It was finally confirmed today that Peyton Manning will leave Indianapolis and become a free agent. What a shocker, nobody saw that coming. You can almost hear the collective gasp of anticipation among Seahawks fans as they hope against hope that their team will be the ones to win the Manning sweepstakes. This is a great solution, right? Get a future Hall of Fame quarterback, let him go to work and lead a blossoming young team to the promise land? A quick fix to make the Seahawks a competitor? The answer to the team’s prayers?
Any team would love to build around the younger model of Peyton Manning – he’s the very definition of a franchise quarterback. However, there’s no way of knowing that this version of Manning is anything remotely like the one that churned out AFC South division titles like they were going out of fashion. He’s old, he’s been injured and there’s no way of knowing how long he’ll hold up. Could he break down in training camp? Will it be week three of the season? Will it be at the end of year one? With respect, all of those options are just as likely – if not more likely – than Manning rolling back the years to regain his former peak.
Any team that signs Manning will have to make concessions. In Seattle’s case, they’d have to adapt their playbook in quite a big way. You’d have to remove a lot of the naked bootleg’s and developing routes, you might have to temper some of the downfield stuff. Even play action might be less likely with an emphasis on keeping Manning clean and getting the ball out quickly to the receivers. The player himself would also want to add some plays and modify things to fit what he’s been used to. After all, if you’re going to sign Peyton Manning you’re going to want to make life as comfortable for him as possible. You’d also have to change the blocking schemes to max-protect, because one hit could mean curtains. You’re kidding yourself if you believe you can just plug him in and let him run whatever offense you have. Some would argue, ‘why not change?’ for the sake of having Peyton Manning. In reality, there are lots of reasons.
The Seahawks are building a young, hungry contender. It’s patently obvious that a zone blocking scheme, heavy run game with developing routes, bootlegs and play action is not a Peyton Manning offense. I watched the video below featuring Brian Billick and Charles Davis where the former Ravens coach suggests Seattle has no identity on offense and this is something Manning could provide. In fairness, Billick is completely wrong. The Seahawks have a very defined vision on offense and know exactly what they want to do. Manning doesn’t fit. So do you change everything around, modify the playbook and blocking, sign Reggie Wayne and make this the Peyton Manning show only to discover he can’t take the strain of the NFL anymore? What then? Change back in a rush?
There are other teams out there – some with new coaching staffs – in a better position to take on Project:Manning without needing any major repair work if things go wrong. Arizona for example are in the process of rebuilding their offensive line and can adapt their blocking schemes. Manning and Ken Whisenhunt are close and Peyton would be afforded the opportunity to control most of the offense. There’s room for Reggie Wayne to join Larry Fitzgerald and the dome/warm weather will appeal too. If Manning can’t continue, it wouldn’t be a major re-tool to fit John Skelton back into the starting position. In many ways, Arizona makes a lot of sense. The Cardinals don’t really have a clear identity on offense and the Kevin Kolb trade proved to be a failure. Seattle on the other hand has priotised the run and the passing game to a degree is being used to supplement that. A lot of passing play calls in Seattle are used as an extension to the run, with mobile quarterbacks encouraged to improvise and tuck and run when required. That isn’t Manning – and the Seahawks would have to detach from their blueprint to accommodate Peyton.
It’s also important to understand the men re-building this Seahawks roster. Can you see Pete Carroll and John Schneider signing Peyton Manning? I think this tweet from Hawk blogger sums it up best: “From ESPN: “GM John Schneider has a track record of finding diamonds in the rough, not entering a bidding war for the Hope Diamond.” Personally, I don’t think Peyton Manning would be that interested in the ‘always compete’, ‘win forever’ mantra. I don’t think Carroll is his kind of coach, or Manning Pete’s kind of quarterback. Manning’s used to doing things his way, but it’ll be Carroll’s way that wins out in Seattle. Simply put, it’s just not a great match.
Arizona, Kansas City, Oakland, New York, Miami. These are the teams I think will be making the strongest push for Manning. We may have to wait a while to find out what’s going to happen, because nobody is likely to sign the man while his health remains in doubt. Brief footage emerged this week of him throwing a football at Duke University, but teams will need further reassurance before a contract is inked. I expect the Seahawks to sign or trade for a quarterback. That player will compete with Tarvaris Jackson to start in 2012. It may be a bridge-type player and they may draft at least one quarterback in the round 4-6 range next month. It may be that next year is the time to go ‘all-in’ on the quarterback they want. Yet despite all the media talk today, I wouldn’t expect #18 to be appearing regularly in the Pacific North West.
Other free agency predictions:
Vincent Jackson (WR) – San Diego, Jacksonville, Washington
Marcus Colston (WR) – Jacksonville, New Orleans
Matt Flynn (QB) – Oakland, Miami, Cleveland
Mario Williams (DE) – Houston, New England
Red Bryant (DE/DT) – Seattle