ENGLISH: Manning speculation continues

Published 11:25 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2012

By Jim English

So, which are you more anxious to see finally get here:

The presidential election or the signing of Peyton Manning?

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Or should I say, which has gotten older: the endless speculation about Manning’s eventual destination, or the sight of political signs littering the roadsides?

The guessing game about where the veteran quarterback will wind up is, at this point, still just a guess. But if sources are to be believed, we do seem to at least be narrowing the field somewhat.

The New York Jets and Washington Redskins were two of the original teams thought to be in the running for Manning’s services, but they apparently were ruled out early on. Likewise, the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs made contact with Manning, but were unable to solicit even a visit to their facilities. So clearly, those two can also be ruled out as contenders in the Manning Sweepstakes.

Therefore, as it stands at the moment, the Final Four who seem to still have a shot are the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, and Tennessee Titans.

Manning’s meeting with the Miami Dolphins’ staff took place in Indianapolis on Monday, which may be an indication of how seriously he is NOT considering them as real possibility. It stands to reason if he had any real intentions of being a Dolphin, he would have wanted to check out their facilities.

Titans’ owner Bud Adams has made it clear that he is “ready to do what it takes to get him aboard”, and is hoping that Manning will feel warm and fuzzy enough about his college days in Tennessee to give them some consideration. However, most believe that Peyton’s visit with them is no more than just a matter of being considerate.

So the front-runners appear to be the Cardinals and Broncos, which also are the first two teams he met with, and who he reportedly made the most extensive visits with.

There are some obvious selling points for the Cardinals. Arizona definitely has the advantage in the weather category. Besides the favorable climate, they play in a dome, and what quarterback really wants to ever play in snow? They also have Larry Fitgerald, arguably the best receiver in the NFL, who is in the prime of his career.

A less obvious selling point is head coach Ken Whisenhunt, and in particular his willingness to tweak his offensive playbook to fit his personnel. When the Cardinals acquired another Super Bowl winning QB, former Ram Kurt Warner, they adapted their offensive to take full advantage of what he brought to the table.

But easily the most intriguing – and in my opinion the best option, all things considered – is the Broncos.

The initial thought for most when that scenario is mentioned is “what about Tim Tebow?” Many seem resigned to the idea that if Manning comes in, Tebow will go elsewhere. But in the words of ESPN’s Lee Corso – “Not so fast, my friend!”

True, most starting quarterbacks in the NFL would immediately be talking to other teams if their team was openly pursuing another big-name QB. But you have to remember, Tim Tebow is not like most NFL quarterbacks. He doesn’t seem to get all caught up in having to be in the spotlight. And if he is as devoted to the team concept as he claims to be, what could possibly be more beneficial to his team – and for that matter, beneficial to himself as a young QB – than to have a future hall of fame QB on the roster?

The list is long of great NFL quarterbacks who owe their careers to learning behind a veteran before getting their chance to take over the reins: Steve Young behind Joe Montana, Tom Brady behind Drew Bledsoe, Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre, etc. I’m certain that all those former clipboard-toters would tell you that, although at the time they were chomping at the bits for their chance to start, there is no question that they became much better quarterbacks because of their time learning from the veterans. And as exciting as Tebowmania has been, he admittedly still has much to learn to continue to have success in the NFL.

If the Broncos are able to bring Peyton Manning into the fold, and convince Tebow to stay as well, it could be viewed someday as the smartest personnel move they made since signing John Elway. And the potential is there for them to be set at the quarterback position for years to come.