep them from playing against each other except for every preseason and once every four years in the regular season. New York would be a huge market upgrade over Indianapolis and Miami, and would provide Manning with every resource to continue his branding of commercials that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him in. The Big Apple should be the apple of Peyton’s eye at this point.
Riley: After playing his college ball at Tennessee and making himself into a household name in tiny Indiana, I doubt Manning’s looking for a major market. Going to New York would only create a tussle with Eli, and we’d be constantly hearing about who’s the better quarterback. New York was a mess last season thanks to in-house fighting and on-field performance. Their defense is getting old and the pressure to win now is definitely burning a hole in the seat of Ryan’s pants. Going to Miami would give Manning a chance to own the state of Florida with Jacksonville and Tampa Bay floundering, and the absence of state taxes would be a major coup as Manning attempts to gobble up every last football dollar he can before he retires. The Dolphins are stocked full of young athletes who would only sing the praises of a leader like Manning. The fact that new head coach Joe Philbin is fresh on the job doesn’t mean much. Mike Sherman is the offensive coordinator and would be the source of guidance if Manning ever needs somebody to go to.
Green: New York has the ultimate bait in the fact that they just signed longtime Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore to the same position this off season. He helped mold Manning into the All-Pro, defense-reading signal caller that we know today. His presence alone makes the Jets a team that Manning has to at least consider. New York has shown a willingness over the past few seasons to go all out in its attempts to stock the team with championship pieces. But their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, hasn’t been able to take advantage. With the Jets, Manning would have a front office with a dire need to push the Jets to championship status. Seeing the Giants take two of the last five Super Bowls has the Jets on title watch. It’s Super Bowl or bust in New York, and if Manning wants the best chance to tie his little brother’s number of titles before he retires, he needs to invade Eli’s hometown and sign with the city’s sister team.