All good things must come to an end. So it goes for Peyton Manning. After spending 14 years in Indianapolis, turning the Colts from woeful, to a Super Bowl Champion, and experiencing many highs and a few lows, Manning was released by the Colts, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Peyton did miss the entire 2011 season due to complications from neck surgery so his health will be a huge question mark for prospective suitors.
I will confess, I’m not a huge Manning fan. This goes back to his days at the University of Tennessee, where Manning went 0-4 against bitter arch-rival Florida during his college career. Despite the hype, the fact he was Archie’s son, and the golden child of the mainstream media, Manning couldn’t get it done against Steve Spurrier’s ball team.
When Manning graduated in 1998, and declared himself for the NFL draft, the big story was who to take first, Manning or Ryan Leaf from Washington State. Some scouts, (myself included) thought Leaf would be the better pro quarterback with his size and arm strength. Alas, Leaf was possessed with a million dollar arm but a ten-cent brain, while Manning did possess the smarts and ingenuity, to be a star quarterback in the NFL.
Manning was instrumental in making the Colts a glamour franchise, as he led Indianapolis out of the wilderness, and into the bright lights of the NFL. But playoff success was eluding Manning.
The New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady, were in Manning’s way and Bill Belichick’s schemes and occasional dirty tricks frustrated Manning at every turn as the Patriots had the Colts number for a few years. Manning was breaking records and putting up tremendous numbers, but couldn’t win the big one.
Finally in 2006, the Colts broke through the glass ceiling, defeating the hated Patriots in the AFC Championship game before winning the Super Bowl over Chicago.
However Manning couldn’t follow-up with more championships. Of all teams the San Diego Chargers, (yes the San Diego Chargers) beat them 2 years in a row in the playoffs.
Things came to a head this past summer when Manning required off-season neck surgery. However the surgery didn’t turn out as well as he hoped, so he went under the knife for a second time which forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. This after Manning held the Colts ransom, and the team signed him to a 5 year $90 million extension.
The irony is I became a Peyton believer following a season in which he didn’t play at all. The Colts in 2011, without Manning were a dreadful 2-14. It basically prove that Manning was the entire team. Granted Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are talented receivers, but would they put up astronomical numbers if Curtis Painter or Jim Sorgi was the starting quarterback? I don’t think so.
The Colts’ failure to win more Super Bowls lies squarely with management. They failed to put the proper team around Manning and forced him to do just about everything. Now Manning gets a fresh start and I have a team where he should go to… Arizona.
Why Arizona? Well first they have a young, offensive minded coach in Ken Whisenhunt, who has the brainpower to outscheme opposing defences.
The Cardinals have a wonderful receiver in Larry Fitzgerald who can catch just about anything that is thrown his way. Arizona is developing a strong running game led by Beanie Wells, who can take some pressure of Manning. Finally the NFC West is a winnable division. Yes the San Francisco 49ers had an impressive season last year and will be difficult to contend with, but the 49ers didn’t have to face Peyton Manning last year either. The rest of the division is soft so the Cardinals with Manning can challenge the 49ers for the division crown. Finally the Cardinals have room under the cap so they can afford Manning’s salary.
All this is speculation but if Peyton is serious about winning, the desert might be his best option to resume his career and pursue another championship.