Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Mar 2012

Indianapolis Officially Cuts Peyton Manning

This has been coming for so long I don't think it even deserves a "breaking news" tag. In fact, it has been coming for so long that I'm posting this XP before the news conference actually takes place.

I understand that as a professional football sportswriter I should feel a compunction to write a long, involved piece either a) detailing Manning's greatness or b) ranking his possible landing spots in some fashion. But hasn't it all been written already? I don't really have anything to add right now to everything that's being written by everyone all over the Internet. Yes, this is strange. Yes, we never could have imagined this two years ago. Yes, Peyton Manning, if healthy, will be one of the greatest free agent signings ever. And no, we have no idea if he's healthy or not.

I guess the only thing I've been thinking about is the question of whether there's ever been this kind of dramatic clean break between two franchise eras before. The Colts aren't just replacing their GM, head coach, and quarterback. They're replacing their long-time, very successful GM and quarterback. Trying to think of comparisons, Brian McIntyre came up with Atlanta trying to move on from the Michael Vick era with a new GM, head coach, and quarterback in 2008, but of course that early 2000s Atlanta team didn't have anywhere near the kind of success that the Colts have had for the past decade.

ADDED: Ben Muth thought of a good similar example. When Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys, he fired Tom Landry, hired Jimmy Johnson, and they drafted Troy Aikman number one overall, all at the same time.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Mar 2012

211 comments, Last at 13 Mar 2012, 7:06pm by tuluse

Comments

1
by Bernie (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 12:56pm

It makes total sense from a business standpoint, and from the best interests of the franchise going forward.
But as a fan, this is an incredibly sad day. I'm just not ready for 18 to no longer be my quarterback.

I'll always be a Colts fan, and will root for them to win every game they play in, but if manning is healthy enough to resume his career elsewhere, for the next few seasons I'll be rooting very hard for him to win superbowls with whoever ends up taking him in.

4
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:04pm

I think Jim Irsay is kind of a dope who got lucky enough to have a dad who was successful enough to buy an NFL team before the value of such a thing skyrocketed. Having said that, he treated Manning fair and square, and this is the smart move.

37
by Junior :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:05pm

"I think Jim Irsay is kind of a dope who got lucky enough to have a dad who was successful enough to buy an NFL team before the value of such a thing skyrocketed."

Ditto Clark Hunt, Mike Brown, and the son of whichever Bidwell that knew what he was doing (if there was one). Are there others?

42
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:34pm

WC Ford, although in his case it was a successful grandfather (Henry Ford) and father-in-law (Harvey Firestone).

Also, he bought the Lions after his father acknowledged he was too stupid to run Ford Motor Co. He was right.

43
by JMM* (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:53pm

Rooney G 1.0 - bumbler
Rooney G 2.0 - shrewd
Rooney G 3.0 - jury still out

A different take.

83
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 8:14pm

Bidwell also inherited the Cardinals from his parents. They weren't very good either, but at least Bill's father tried to make a good team and unfortunately died the early in the year they won their sole NFL championship.

120
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 9:45am

I'm glad we can all agree that Pottsville legitimately won the 1925 NFL championship.

170
by CoaldaleJoe (not verified) :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 11:02am

Is poster drunk ? Coaldale Big Green was class of Anthracite League, Maroons way overrated.

172
by dryheat :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 11:12am

Awesome conception. In execution, it could've used more typos.

187
by Earl Dittman (not verified) :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 12:44am

This comment gave me pure joy.

5
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:04pm

I'm not even a Colts fan, and this is clearly the only way this could ever really go, but it still feels deeply wrong.

2
by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 12:59pm

Its a brand new day,
I have no remorse,
Now the waters rising,
but I know the course.

8
by Dr. Not So Horrible (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:10pm

I get it, I get it, "gonna show Bad Horse".

94
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:19am

Bad Horse from the Evil League of Evil?

124
by Dr. Still Not So Horrible (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 10:51am

I think the reference is primarily to the Indianapolis Thoroughbreds of Sin.

3
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:02pm

"I guess the only thing I've been thinking about is the question of whether there's ever been this kind of dramatic clean break between two franchise eras before."

In another sport on another continent, one could look at the departures of Capello, Cannavaro, Thuram and Ibrahimovic from Juventus following the 2006 match fixing scandal.

"Yes, we never could have imagined this two years ago"

Well, it was easy enough to see that the supporting cast in 2010 was already in significant decline. Manning moving to a contender to play out his twilight years shouldn't have seemed completely outlandish, especially after the Favrega.

"Yes, Peyton Manning, if healthy, will be one of the greatest free agent signings ever. And no, we have no idea if he's healthy or not."

I think there's a pretty likely third option, which is that Manning is healthy enough to play, but not healthy enough to play at his prior level, and that the team that signs him gets something more like pre-injury Chad Pennington, a quarterback with a quick release and excellent decision making and accuracy but for whom arm strength is a significant limiting factor.

7
by bingo762 :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:10pm

"I think there's a pretty likely third option, which is that Manning is healthy enough to play, but not healthy enough to play at his prior level, and that the team that signs him gets something more like pre-injury Chad Pennington, a quarterback with a quick release and excellent decision making and accuracy but for whom arm strength is a significant limiting factor"

Barnwell, is that you?

14
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:22pm

Haven't read Barnwell since he went to Grantland, apart from "agent's pitch" pieces on Foster and Williams that Steph Stradley linked to from her blog. Is that what he's saying?

26
by GMR (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:18pm

"His recovery process has been designed to improve his arm strength to the point where he can once again be a viable professional quarterback....At 85 percent, Manning might have be able to play at the level of a Chad Pennington, where his intelligence and field vision might be able to overcome an arm weathered by injury and age."

Barnwell's piece on Grantland

110
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:25am

Interesting that he doesn't specify what model of Pennington he's talking about. My hunch is that Manning's arm strength started out far enough ahead of Pennington's that post-injury Manning roughly equates to pre-injury Pennington, who was still a really good player, but it sounds like Barnwell may be thinking more of Pennington c. 2006-2008. I guess time will tell.

70
by Mike Kurtz :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:23pm

Favrega sounds like a really useless spell from Final Fantasy.

80
by Intropy :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 7:01pm

It's the highest level spell with the indecision status effect. It never works on bosses, so it's pretty useless.

90
by Arnie Herber (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 11:09pm

Ha! Thanks for the gaming tips, folks. Will be sure to keep that in mind as I decide what magic to use in the future. Doesnt work on bosses, indeed...

109
by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 5:14am

Even if the Broncos are able to scare me away from ever watching football, I'll keep reading the comments on this site for the sake of exchanges like this one.

6
by theslothook :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:06pm

this is a very strange situation. The only reason the colts were this bad was because of their qb. Or rather, because the rest of their team was so horrible. The only good asset they had was manning and yet because they are terrible...who are they replacing? the one asset they have. I mean, imagine last year validating manning's value and yet they are still replacing him.

15
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:23pm

Well, really, Manning would be wasted on the Colts. They won't be able to put enough pieces around him to be a contender while he's still good. The problem is the sequence of rotten talent acquisition since about . . . 2006?

20
by BucNasty :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:44pm

I look at trading up to draft Tony Ugoh as the exact moment things started to come apart.

32
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:29pm

And I look at the bad environment (aka Chris Polian) that caused the departures of Tom Moore and Howard Mudd. The draft picks were iffy, but I'm guessing those guys could have coached them up.

17
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:34pm

Things may be considerably different if the best qb prospect coming out was, oh, I dunno, Mark Sanchez.

9
by CoachDave :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:14pm

Here is the question I have.

Who was responsible for such a stupid contract to Manning in the first place? A $28MM balloon payment when the 2011 cap (for comparison) is $120MM?

I realize hindsight is 20/20 and when they signed the deal the neck injury was nothing more than a nagging concern.

But there is nothing good that comes from one team paying a guy around 25% of your salary cap when he turns 36 in March. That type of contact either makes your team suck or you have to cut the player or you have to re-negotiate.

Way to go Irsay, you have screwed this one up royally from the get go. You hippie-wannabe tweeting jackass.

And yes, I'm a bitter Colts fan today...extremely bitter.

10
by mickeyribs :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:19pm

Wouldn't that be a big reason why Polian is out in Indy? That and the fact that without Manning obviously there just wasn't a lot of talent on that team anymore....

12
by Independent George :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:20pm

Balloon payments are written into the contracts with a *nudge nudge wink wink* assumption that they will be re-negotiated in the year it comes up. Had Peyton been healthy, they would have signed an extension last year and prorated the bonus over the next 4 years or so. Nobody expected this kind of injury, though, which makes that kind of commitment untenable.

18
by Kanguru (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:34pm

That's complete BS what you are saying.

An option bonus is not base salary, and hence does not fully count against the cap in the year the bonus is earned. Like a signing bonus, option bonus is spred out over the contract.

The deal Peyton signed was 3 yrs, 69m. The two years at the end are meant to make it cap friendly (and makes Peyton look better, by taking "less" money).

38
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:07pm

I think option bonuses actually do count 100% the year they are given out, not prorated like signing bonuses.

40
by xtimmygx :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:16pm

I think they are actually prorated. Here is a link from an ESPN article which discusses the financial impacts of Manning's contract. The third section titled The Cap reports that his cap hit would have been $17 million if kept and is now $10.4 million since he was cut.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7654109/nfl-peyton-manning-decision-wa...

61
by Jimmy :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:28pm

It depends how they are written. They can be a one year hit or spread out.

Partial credit all round ;)

112
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:30am

Even when technically written so as to constitute a 1-year hit, large option bonuses in practice almost always lead to a "restructuring" whereby they are converted to signing bonuses and pro-rated. There was never any way that Manning was going to count $30m-plus against the cap this year.

85
by Dave :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 8:16pm

Brandt's four articles about it over on NFP do a much better job teaching the structure and about how it prorates and is distributed.

Basically, the contact was one huge year and then another 4-year deal tacked on after that. The idea that "the last two years are window dressing" is completely wrong. Paying the signing bonus and then the option bonus prorates so much money throughout the contract that it effectively would've guaranteed the full 90m on March 8. Which was the point all along. Force the team to make a 4-year commitment to an aging QB. That option bonus and especially the matching non-exercise fee written with it (Florio recently touched on this) were master strokes by Condon, who absolutely ran over Bill Polian on that deal. The Colts are lucky they didn't win one more game, or they'd be up a creek right now.

114
by Kanguru (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:45am

That is your interpretation, and probably Brandt's ...

With the new CBA and the new TV deals the cap will increase largely ... they will kick in in 2014. If the cap stays low in the first 2-3 years of the new CBA and then increases, and if you want to make a run at a title in the first 2-3 years like the Colts wanted before the seriousness of Peyton's injury became aware (outside of Peyton's camp) ... you will do it using bonus money. Which will at some stage prorate but that's much better than having high base salaries at the beginning of the deal (see Steelers).

Peyton would have retired before seeing the end of the deal. If you make 69m in three years, why the hell do you play for 21m in 2 years (after the money the other QBs make will have largely increased)? Just look at the Matt Light deal from 2011. One year deal, split over two years to make it cap friendly.

And you cannot get around paying that dude money, if he wants it and the owner is fine with making him the highest paid player.

Condon certainly didn't run over anyone. It was a mutual commitment. Irsay and Polian are not stupid.

There is a reason Brandt isn't in the league any more.

139
by CoachDave :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:46pm

I don't know how anyone objectively can say that the deal wasn't heavily in favor of P. Manning and Polian signed ANOTHER stupid contract. Sure Manning is going to get paid, but to create front-end loaded "hand forcing" balloon payments when his health is at least "some concern" put Manning in the drivers seat because the two only viable options are:

1. Sign him, or
2. Release him

A better balanced deal would include a third option: Trade Him.

I'm not saying making the move from Manning to Luck is a bad decision, no one knows that, but doing so while using the 1st draft pick while getting NOTHING from Manning's departure is what is so mindblowingly stupid.

Ten bucks says THIS was the final straw that got Polian and his son fired. You let arguably the best QB of all time walk, with at least one would assume 2-3 years of good performance left in him and in return you get nothing.

That's inexcusable.

157
by xtimmygx :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:54pm

While I agree somewhat, it might not have been easy to provide him with the guaranteed money that he would have required to sign to such a contract and then trade him anyways. The cap hit would have been huge when they traded him because all of the prorated signing bonus would have been counted against that years cap. If he had gotten a deal for something like $90 million over 5 years with $40 million guaranteed their cap hit would have been around $32 million this year. That would basically be an impossible situation for a team to use 25% of its cap space on a player not even on the team.

158
by xtimmygx :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:54pm

Double post

11
by Dales :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:20pm

I think the issue here is that Manning's agent worked a deal with the club that resulted in a situation detrimental to both his client and his client's team, upon the eventuality that there would be a serious medical issue.

16
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:26pm

Seems to me that it's beneficial to both club and player. Manning doesn't want to waste his last years on a rebuilding team, and the Colts want to move on with Andrew Luck. It could hardly have worked out better.

73
by Dales :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:36pm

My impression of the way this has played out has been that neither Manning nor the Colts are particularly happy. The Colts would have liked to have gotten some value for him, and I bet Peyton would have preferred having some leverage too.

75
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:41pm

How did Peyton lose leverage?

86
by Dave :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 8:20pm

Yeah... he had all the leverage and this is exactly what he wanted. Now free of a bad team, he's free to go to whichever team he wants, and they won't have wasted any picks to trade for him, leaving them able to add pieces around him.

91
by Dales :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:05am

If he wanted to restructure, he could not. He could do nothing, except wait to be cut, if he even wanted out.

87
by John Doe Doesn't Want To Login (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 8:43pm

Peyton had all the leverage in the world. If he wanted to stay with the Colts he could have extended the due date (he chose not to), allowing the Colts more time to evaluate his health. Or he could have negotiated a lesser contract that reflected what he was likely to make as a free agent this year, probably not $28 mil considering the health concerns. The $28 million dollar payment forced the Colts to either commit to Manning before knowing he was fully healthy (good for Manning) or to cut him before the start of free agency so he could maximize his contract with his next team (good for Manning).

Ultimately, the Colts didn't want to pay Manning $28 million without knowing he was healthy and according to several reports they still would have taken Luck. Manning didn't want to take less money without testing free agency and he didn't want to play for a team as talent poor as the Colts when they were going to use the first overall pick to draft his replacement instead of weapons he could use to win more rings.

My impression is both sides wish it had worked out differently, but Condon did a damn good job as Peytons agent.

100
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:49am

Peyton would have liked to actually benefit from the new contract. He got his money for last year, but the new 4 year deal went Poof. But the Colts would have had to commit to the whole thing, effectively, to keep him. If the deal had been less onerous at exactly the point that the Colts are drafting Andrew Luck, there might have been a choice. But Condon, Manning, and Irsay, and Polian didn't know then that Manning was going to miss the season.

So it made sense not to rip up the last year of the contract, and just to tack the new contract on the end.

113
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:34am

If Manning had known the Colts he'd be coming back to would be so talent poor, he might well have preferred getting cut and taking less money to play for a contender anyway. I'm not saying money's not an issue for him, but he's already got a lot of it and is going to get a lot more regardless, but he only has one ring and perhaps 3-5 more chances to get another. That's why I can't see him playing for - say - the Jaguars, even if they offered him $30m a season (which they probably could).

19
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:44pm

I think back to about 2006(?) when Steve McNair got to the last year of his contract and was due a $50 million bonus ... that all turned ugly with the team locking him out of the facilities to avoid him getting injured and McNair still wanting the money.

13
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:21pm

If Manning can throw as well as an average NFL qb by September, and I don't think it is unlikely that this is the case, this is, by a wide margin, the greatest free agent value in the history of the league, given his stated willingness to sign a deal which does not maximize guaranteed money.

I don't think enough teams will grasp what value there is here. If Manning establishes his ability to throw, and the Texans, for instance, don't think hard about the fact that Matt Schaub is only five years younger, and has never been especially durable himself, they are making an error. If Schuab could be traded for 2 2nd round picks, or something like that, getting a Manning with three good years left would be tremendous.

If Harbaugh really thinks his odds of winning a championship are better with Alex Smith, than a Manning who is, for the next three years, something close to what Manning has been, then Harbaugh is a stubborn fool who is otherwise an excellent head coach.

I think, of the remaining tems that have been talked about, that KC may be the best destination, in terms of Manning getting back to the last game of the year. Not a tough division, in the weaker conference. Good defensive talent, and not a bad receiving corps. Great home field advantage, since I think people both overstate how much of a bad weather city KC is, and how much Manning would prefer to play in the south or in a dome.

25
by dryheat :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:17pm

...given his stated willingness to sign a deal which does not maximize guaranteed money.

I think that's the rub. Any competent GM should protect the franchise by keeping guaranteed money to a minimum, given the advancing age and especially the injury history. However, there is going to be great pressure from ownership and/or fans/media for teams like Miami, Seattle, NYJ, and Washington to get Manning no matter the cost. I think we're going to see a bidding war, and the winning team is going to put together a very rich, very foolish deal.

Suffice it to say that I think there will be some serious buyers remorse in the future....but I'm of the mind that the neck injury is going to prevent Manning from returning to anything better than 75% of his prior level and leave him one hit from retirement. I realize that 75% of Manning is better than 100% of ~50% of starting QBs, but unless you're in a definite championship window with key pieces under contract for the near future, why bother?

Unless you're Jacksonville, I guess. For the same reason they should have drafted Tebow, Jacksonville should probably explore trading for Peyton. Plus Manning could stick it to Irsay twice a year until retirement.

34
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:35pm

I dunno, I'm just a lot more optimistic about his health going forward, and fow much of his throwing ability will be regained. I might be wrong, of course, but none of us really know what we are talking about in this regard.

I think Manning is smart enough to understand the value of him being on a team where he won't get pounded, due to the talent, offensive and defensive, around him, and his ability to get rid of the ball so quickly and wisely. I also would not be surprised if he has a net worth north of 150 million already, so getting every last dime, to the detriment of the rest of the roster, won't be a priority in his last few years on the field. We'll see.

21
by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:54pm

"I guess the only thing I've been thinking about is the question of whether there's ever been this kind of dramatic clean break between two franchise eras before."

The closest I can think of is in 1989 when Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and fired Schramm, Brandt, and Landry in one fell swoop, then blew up the roster (which was pretty much chopped liver, but still).

22
by Travis :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:08pm

Dramatic, but not quite as clean:

1972-3 Rams/1972-3 Colts: Owners trade teams in June 1972. Within a year, both teams have new coaches, GMs, and have traded their long-time All-Pro QBs. The Rams become a run-first team under Chuck Knox.

1994 Oilers: In salary cap hell, so traded Warren Moon and lost numerous free agents. GM Mike Holovak demoted to scout, replaced by Floyd Reese. Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan left to become Cardinals head coach. Fired HC Jack Pardee and OC Kevin Gilbride 11 games into season; replaced with Jeff Fisher, abandoned run-and-shoot offense at the same time.

81
by eggwasp (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 7:09pm

I think to some extent you can put the blowup of the post-superbowl Raiders in 03 that bracket as well - losing Gannon, Brown, Rice, Garner, Woodson x2, Robbins, Kennedy, all pretty quickly (and year after losing Wiz) plus Gruden the year before (when they were better). Pity they didnt change the owner/GM at the time too.... And the eventual #1 QB a few years later didn't turn out so well as Aikman ever.

29
by Travis :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:25pm

The 1993 Patriots and 2008 Dolphins would also qualify as teams with completely new owners, GMs, coaches, and QBs, but the previous franchise eras were pretty dismal.

36
by ammek :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:48pm

.

23
by The Zeb (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:11pm

I think Scotty Bowman, Kenny Dryden and Jacques Lemaire all left the Habs after the 1978-1979 season...

24
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:15pm

I was watching this today and noting the clear respect and affection between Manning and Irsay and how Manning leaves the Colts with everybody's head held as high as possible. Then I think about Favre and the Packers, and how terribly that went.

48
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:27pm

I agree, I think all the talk of "Manning wants revenge" is way overblown. Sounds like he would much rather never play against the Colts. "I will always be a Colt" doesn't sound very bitter.

60
by Steve in WI :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:18pm

Yeah, definitely a big contrast there. I think what makes this different is that this is clearly the best thing for both the Colts *and* for Manning. He has to know that even if he comes back at 100%, he's not winning another Super Bowl with the Colts. No way do they rebuild that team in the 3-4 years tops Manning's got left. I assume as a competitor his primary motivation to return to the game is to win, so even though I don't doubt his love for the Colts and emotional desire to remain with them, on some level he has to be happy to have the chance to go elsewhere.

As for the Colts, you don't go 2-14 without being an awful team, even if you're without your future Hall of Fame franchise QB. The Colts basically don't have any short-term prospects, but they do have the chance to draft a potentially great QB, and there's no reason they couldn't achieve a Detroit Lions-esque turnaround and be a contender in 3-4 years. I don't see any way for them to be good again while Peyton Manning is still playing football, though.

It would be interesting to know what would have happened had the Colts patched together a 7-9 season last year. I think both the franchise and Manning are much better off with the way things transpired.

27
by Sisyphus :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:21pm

Manning will have his choice of where to go assuming he can pass the physical and it won't be for the money. He will be interviewing teams, owners, coaches, players, and probably the ball boys about what they have, where they think they are going and reworking their playbook. He will want to be someplace comfortable for him as a player (weather is not going to matter either).

This is going to be a very interesting courtship as I think that about twenty teams are going to want to try to acquire him probly five or so pretty desparately. The "winner" here is going to say a lot about egos and ability to compromise of the people involved.

41
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:28pm

/disagree about weather.

Even before his surgery, Manning has not been a very good bad weather quarterback for some time (if he ever was). I'd cite the six-INT rain game against the Chargers and 2010's game with the Eagles first, but there are more examples. I think that for just this reason, he will probably choose a dome team, or at least a good-weather team with domes in its division. I would think Arizona makes a lot of sense, as do Tampa and San Francisco, and that the Jets are an unlikely landing spot.

46
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:25pm

You are citing two games to prove that Manning is not a very good bad weather QB? Including one of them that was an absolute fluke (the 6-pick game) that he came withing one Adam Vinatieri missed 23 yard field goal of winning?

No one is a good bad weather QB. Tom Brady is a brilliant blizzard QB against teams that clearly had no intention of playing (Zona in 2008, Tennessee in 2009), but I remember him struggling mightily in the wind in 2007 against Baltimore and the Jets.

What QB is good in the rain, wind and cold?

I think Manning would choose a dome team but I don't think he would not go to Miami just because he will have to play in Metlife, Gillette and Ralph Wilson each year (and I don't think Miami should avoid Peyton either for those reasons).

Manning has won his fair share of bad weather games before. He beat Pittsburgh in 2008 in a cold, wintry day. The same Pittsburgh team that went on to win teh Super Bowl. Only one team all year scored more points against Pittsburgh than the Colts did (Tennessee put up 31, 7 of which came on defense). He's won a great game in 2002 against Denver.

Yeah, he had some bad performances against the Patriots in the snow and slush in 2003 and 2004, but those were some great defenses, and it wasn't like TOm Brady was lighting it up on the other side (especially in 2003, where Brady and the Pats couldn't score a red-zone touchdown to save their lives).

54
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:50pm

What QB is good in the rain, wind and cold?

4 Inches of Glory was a good wind&cold QB for a long time.

69
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:07pm

Michael Vick (pointing again to the 2010 game, the difference between his passes and Peyton's is stark). Favre, as I think someone mentioned.

Note that snow is by no means the same thing as rain for a passing game.

Nor am I suggesting that Manning is a bad bad weather quarterback. He just loses more of his effectiveness to weather than many other quarterbacks do, because (especially in the last few years with the Indy O line dying its slow horrible death) he tends to put more air under passes than many quarterbacks, to get the ball out that much faster, and because he is not mobile. I'd take Peyton in the rain over virtually any other quarterback in the history of football in the rain. But the list of people I would consider in front if him is shorter in good weather or a dome.

95
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:30am

If you want a predictor of how a QB will fare in bad weather, look at the arm strength. So we're back to the question of how much of his arm strength Manning can recover. If he can get all of his strength back, there should be no problem. If he peaks at a lower level a la Pennington, then that's a different issue.

28
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:24pm

It is not as condensed, but the Yankees being sold to CBS, just as they lost their advantage in signing amateur talent because the amateur draft was instituted, a decade before they gained their advantage in free agent signings, just as stars like Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard went into steep decline, really changed baseball completely.

30
by Geronimo (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:26pm

The 49ers are a good candidate, sure, but I think there's a risk there for Harbaugh. His team just came close to winning it all, and his QB may have turned the corner after a turbulent career chock-full of instability.

Bringing Manning in would be another derailing of his career, might make Smith pissed, might force the team to deal with an unhappy backup QB who might even want out. and then suppose Manning, signed because he looked good in workouts and passed his physical, gets hit a few times, and, while maybe not ending his career, his play deteriorates further. Now you've got a gimpy Manning, an unhappy Smith, an ugly QB situation.

In short, while I think it makes most sense for Manning to land with a very good team that's just short of a QB, it may be better for him -- and his team -- to land somewhere that's rebuilding a little bit AND lacks a QB.

Seattle, Kansas City, Tennessee, Washington. Each of these teams has something going for it; they're not hopeless cases. But they wouldn't bring the situation and the expectations he'd find with San Fran or the Jets, where'd there'd be a franchise QB wannabe and a Super Bowl contender in place.

44
by BucNasty :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:53pm

I don't think the Niners are set on Alex Smith as the long term answer. Consideration for his feelings are no reason to avoid signing a Hall of Famer, even in his twilight. Alex Smith is serviceable but replaceable, and a young successor is already on the roster. So let Smith get mad, it's not like he's not used to the team trying to replace him. If Manning can pass his physical, they should absolutely make a play for him.

45
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:10pm

He wouldn't be the first serviceable QB replaced by a team trying out a venerable QB of greater talent in the hope of one last great playoff push.

Minnesota in 1998 playing an old Cunningham over a younger Brad Johnson. (15-1, lost in NFC Championship game)
Montana replacing (an ancient) Dave Krieg on the 1993 Chefs.
Famously, Favre replacing Tarvaris Jackson (a similar QB) on the 2009 Vikings, and making it to the NFC Championship Game

Manning should consider the Vikings. They have a fine tradition of riding an old QB on a new team to an OT loss in the NFC Championship game.

92
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:25am

I love looking at the Kansas City starting QBs in that timeframe, a panoply of very old men:
1988: Steve DeBerg (34)
1989: Steve DeBerg (35)
1990: Steve DeBerg (36)
1991: Steve DeBerg (37)
1992: Dave Krieg (34)
1993: Joe Montana (37)
1994: Joe Montana (38)
1995: Steve Bono (33)
1996: Steve Bono (34)

Then came Elvis Grbac, continuing the tradition of ex-49ers (DeBerg, Montana, and Bono) but, at 27, breaking the old man string.

51
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:32pm

Right, everybody says Kaepernick is the QB for the future, so why is there any problem with kicking Smith to the curb two years ahead of schedule? If I'm the Niners, I'm on the phone with Peyton's agent right now and gassing up the Learjet for Indy. They went 1-13 on 3rd down and were still lost the NFC champ game by a knee. Their defense is great right now. Why would they not be at the front of the line?

55
by Gray Jay (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:50pm

I can't figure this one out either. Smith's a UFA right now, isn't he? Don't the Niners have like $25M in cap space? Yet, the Niners are seemingly dead-set on bringing Smith back and blocking Kaepernick for the next several years. http://blogs.nfl.com/2012/03/07/san-francisco-wont-pursue-manning/

I'd think Manning'd be much happier playing in SF, and going to AZ, SEA, and STL for division games. As opposed to playing in Miami or KC and having to either play those cold-weather divisional opponents, or 8 games at Arrowhead.

62
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:32pm

The only reason that makes any sense is that Harbaugh just can't handle dealing with a guy like Peyton on his team, which if true, is a massive disappointment for the Niners. That's potentially a super bowl title that he could be throwing away because of arrogance.

71
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:24pm

If you can't handle a guy who has never been outworked, and has as good a grasp on what his team is doing as anyone who has ever played, after you've satisfied yourself that he is physically sound, then you are a moron, plain and simple, and I say that as someone who has tremedous respect for Harbaugh. I just can't fathom a guy with a clue being so dumb.

74
by jds (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:37pm

I'm not so sure Harbaugh wouldn't want Manning (what coach wouldn't?). My reading of his comments is that he doesn't want to burn the Alex Smith bridge until they have Manning's signature on the contract (and perhaps passes the physical). There is nothing for him to gain by giving a frank evaluation of Alex Smith, and a desire for Manning, when there is no guaranty his front office can close the deal on Manning. I expect Smith has a pretty thick skin from how he has been treated through his career, but Harbaugh is smart enough not to continue to pile it on him when he very well might not win the Manning sweepstakes.

77
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:45pm

Your scenario is more plausible to me than the notion that Harbaugh considers winning with total control the most important thing to do.

96
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:38am

The NFL isn't fantasy football.

When you have a QB who led you to within a muffed punt of the Super Bowl, you don't replace him, even if he's not elite. Treating players so brazenly like commodities does bad things to team morale.

And then there's the fact that Peyton has yet to demonstrate real arm strength.

108
by armchair journe... :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 5:01am

I think this is the same logic that led to Jeff Hostetler starting the 1991 season above Phil Simms on the depth chart.

//AJMQB

125
by Jim C. (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:02am

Ravens. Dilfer. Grbac. (Shakes head, tries not to cry).

131
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:41am

Did you just compare Peyton Manning to Elvis Grbac?

He he he.

143
by Jim C. (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 2:18pm

Actually, I think I just compared Manning to Trent Dilfer. Which has to be a first.

155
by Independent George :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:41pm

Naaah. Trent Dilfer compares himself to Peyton Manning all the time!

164
by John Courage :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 12:27am

They both have one ring and are therefore equally good quarterbacks ;-)

150
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 4:58pm

The biggest impediment to the niners making overtures to the Manning camp to see how his arm has recovered is that Peyton and Alex Smith share the same agent so it is pretty much impossible for Smith not to find out that the niners were looking to replace him.

It's pretty difficult to make a commitment to Manning without really checking his arm out and the niners would run the risk of burning their bridges with the quarterback who led them to the NFC championship game last year, a player who Harbaugh has made into a personal crusade.

For me, I'd really like to see Kaepernick given a shot but I think that's an unknown that Baalke and Harbaugh are loath to go with though I reckon that two years of Manning would be an ideal bridge to a CK future. It would also depend on how much Peyton wants to play for. I want Josh Morgan back and would like the niners to sign at least one veteran corner to fill out the nickel even if Rogers leaves, so I'd only like Manning if he were willing to take enough money to allow the niners to add some other players.

I also think Miami, Arizona and Seattle would be pretty good sides with #18 under centre.

151
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 5:07pm

I really can't believe that Alex Smith's feelings are the impediment here. It's Alex Smith.

153
by Will Allen :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 5:47pm

Ownership could tell Harbaugh to close his eyes, and imagine he's talking to Jim Schwartz.

167
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 9:28am

If you close your eyes when talking to Jim Schwartz, he'll punch you in the mouth.

156
by Yaguar :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:49pm

Because QBs who get lucky enough to be paired with a good defense are systematically coddled and praised for being "winners."

31
by theslothook :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:28pm

I feel really bad for manning though. If you think about it, its best for both sides whats happened. But still, its sour that it goes this way. Seriously, does anyone think the colts had much talent outside of two de ends, 1 center, and an aging wideout in wayne? This team failed manning and now hes the one that has to go.

Think about it, had they not gone 2-14, if they instead had the second pick, would they still get rid of manning? their entire course would've probably changed in favor of massive talent acquisition and trying to support manning.

Sometimes, fate deals strange hands.

50
by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:32pm

I think with the 2nd pick it still goes down exactly this way. It's a sad day to see him leave Indy, but it was like a perfect storm of everything coming together to force change: He's not just hurt, it's the nature of the injury and the uncertainty surrounding the recovery...the team didn't just struggle without him, they totally collapsed...it's a ton of money due right now before there's any certainty about his return...

Looking at all that, they'd have to of considered letting him go even if they'd been nowhere close to the front of the draft. Even if he came back this year at 100% he still might be retired or in decline before they got the rest of the roster back to being competitive.

84
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 8:14pm

2nd pick, yes. 5th pick? I would think not unless they made a play and moved up or something.

33
by Paul R :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:33pm

Once Caldwell left, the magic was gone.

At least now the offseason won't be so boring. Irrational Brady-Manning arguments can rise to a whole new level.

So, if an 85% Manning, playing for the Cardinals, goes up against Brady with a head cold and a temperature of 101.4 outdoors on artificial turf...

35
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:42pm

I'm assuming that first sentence was the result of a brainfart rather than a genuine belief ...

97
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:40am

I thought it was just sarcasm.

39
by xtimmygx :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 3:13pm

This will sound incredibly selfish, but one of the things I am saddest about in terms of Manning leaving is that had he stayed, we might have gotten more resolution to the debate of what impact Peyton not playing had on the Colts record. The fact that they won 8 less games in 2011 and their offensive DVOA decreased from 14.0% in 2010 to -14.6% in 2011 would indicate that Manning had a huge impact, but in my mind the 2010 Colts were already on the decline. How much of the change could be attributed to the rest of the team declining is now something we will probably never know, unless Andrew Luck comes in and sets the world on fire and the 2012 Colts take off.

47
by Wild Card Hater (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:26pm

When Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys, he fired Tom Landry, hired Jimmy Johnson, and they drafted Troy Aikman number one overall, all at the same time.

Six words: Herschel Walker trade. No salary cap.

49
by tonic889 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:28pm

As a fan of an annual AFC Championship contender, I just want thank Irsay for removing the Colts from the pool of annual contenders for a few years. Assuming he doesn't go to the Jets, fans of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New England have to like this move.

52
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:33pm

I don't think any fan-base is happier than those in Houston. That team was already good, and that division they are in could rival some of the worst divisions (apart from them) ever. All three other teams are dealing with either first or second year QBs. They all have first or second year coaches. My guess is Houston is easily the best bet for any team to win their division next year.

98
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:42am

" My guess is Houston is easily the best bet for any team to win their division next year."

I would go with the 49ers. Not that the Texans are a bad choice.

102
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:54am

I think the Carson Palmer Raiders have to be up there. He may not be what everyone thought he would be in 2005-6, but he's still an above average starting quarterback in the NFL, and with a full offseason and Darren McFadden the Raiders should be perfectly capable of keeping up with a San Diego team with no receivers.

104
by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 2:03am

I think the 49ers are a 13-3 team that was probably around 10-6, given their unsustainable turnover differential.

I think the Texans are a 10-6 team that was probably 13-3. They were on a total roll until Schaub went down. Still, that team barely lost to teh Colts and the Titans game was a quasi-rest-a-thon.

Both teams are pretty safe bets though, especially if Manning doesn't land on an NFC West competitor.

148
by JIPanick :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 3:45pm

Really? New England has won 9 of the last 11 AFCE championships, and only missed out on tiebreakers the other two years. I think the Pats are easily the safest bet.

San Francisco, OTOH, I think is one of the division champions least likely to repeat, along with Denver and the Giants.

149
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 4:15pm

Who in the NFC West can beat a Peyton Manning lead 49 team?

159
by JIPanick :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 8:35pm

I'm not operating under the assumption they will sign Manning.

115
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 7:29am

Next year, sure. But I'd be confident in the Texans winning the 2012 AFC South even with the Colts lead by a healthy Manning. The 2012 Peyton Manning Colts are wild card contenders at best. I'd far rather face a few years of Manning dragging bad Colts teams into marginal contention than over a decade of Colts teams lead by a quarterback who may be nearly as good as Manning was.

119
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 9:30am

Exactly. Any Texans (or Titans or Jaguars) fan happy about this development is being incredibly short-sighted. The Colts were in decline anyway. This was the correct move from a franchise perspective, because it allows them to take their rebuilding lumps now, and look towards contending again in 2-3 years. Keeping Manning was a recipe for a couple more years of going 9-7 but not being a serious contender, and THEN a 2-3 year rebuild around a new QB who probably wouldn't be as highly regarded a prospect as Luck.

53
by Harry (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:42pm

As someone who loves Manning as a player, but will always hate the Colts organization for abandoning Baltimore, I have to say this is a great day. And I look forward to many years of 4-12 seasons in Indy until the inevitable day the Colts move to LA.

57
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:06pm

Your moral righteousness expired on November 6, 1995, when you stole the Browns from Cleveland.

78
by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:49pm

+1

Everybody hates getting screwed...right up until they get the chance to screw somebody else.

56
by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 4:54pm

The 49ers are apparently looking to lock up Alex Smith long-term and have no interest in Manning:
http://bayarea.sbnation.com/san-francisco-49ers/2012/3/7/2852027/alex-sm...
Personally, I think that's a mistake. I don't fully believe that Alex Smith has turned it around, and I think the 49ers are due for some regression from a largely-all-unicorns year. That puts Smith at risk of either a performance-related or perception-related decline, and while he must be pretty mentally tough to survive his career to date, it's not going to be pretty if he holds serve, the 49ers fall back, and he takes the brunt of it.

It's an understandable mistake to make, though; I'm not nearly as sanguine about Manning's health as Will Allen seems to be, and Harbaugh has seen a lot more of Smith than I have. In a way, the situation is parallel to the Colts initial decision; do we pass up a chance at a QB of the future for an injured HoF QB of the now?

I would love to see them sign both Manning and Smith to one-year contracts - not that this is likely to happen - and make the point that this is about winning the Super Bowl, not about trust/confidence. Too much money tied up in people that won't be able to play at the same time, though.

58
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:15pm

From my perspective as a fan of the NFL, it's disappointing because if the shaky videos and rumors that Peyton is close to 100% are true, the Niners could be an all-time great team with him IMO. From my perspective as a Giants fan, though, I'm relieved. Of course, he could go to the Skins, heaven forbid...

59
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:15pm

I predict Peyton will play two more seasons and that he'll go somewhere totally unexpected. Therefore my wild guess is that the Broncos pick him up this year - Tebow will have extra time to learn how to throw a ball.

And if Denver plays how they did last year when Tebow was completing 45% of his passes then with Peyton at QB I'm giving them a damn good chance!

63
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:36pm

P.manning mighy go to Chiefs, redskins dolphins, carfianls, seahawks, or some other team. Really a lot of choices. A lot of ins and outs and what habe yous

65
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:47pm

RJ - I respect your great prescience ... I think you have nailed it perfectly with your prediction ... Chiefs, Redskins, Dolphins, Cardinals, Seahawks, OR SOME OTHER TEAM ... barring retirement I cannot see you being wrong.

In your esteemed view is there any possiblity that the Raiders might feel the need to pick up Peyton to go with Carson, Jason, Terelle, Kyle and Rhett Bomar? Or do they already have their gerta QB of the future?

79
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:56pm

Raiders well fortified at QB paotion for prwsent and future with Palmer pryor anf some others. Also may drafg a QB latebround 2012

66
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:51pm

Well, we know one thing, Peyton can roll on Shabbos.

76
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:43pm

I now picture you as the Dude, but with Sierra Nevadas instead of White Russians.

64
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:44pm

Choosing Alex Smith over Peyton Manning is like choosing Wendy's over a 7 course gourmet meal.

Sure, Wendy's is the best fast food chain, but it's Peyton freaking Manning.

67
by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:51pm

Poor Peyton Manning is waiting in line at the unemployment office right now to file for those little monthly checks and perhaps some food stamps. They don't take those at Wendy's, do they?

68
by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:01pm

I think if manning went to houston, they would be easily one of the favorites, if not, THE favorite to win it outright. I am less optimistic about the 49ers- who as people have mentioned, probably aren't anywhere near as good as everyone believes

99
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:47am

I don't know why people think the Texans might be in the mix. Schaub was good until he was injured. He finished the season #5 in DVOA. The Texans would be better advised to spend the money on keeping Mario Williams.

106
by t.d. :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 4:25am

I don't think the Texans are in the mix, but there's zero chance they keep Williams either. The best fit is the Chiefs, even assuming Charles doesn't come back as the player he was before the ACL tear. That defense was sneaky-good, and the offense was loaded everywhere except at quarterback, and, unlike Miami, the Cards or the Seahawks (good teams that need a quarterback), they don't have a Super Bowl favorite in their division

117
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 7:38am

The Texans can't afford Williams, and they can't afford Manning unless he takes a massive discount to play for them (essentially he would have to be willing to play for much the same amount as Schaub). They're going to struggle to re-sign Chris Myers and Mike Brisiel, never mind Peyton Manning.

127
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:15am

Number of seasons Schaub has been the starting QB for the Texans: 5, number of times he has played in all 16 games: 2

I think that could be a big reason.

135
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:04pm

To play devil's advocate, number of games Schaub has missed as a professional due to injuries not caused by Albert Haynesworth: 6.

Regardless, as I say elsewhere, the Manning-to-the-Texans talk (Florio and Jerome Solomon are the main culprits I've noticed, but I'm sure there are others) is silly, because the Texans don't have the cap room to pay him significantly more than Schaub, and I don't believe Manning will play for Schaub-type money.

72
by bubqr :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:27pm

WAs I the only one not impressed by the youtube clip ? I didn't saw the "bombs" many others saw, and I didn't see the usual zip from Peyton...

82
by Marko :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 7:50pm

The Chicago Bulls after their second Threepeat had a pretty stark break between franchise eras. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson, who had been part of all 6 Bulls championship teams in the 1990s, all left for various reasons after the 1997-98 season. Other key players from the second Threepeat also left (most notably Dennis Rodman). Overnight, the Bulls went from being 3-time defending champions to being the worst team in the NBA, and they endured nearly a decade consisting mostly of futility (with some seasons of mediocrity sprinkled in) until they were lucky enough to win the lottery and draft Derrick Rose.

89
by MJK :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 11:06pm

Aaron, here's a writing suggestion. Rather than try to parrot what other sportswriters are doing, put your FO spin on the story.

Tell us how other great but late career QB's that have left their longtime franchise have fared in the last couple of years of their career, and what it might mean for Manning. Use DVOA or similarity scores or similar.

I can only think of a couple, and some may be out of the DVOA era, but it would be an interesting read. Think Montana to the Chiefs...

93
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:59am

I just want to see how many I can come up with.

1. Brett Favre (Atl 1991, GB 1992-2007, NYJ 2008, Min 2009-10): Had one great year sandwiched between arguably the two worst seasons of his career.
2. Warren Moon (Hou 1984-1993, Min 1994-1996, Sea 1997-1998, KC 1999-2000): Started for five more years after leaving Houston and wasn't much short of his prime.
3. Joe Montana (SF 1979-92, KC 1993-1994): His production was well short of his peak, but so was his supporting cast. He still had two excellent years.
4. Johnny Unitas (Bal 1956-1972, SD 1973): Only lasted four games and was awful.
5. Jim Hart (StL 1966-1983, Was 1984): Threw seven passes. He had barely played and been ineffective when he did in '82 and '83 as well.
6. Y.A. Tittle (Bal 1948-1950, SF 1951-1960, NYG, 1961-1964): He had three great years (as good as any he had before that) before falling off the cliff in '64.
7. Roman Gabriel (RAM 1962-1972, Phi 1973-1976): Had perhaps his finest season in 1973, then was below average for the next three years.
8. Ken Stabler (Oak 1970-1979, Hou 1980-1981, NO 1982-1984): As Raiderjoe has said, his numbers look like he played his post-Raiders career drunk.
9. Joe Namath (NYJ 1965-1976, RAM 1977): Did not play very well and only lasted four games.
10. Bobby Layne (Chi 1948, NYY 1949, Det 1950-1958, Pit 1958-1962): Had two average years and then fell off a cliff at the end.
11. Archie Manning (NO 1971-1982, Hou 1982-1983, Min 1983-1984): I note that I would not consider him great, but I know others (including Aaron Schatz) do. He was awful in Houston and Minnesota.
12. Norm Van Brocklin (RAM 1949-1957, Phi 1958-1960): Did not produce at his peak level, but was very good.

101
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:53am

Boomer Esiason had some decent years on the Jets.

And of course, we can't forget Jim Plunkett, who was much better in his 30s than he had been in his 20s.

103
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 2:01am

I didn't count Boomer because he started with the Jets at 32, so it seemed to me he did not fit.

I didn't count Plunkett because (a) he was never anything close to "great" and (b) he never really left a long-time team (he was in NE for five years and SF for two years).

121
by ammek :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 9:50am

If P Manning signs for Washington, the NFC East may have the best set of proven starting QBs ever. The mention of Esiason reminded me of the 1993 AFC East, which probably had the most exciting set: two hall of famers near their peak (Kelly and Marino), a very good passer in Esiason, and two of the then-rare QBs drafted with the first pick, Jeff George and Drew Bledsoe.

129
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:19am

NFC North in 2010 -- Rodgers, Stafford, Cutler, Favre?

132
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:45am

Stafford wasn't much in 2010. He didn't break out until 2011.

137
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:18pm

Was Stafford a proven starter in 2010?

141
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:39pm

No, he wasn't. I was as much responding to the 1993 AFC comment.

140
by Travis :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:04pm

The 1981 AFC Central had 3 former MVPs (Bradshaw, Stabler, Sipe) as well as that season's MVP (Ken Anderson). Archie Manning replaced Stabler in 1982 and 1983.

The 1993 NFC East had 3 Super Bowl MVPs (Simms, Rypien, Aikman) as well as Randall Cunningham, but Steve Beuerlein was nothing special, especially at that point in his career.

145
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 3:29pm

The 2011 NFC East had Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and...hey, look over there!!!

(runs away)

168
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 9:30am

More seriously, 2010 had Vick, McNabb, Romo, and Manning.

171
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 11:07am

McNabb was kind of crappy by that point, though, and Eli hadn't yet reached his 2011 (and subsequent?) level.

173
by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 12:08pm

The 1966 NFL West started Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Roman Gabriel, John Brodie, and Fran Tarkenton. Of course, there were seven teams so they also had whichever mediocre QBs the Bears and Lions had that year.

179
by Shattenjager :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 3:04pm

Are you really saying that you didn't remember Rudy Bukich and Karl Sweetan?! Legends!

Bukich actually had an excellent season (123 ANY/A+) the year before, though it looks like it was a fluke.

105
by Marko :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 2:09am

Steve McNair.

107
by t.d. :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 4:29am

Favre had two good years, not one, before falling off a cliff. He was good with the Jets until he got injured, which he stubbornly played through

128
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:15am

If injury exonerates his poor 2008 season, it also exonerates his poor 2010 season. They were still poor seasons, no matter what the reason is.

If you're going to look at what older QBs did after leaving longtime teams late in their careers, it seems awfully silly to me to make special pleadings for their injuries--that's one of the risks involved in signing them.

111
by t.d. :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:25am

.

116
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 7:32am

Sure, but isn't it going to come down to his health anyway?

118
by Ivarsson.se :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 8:26am

Has any star player ever (well, salary cap era, I guess) played the ace card of the "nvm the money" suit? Sign somewhere for something close to the vet minimum to allow the team he signs for to keep all the other pieces together and make a run? I can only imagine that'd be a boost to team morale...

I understand nobody would do this in their prime, but PM has signed a few lucraticve contracts and probably got a nine digit bank account already, what good will the extra $40M gonna do him?

OTOH, he already has a ring too, and is a surefire first ballot HoF:er... one could argue more rings is no more important than padding that bank account.

122
by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 10:00am

I think people put too little stock in the money aspect. Sure he's rich and has a job he loves. But the money will still matter.

Let's say an average person makes something like $50k a year. Then they win a small lotto for $1 million (after tax). Now they've got 20 years worth of salary (this is very simplified I'm not including any investment stuff but just go with it).

They enjoy their job so don't want to quit just yet. Now let's say, because they do well at their job, another company says "well you get paid $50k right now but we'll pay you $75k to work here". Most people would probably take the $75k.

123
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 10:46am

What you're saying is plausible, but equally I can tell you that a number of well-remunerated employees at my company, which is a comparatively small player in its sector, actively choose to work here for less than half what they could get at one of our larger rivals because they've been there, done that, have enough money not to have to any more and they hated it there. These are people whose employment situation is actually quite comparable to Manning's: they're world-leaders in a small and specialized field, who are highly in demand, but only from a small number of of employers, all of whom know who they are; they are in the later stages of their careers, already have plenty of money in the bank, get paid good money even at the discounted rate they now work for, and could afford simply to retire now if they decided they didn't want to carry on.

All that said, I think the sort of winning club discount Manning might be willing to accept is pretty limited.

126
by Will Allen :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:13am

Yeah, I doubt that the Peyton Manning, Philanthropist, extends his efforts to NFL owners. He'll be willing to structure things somewhat to give a team more talent throughout the roster, but I doubt he'll be willing to take a substantial haircut. The biggest thing we'll be to not expose a team to huge risk right now, as a few more months pass to allow more nerve regeneration. I really think KC makes sense; Cassell is used to being a back up and has already had a nice payday (although I am ignorant of his specific contract structure), so a deal with Manning in which the large checks aren't guaranteed for a short while may be possible.

166
by akn :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 7:42am

The biggest thing we'll be to not expose a team to huge risk right now, as a few more months pass to allow more nerve regeneration.

That makes for great contract language:

Base Salary: 3 million
Roster bonus: 4 million
Incentives (likely): 9 cm axial/0.3 cm cross-sectional nerve regeneration--3 million
Incentives (unlikely): 60% nerve myelinization--2 million

130
by Steve in WI :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:35am

You make an excellent point, but one difference between your analogy and Manning's situation is that the person in your scenario is wealthy but not fabulously so. That $1M is going to make them much more secure than the average person and perhaps enable them to retire much earlier, but it's not so much money that an extra $25k a year isn't going to make a noticeable difference. OTOH, Manning likely has a $100M+ net worth and I would argue that the difference between, say, $100M and $125M isn't all that much (even though it's larger on a percentage basis). Either way he's going to have the money to do basically whatever he wants for the rest of his life assuming he doesn't make really stupid decisions.

As far as what's going to motivate Manning, I agree that he's a definite HOFer regardless of what he does in the future...but I imagine he'd really like another Super Bowl ring or two. Especially since Eli is ahead of him now.

134
by Will Allen :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:54am

It would be interesting to know Manning's net worth. If I was going to be conservative, I'd say at least 150 million; Indiana and the rest of the teams in the division are low tax states, and his endorsement income has been quite large. I think it is possible that he has earned more than 300 million since getting drafted, and he is not a guy who has been making it rain with his large entourage, so unless he was long Fannie Mae, GM, AIG, etc. stock in the financial meltdown, hell, he could be worth 200 million or more.

136
by Independent George :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:09pm

Don't forget his residuals on Football Cops reruns.

133
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:47am

Yes, for professional athletes, a lot of prestige comes with the salary. Peyton Manning doesn't need a big contract for the money. But he needs the prestige of being paid more than, say, Matt Flynn.

142
by BJR :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 1:41pm

Exactly. Drew Brees seems like a good guy, who has already made a lot of money, and would appear to have little interest in playing out the rest of his career anywhere other than New Orleans (current issues notwithstanding) where he has a strong supporting cast and is already a living legend. Accepting less salary this off-season would allow his team to retain their best OL and WR and guarantee a good shot at a Super Bowl next year and probably for another 3 or 4 years to come.

But there must also be a competitive, ego-driven streak in him that glances over at Tom Brady and thinks "I'm as good as him, I deserve to paid at least as much".

138
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:19pm

Unlike the NBA, where you can stock up on 2-3 superstars and have a fair chance of winning a championship (concentrated talent + long playoff series = less "luck"), in the NFL winning a Super Bowl is a much, much more difficult prospect. There's nowhere Peyton could go where taking a minimum salary guarantees that the team has a better chance than if he takes a contract commensurate with being Peyton freaking Manning.

144
by Ivarsson.se :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 2:57pm

True, another 15M in salary cap room (I'm guessing that's about the difference between Salary Cap Expensive Manning and Vet Minimum Manning) won't guarantee a Super Bowl, but if it increases the odds from 5% (probable division winner/WC team) to 12% (HFA favorite)? Also if that money is spent on OL it might keep him healthy... And I'd like to make the case that taking a vet minimum contract could cement that lucrative marketability that comes with being a team-first good-guy athlete.

Not sure why I'm arguing online that Peyton should take a pay cut and increase his chances of winning one more ring. Probably because I'd really like to see him win one more*, if nothing else, Peyton with 2 rings would nullify the silly Eli-is-better arguments.

*Unless it's vs the Pack in the SB.

146
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 3:33pm

Is anybody actually making the Eli-is-better argument?

I haven't heard a single person say such a silly thing. Unless, we are using "is" in a narrow, Clintonian sense. Eli "is" better in the sense that he is a much better QB today, or at least until the Peyton injury situation is resolved.

In any case, Trent Dilfer was better than Dan Marino.

185
by The Hypno-Toad :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 9:56pm

Is anybody actually making the Eli-is-better argument?

Sadly, yes. With alarming frequency.

188
by nat :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 8:09am

It would be nuts.

To argue that Eli is better you'd have to believe that at this point in his career (2005?), Peyton had a better offensive line in front of him, better receivers to target, a better running back to hand off to, an offensive scheme tuned to maximize QB stats over everything else, and a weak pass defense division to play in.

I repeat: It might maybe perhaps be nuts.

194
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 8:13pm

The only thing that I've heard like that from anybody but massive Giants homers is the "I'd take Eli in the big game" theory. I've never heard anybody uncategorically say that Peyton is better.

199
by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 5:17pm

It's mostly cropping up in the places you'd expect to find knee-jerk nonsensical statements. Like Facebook, for instance. In the day leading up to my above post, I saw three or four exchanges that followed this basic format:
Status update: "Should the Broncos get Manning and move on from Tebow?"
Comment: "Nah, I'd do it for Eli, but not Peyton."

200
by Intropy :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 6:18pm

That's not really the same thing. One could believe that Eli has more good football in his future than Peyton without thinking that Eli has been better over his career than Peyton. I hold that view, myself.

201
by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 6:31pm

Fair enough. I understand the distinction, and agree with it as well. I chose those examples because they were what I was specifically thinking of when I wrote the above post. However, then you have your garden variety lunatics who have been calling into Denver radio this week. I'm paraphrasing an exchange with a specific caller, but not by much:
Caller: "Well, first things first, Peyton Manning is totally overrated."
Host: "Really? Why do you say that?"
Caller: "Well, people talk about him like he's the best QB in the league, he's not even the best QB in his family. Eli's better than him."
Host: "What do you mean? Do you mean that you'd rather have Eli right now or..."
Caller: "It's simple. Peyton's been in the league 13, 14 years and has one ring. Eli's been way less time and has two. Where's the debate? Eli's better."

And yeah, sample size of one... But it alarms me that so many people directly equate rings with quality.

202
by tuluse :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 6:56pm

Will Perdue is clearly one of the best NBA players of the 90s. Way better than those Ewing and Reggie Miller scrubs.

203
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 03/12/2012 - 7:25pm

Jim Sorgi > Dan Marino.

147
by RickD :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 3:36pm

"There's nowhere Peyton could go where taking a minimum salary guarantees that the team has a better chance than if he takes a contract commensurate with being Peyton freaking Manning."

Well...the Jets are in cap hell, IIRC. They cannot possibly afford to pay Peyton Manning at market rates. But they sure as hell could pay him league minimum, and that would be a scary team if such a thing happened.

But I think that's not even close to happening.

152
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 5:14pm

Fair enough, I overstated the case, but that's not a "I'll take a pay cut so you can hire better players," that's a "Will you let us pay you minimum wage because we screwed up" situation.

154
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:18pm

Jets nit im cap hell. Whwere djd you hear jets in cap hell?

160
by Lance :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 9:36pm

According to this site's cap review, the Jets have less than $2 to spend. Not quite "hell" but certainly not ideal. By comparison, the next worst team in the AFC East has ca. $16 million to spend. Of course, RJ, your Raiders are in cap hell, as they're currently over by $11 million.

169
by dryheat :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 10:04am

If they only have $2 to spend, that's pretty hellish. That probably buys 2-3 mouthguards.

180
by Lance :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 6:11pm

"If they only have $2 to spend, that's pretty hellish. That probably buys 2-3 mouthguards."

This isn't the Defense Department!

But on a more serious note, that $2 million is before they've done anything to restructure contracts. Not knowing anything about the Jets' players under contracts, it's entirely likely that they can restructure one or two and free up another $5+ million.

But I'm not disagreeing: $2 million is NOT ideal, and I was objecting to RJ's suggestion that they didn't have cap problems.

184
by Marko :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 9:55pm

Read your original post and the response again. You said $2, not $2 million. Hence the joke.

186
by Lance :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 10:06pm

AH. OK. My mind did away with the error because it didn't compute-- even when he repeated it. Sorry; his joke would have been funnier if I'd caught it the first time around. I hope the others got more out of it. Alas.

161
by Vimalkalyan (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 10:47pm

As a Pats fan, let me state that the opponent whom you respect grudgingly or otherwise has deserved it. MANNING deserves every Pats fan respect for being amongst the finest to play the game.

I believe that all problems have solutions - direct or otherwise. If only Colts and Manning were open to out of the box suggestions. My 2 cents

1. Manning should have converted the 28 mn into equity investment in the colts. After all, he has much to give the franchise post retirement as well as a coach or even front office leadership

2. Why would Jim Irsay have an isue with that. At their 1.1 bn valuation, 28 mn is 2.5% which i am sure he wouldnt mind for his biggest star. Yes, it would mean that he took a salary cap hit, but i believe it is the actual money rather than the salary cap that forced this move. Peyton, as a shrewd businessman, would have also agreed to spread this 28 mn over 4 years and be converted into equity. If irsay wanted to be miserly with equity, he could also write automatice buy-back for agreed future valuation. After all, if peyton returns healthy and take him to playoffs+, the franchise will be worth more than today.

I am sure that there miight be naysayers to the suggested solution, but all can agree that the 2 parties could have agreed to a solution if they wished. What a pity that it had to end this way

162
by Will Allen :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 10:55pm

I may be wrong, but I don't think the CBA allows a player to have an equity stake.

163
by Marko :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 11:57pm

Without even looking it up, I am sure that you are not wrong.

177
by vimalkalyan (not verified) :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 2:38pm

I dont know the exact legality of players getting ownership stake. But, in this age, there are enough workarounds.

My point was that ownership stake was one of the many potential options that Manning and Irsay could have explored. I am sad that enough effort wasn't put in to continue the relationship - without blaming or absolving any one party here.

178
by dryheat :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 2:51pm

Those workarounds are all going to involve salary cap circumvention.

183
by Will Allen :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 8:29pm

Your solution seems to be that the parties involved should violate the terms of contracts the parties have agreed to adhere to. Well, that's thinking outside the box!

204
by vimalkalyan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 9:18am

How is it violation of contract? I am sure that if both parties wanted to re-do the contract to avoid the 28 mn payment, they could have done so.

206
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 10:15am

I think he's referring to the CBA, not to the specific provisions of Peyton's contract with the Colts. An ownership stake for Peyton would violate the terms of the CBA, to which Peyton - as a member of the NFLPA - and the team are both parties.

208
by Intropy :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 1:54pm

Couldn't Manning simply leave the union in that case?

209
by tuluse :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 5:58pm

Sure, if he doesn't want to play in the NFL.

210
by Intropy :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 6:53pm

Do you have to be in the NFLPA to play in the NFL? I was under the impression that it was illegal to require union membership as a condition of employment.

211
by tuluse :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 7:06pm

Yes, and not in the slightest.

165
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 6:31am

Regardless of the legality of such a move under NFL rules, why would either party want this? Peyton wants to play for a contender. The Colts want to rebuild with a quarterback who will still be around the next time they are capable of challenging for titles. The Colts might have wanted to be able to trade Peyton rather than cutting him, but I imagine that's their only regret.

I mean, apart from five years of lousy drafting that got them into this mess in the first place, of course.

205
by vimalkalyan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 9:20am

This is a valid point. Especially given that they are cutting nearly everyone, the colts want a fresh start. I am not sure if they will get one quick turnaround this year itself or will they be relegated to the mediocrity for a few years before they finish rebuilding !!!

207
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 10:16am

They will probably suck something fierce again in 2012, and are unlikely to be much better than average in 2013. By 2014, I would expect them to be contenders again.

174
by Theo :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 1:03pm

The Chiefs have offered Peyton a contract. I read that Peyton prefers to stay in the AFC. Why would that be?

175
by David :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 1:18pm

Minimises games against Eli

176
by dryheat :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 1:47pm

Why would he not want to play against his brother? Especially with the season his brother just had, I would imagine any sibling rivalry or competitive nature in a professional athlete would lead Peyton to enjoy playing Eli.

181
by Lance :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 6:18pm

Given their relationship, I don't think classic "sibling rivalry" is going to be in effect.

182
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/09/2012 - 8:25pm

Most accounts of the Manning Bros. relationship (and my experience with similar age-distributed siblings) indicates that Cooper and Peyton were the competitive, one-upping brothers, and Eli was the momma's boy. Obviously they are grown men and not little boys any more, but I don't think that kind of thing really was a part of their relationship, and I'm sure they know it's in their best interest to downplay it as much as possible now that they're famous athletes.

189
by dryheat :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 10:02am

Maybe, but I find that disappointing. I picture elite, driven athletes to want to compete against the best. Jeebus -- I love my brothers, but there was never a time I didn't want to kick their respective asses in an athletic or skill competition, even if now in our 30s that consists primarily of pool or darts.

Maybe Peyton is afraid of upstaging Eli, but to me that seems a slap to the face, and should really only rule out the Redskins, Eagles, & Cowboys. Or maybe keeping the all-Manning Super Bowl dream alive.

190
by tuluse :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 1:44pm

I think this post is the epitome of searching for something to complain about.

191
by dryheat :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 4:22pm

What do you imagine I'm complaining about?

192
by tuluse :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 4:40pm

You wrote that you were disappointed in Manning.

193
by dryheat :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 6:43pm

Well, if as postulated, he wants to stay in the AFC so as to lessen the chances of playing against Eli, then yes, I'm disappointed in the lack of competitiveness. But that's his decision and ultimately it doesn't affect my life whatsoever (quite obviously).

If I were Eli, I'd take that as a slap....like
Big brother is suggesting that he's upstage me by his very presence in the conference. Or that he wants to protect his position as the best Manning in the league by not wanting to play against me.

Note that I don't believe this is his reasoning if he truly wants to remain in the AFC. The more I think about it, the more I like the Manning Super Bowl angle.

195
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 8:20pm

Peyton to the Jets, followed by a 2014 All-Manning, All-NY Super Bowl, would cause the internet/sports media to implode, regenerate, explode, regenerate, and implode again. If people were disgusted by the Pats/Giants rematch hype, that would seem a shabby sideshow in comparison. It's cool to think about though. And seemingly an impossible dream, with Sanchez re-upping. My money is on Peyton to the Fins, and the league trying to somehow break its own scheduling rules to work in 3 Brady/Manning battles per year and putting them all on MNF.

196
by rich31689 (not verified) :: Sat, 03/10/2012 - 8:55pm

And there probably is more than a little competitiveness in their relationship. But something tells me that if Skip Bayless and his ilk were on hand to make moral pronouncements about how your family dart games reflected on your personalities, relationship, and "clutch genes," you might be a little more cautious about your brotherly competition.

198
by JIPanick :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 1:34pm

I don't think it is "minimizes games against Eli" so much as "maximizes the chances of a Manning Bowl"

197
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 4:18am

Thing is ... all this All-Manning SuperBowl hype ... it sort of relies on the idea that the Giants weren't lucky to make it back to the Super Bowl.

I seem to recall that everybody was calling for Coughlin's head at the start of December so if that isn't a sign that a team isn't steady I don't know what is.

Not saying the Giants didn't perform once they made the playoffs but as a regular season team they are very patchy which of course is the complete opposite of Peyton's Colts.