Peyton Manning or Robert Griffin III is the new debate. And the St. Louis Rams have a vested interest in the discussion.
By John CzarneckiFoxSports
The availability of Peyton Manning and his pending "Show Me the Bucks" road show is a bad event for the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams are in the market to deal the draft rights to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the Manning sweepstakes might cost them a potential bidder while also taking the focus off their prize, one they have been dangling for weeks now.
This is why Rams CEO Kevin Demoff liked the idea of possibly making a quick trade coup for RG3. He knew a Manning circus could distract RG3 speculators and muddle his situation and potential windfall.
With the Cleveland Browns remarkably sitting on the fence about surrendering both of their first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 22) for RG3, the Rams need a better trading partner. And the one they can’t afford to lose right now is the Redskins, who are desperate for a franchise quarterback, young or old. Washington has the sixth pick in the first round, one that might still help St. Louis select a playmaker for Sam Bradford or a quality cornerback for Jeff Fisher’s defense.
The Redskins are a wild card right now because of owner Daniel Snyder’s proclivity in the past to spend outrageously on aging NFL superstars. How strong is Snyder’s temptation to pursue Peyton? Does he really want to lose him to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross? But the biggest question in Washington is who is ultimately calling the shots.
Most suspect coach Mike Shanahan still has the personnel power in Washington despite his 11-21 record, one victory worse than Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn each were in their two-year tenures. Shanahan, who recently described his offense of last season as playoff-caliber, is more concerned with winning now than rebuilding with a rookie quarterback. And in case anyone has forgotten, Shanahan’s Redskins were the last team to beat the champion New York Giants this past season. In fact, the Redskins swept the Giants.
The wild card in Washington is general manager Bruce Allen, who used to be Demoff’s boss in Tampa Bay. He and the Rams executive have a friendship going back years, to the days when Demoff was running the indoor Los Angeles Avengers for Casey Wasserman, whose entertainment group happens to represent the Colts’ future quarterback, Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave!
Allen wants to build Washington for the future, and he is in Washington for the long haul. Allen does not view himself as some ceremonial general manager, simply working on Shanahan’s every whim. He agrees with Shanahan, though, that many offensive pieces are in place in Washington, with the lone missing ingredient a dynamic quarterback.
Yes, Peyton may be a better fit for Shanahan’s rigid offensive strategy, but there’s no getting around the fact that he will be 36 this month while RG3 just turned 22. Also, there’s no debate right now who has more whip in his arm — the kid from Baylor does, not the nerve-regenerating right arm of Manning, unless you are convinced that Peyton looked great in that weird, Zapruder-like video of him throwing on a college practice field.
What RG3 doesn’t have are four NFL MVP awards.
Of course, the Peyton saga also has the potential to drum up business for the Rams. Whatever teams go hard for Peyton and lose out, well, they just told their fans they want a star quarterback. And there are plenty of wild-card teams in pursuit of Peyton.
Remember, some thought that Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel actually tampered with the Colts star with his outspoken honesty about believing he would be a perfect fit with the Chiefs. Kansas City holds the 11th spot in the first round. Yes, that may be too low for the Rams to go; that’s why the speculation about the Jaguars (seventh overall) having an interest is more appealing.
And what happens in Miami, the so-called favorite landing spot for Peyton, if they lose out on him to say the Redskins or the Arizona Cardinals? Remember, the Cardinals are the team whose head coach called his current quarterbacks a bunch of “knuckleheads” a month ago — even though they showed Kevin Kolb the money a year ago.
The Rams won’t be trading with the Cardinals, a division opponent, and for the Rams, that makes Arizona the perfect team to sign Peyton because it leaves their draft board and potential trading partners intact.
What is fascinating about the pursuit of Peyton is how teams are reportedly coming out of the woodwork. The New York Jets have some interest, even though they are on the hook for $11.25 million this season to Mark Sanchez, a quarterback they traded up for in 2009. Having both Mannings in New Jersey would be a tabloid newspapers’ dream come true. Besides, there’s no doubt that some in the Jets have soured on Sanchez. Signing Peyton also keeps him away from the Dolphins.
I’ve always believed, like the great Jerry Rice declared this week, that San Francisco would be the ideal team for Peyton. The 49ers are used to employing Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks. And despite Jim Harbaugh’s fondness for Alex Smith, there is no question that a healthy Peyton could squeeze more out of that offense than Smith did this past season. Granted, the 49ers still need a better No. 1 receiver, but that defense keeps them in the playoff picture for a couple more seasons.
The bottom line for the Rams is that they would prefer that teams with a top-10 draft choice lose out on Peyton Manning. With the Browns seemingly sitting back and watching the proceedings, the Rams would be wise to try to close a trade soon with the Redskins, especially if they will offer a couple future first-round picks.
This is the time to be aggressive and put a trade package together, not to wait for the Peyton shoe to drop, before it can put a damper on the bidding war for RG3.