Stop the presses (or I guess the “publish button” nowadays) because Peyton Manning has thrown a football.
As a part of the four-time NFL MVP’s rehabilitation program, Manning will begin to throw passes to his teammates. Manning had been doing some tossing, but now he said he’s going to “ramp it up a little more.”
While the news suggests Manning is recovering from his third neck procedure, including a fusion surgery in September, in the last 19 months, it does not mean that the Colts quarterback will see the field on gameday.
Team owner Jim Irsay said physicians just recently allowed him to begin more strenuous throwing, but he isn’t even cleared to practice and is reduced to a strict routine. And at 0-13, why risk Manning’s future by sending him out there to salvage maybe one win?
In fact, Manning’s future may not even be in a Colts uniform. The team is on the path to draft first in April’s NFL Draft, and if the team elected to draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck, it doesn’t make financial sense to pay the rookie and the $28 million team bonus Manning is due in March.
It’s hard to envision Manning as anything but an Indianapolis Colt, but where else would Manning be a fit? The 35-year-old would be an ideal fit for a contender missing that final piece for a Super Bowl run. Here is some speculation:
Manning to the 49ers. San Francisco has undergone a significant turnaround with Alex Smith piloting the offense, but then again, he’s still limited. Smith is enjoying a career year under Jim Harbaugh’s tutelage, but if Manning were under center this offense would be as dangerous as any in the league.
Smith’s best season would include nearly 3,000 yards, 20 or so touchdowns and about seven interceptions. In contrast, in Manning’s 2010 season – his last full year – he threw for 4,700 yards, 33 touchdowns and 17 picks. And it’s not like the 49ers don’t have offensive weapons. Frank Gore is the best running back Manning would have played with since Edgerrin James. Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams are talented young wideouts, and Vernon Davis is one of the more athletic tight ends in the league.
Should the 49ers get booted out of the playoffs early, Manning would be the ideal fix. Smith signed a one-year, $4 million deal in the offseason, and that’d be off the books. Insert Manning, and the 49ers would have an easy road through the NFC West to the postseason for the next two years.
Manning to the Jets. It’s a bit of a stretch because the Jets consider Mark Sanchez the quarterback of the future. And sure, the youngster has lifted Gang Green to the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons. But doesn’t it feel like the Jets were thriving despite Sanchez? It’s a defensively driven team, and as the defense takes a step back – as they have this year – more and more of Sanchez’s flaws are exposed.
It is only Sanchez’s third year, and his statistics bare resemblance some Hall of Fame
quarterbacks’ numbers. But he plays in New York, where the media analyzes each and every poor throw. And because of his past success, if he cannot get past the AFC Championship Game it’s inevitably considered regression.
Enter Manning, who would reunite with his former Colts coach Tom Moore who currently is an offensive advisor in New York. Manning would orchestrate the Jets offense, better utilizing Santonio Holmes and taking advantage of Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller. He’s a defensive team’s dream because the offense would be more capable than in years past.
Then there are the non-contenders, where quarterback issues have headlined the franchise’s struggles for the last few years. Surely it doesn’t make sense for Manning to move to a rebuilding franchise, but he has masked some mediocre Colts teams over the years, so the belief that he can make a team competitive is not out of line.
Of course the Washington Redskins would be interested. Mike Shanahan should and will be on the hot seat in his third year, and Rex Grossman does not appear to be the right guy for the job. Shanahan will definitely go after a quarterback in the coming draft, but owner Daniel Snyder – as always – would like to make a splash in the nation’s capital by bringing in Manning.
The Miami Dolphins have been searching for a quarterback since Dan Marino. Keep in mind the last time Marino played – in 2000 – people were rocking Oops! I Did it Again on their CD players. Chad Henne has been an utter disappointment thus far in his career, and the new Fins head coach could do much worse than starting his tenure with Manning under center.
Also in the mix: Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland, Jacksonville (Los Angeles?) and dare I say – the Broncos?