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What's next for all the Manning losers?
The best thing about Denver for Peyton Manning is he’ll be able to call his own shots, much like he did in Indianapolis. The offense will be his, and if there are any issues he can always bounce them off John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback who is quickly, based on acquiring No. 18, proving to be a very good football executive.
Now, this is no disrespect to coach John Fox and Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Fox is secure in his own skin, and relinquishing offensive reins to Manning will be an enjoyable moment for him, especially after all the emotional hiccups with Tim Tebow last season. The bottom line is Fox loves defense and ball control, but with Manning the Broncos figure to have more leads than they did last season.
The winners in all this are the Broncos-crazy fans of Colorado, even if it means the end of their religious love affair with Tebow, who may have a choice between Miami and Jacksonville, his hometown, as potential landing sites.
At this moment, fans, the Dolphins appear to be the most desperate team in America!
Signing David Garrard is unlikely to satisfy Miami fans, and even with him and last season's starter Matt Moore, the Dolphins still could be clearing cap space for a run at Alex Smith, or willing to take a chance on Tebow.
Same thing with the Jaguars. Despite recently signing Chad Henne and after using a first-round pick on Blaine Gabbert, new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan always has wanted Tebow. The coaches and front office may not want Tebow in Jacksonville, but owners write the checks. And this could be good news for Elway, who really never thought he could land a high draft choice for his hard-running, inaccurate quarterback who continues to work on his footwork and delivery at UCLA.
Denver won the AFC West and upset the Steelers in the playoffs last season, but with Peyton Manning the Broncos will be listed with the Patriots and Steelers as Super Bowl favorites in the AFC this year.
The Broncos always believed they were the favorites in the Peyton Sweepstakes, which is probably big news to Titans owner Bud Adams, who wanted to sign the quarterback to a lifetime contract.
“When he doesn’t want to play anymore, I want him to come to work for us as long as he lives,” Adams said. “He is the man I want. Period. And the people that work for me understand that. They know who I want. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans, and I will be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.”
Well, I doubt that Titans coach Mike Munchak and team executive Mike Reinfeldt are shaking in their shoes. They always can remind Adams that his demand for Vince Young years ago didn’t work out too well for the Titans. Plus, the Titans do have former first-round pick Jake Locker ready to assume control.
Yes, Peyton would have been very popular in Tennessee, where he played college ball, but I don’t view the Titans as big losers in this deal. They have a young team, and their best receiver, Kenny Britt, gets in too much trouble for Peyton’s liking. Outside of being in Tennessee, the Titans were never a serious option for Peyton. And Locker surely must understand the Titans' pursuit of Peyton, although Matt Hasselbeck might not.
But hey, what are Hasselbeck’s options? Play or retire? He isn’t going back to Seattle, and most of the playoff-quality teams have secured competent backups.
On a personal level, the biggest loser in all this may be the relationship between 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Alex Smith. Harbaugh tossed the football around with Peyton and tried to convince him that he could put the 49ers in the Super Bowl, something Smith failed to do last season. Smith felt betrayed on two fronts: by Harbaugh and his representatives, who focused on their bigger client, Manning.
What Harbaugh and Tom Condon did is totally understandable; they both want to win and maximize their situations. Yes, having a great relationship is a desired trait, but the NFL is a big business, and Smith surely knows and understands that aspect of the game. He’s spent his career somewhere between the penthouse and outhouse, only to resurrect himself last season.
Now, it’s back to the drawing board for the 49ers, who must smoke a peace pipe with Smith or figure out how they are going to win with Colin Kaepernick. There aren’t many options with Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and even Shaun Hill signing elsewhere. Smith remains San Francisco’s best option at the moment.
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt made a solid run at Peyton and had an ace in the hole in receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But Whisenhunt’s relationship with his holdover quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, isn’t any worse for wear. He already referred to them both as knuckleheads before showing Peyton around Arizona and the team complex. In the end, the Cardinals opted to continue their financial commitment to Kolb while knowing that they were probably going to end up as a bridesmaid with Peyton in the end.
Seattle, which wanted to be involved with Peyton, made a financially prudent signing with Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn. They didn’t give away the farm and now have a young quarterback ready to compete with Tarvaris Jackson. Besides, the Seahawks have had good success with Green Bay backups, considering they made a deal long ago to get Hasselbeck and he took the franchise to a Super Bowl. And his old coach, Mike Holmgren, still believes to this day that the officials robbed him of that game against Pittsburgh.
Kansas City’s Clark Hunt talked a good game when it came to Manning, but that’s all it was. Now, the Chiefs could end up as an afterthought in the division, given the quarterbacks in San Diego, Oakland and now Denver.
Finally, there is no contest on which team was tarnished the most by losing out on Peyton. It’s the Miami Dolphins in a landslide.
Remember, their fans were the first ones to put up Peyton billboards, and everyone in Indianapolis at Super Bowl time figured that owner Stephen Ross had the necessary billions to sign Peyton. "Done deal" was the best conjecture.
But like he did with the Redskins, Peyton turned his back on Ross, GM Jeff Ireland and first-time head coach Joe Philbin. The Dolphins didn’t have a lot to offer Peyton when it came to offensive weapons, especially after they traded Brandon Marshall. And Ross may also want to re-evaluate his steadfast support for Ireland, who basically wasn’t willing to share personnel decisions with prospective head coach Jeff Fisher, and then didn’t say the right things around Peyton, and then was too negative with Matt Flynn. Imagine any young quarterback choosing the rainy Northwest over South Beach!
The Dolphins — the franchise of Don Shula, the 17-0 season and Dan Marino — are suddenly a team wandering around the NFL basement, looking for bargains while telling their fans that 8-8 seasons (or worse) aren’t that bad.