Facing Manning painful reminder of QB Titans lost

Tennessee has no time to think about what could have or would

have been if Peyton Manning had chosen to be a Titan in March

2012.

They’re too busy preparing to defend him once again.

This week provides a painful reminder of what might have been if

the Titans had been able to successfully sign Peyton the free

agent. At their owner’s bidding, they wooed the four-time NFL MVP

hard with a Hall of Fame offensive lineman as head coach leading

the way only to lose out to Denver and another Hall of Famer in

John Elway.

Coach Mike Munchak recalls the chase as exciting and thinks the

Titans were right there with the Broncos at the end. Munchak says

they knew Manning makes people around him better and wins, which is

why owner Bud Adams, who died in October, wanted the quarterback so

much.

”Obviously, it’s worked out well for him, but it just shows

what difference he can make on the team he’s on,” Munchak

said.

What a difference indeed.

The Broncos (10-2) are atop the AFC chasing home-field advantage

after going 13-3 in Manning’s first season.

The Titans (5-7) are struggling – again – to put together wins

and starting a third different quarterback since missing out on

Manning. They started both Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck going

6-10 last season, and now it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback with

Locker out for the rest of this season with an injured right

foot.

Manning is having one of his best seasons yet with 41 touchdown

passes already and 4,125 yards and a 115.3 passer rating. In 12

games, Manning has only nine interceptions while Fitzpatrick has

been picked off seven times in his five starts and seven

appearances.

Munchak spent hours breaking down film with Manning, and the

Titans worked the quarterback out in Knoxville in a session moved

away from reporters.

”He’s special,” Munchak said. ”There’s not many guys like him

around. You can see that when you spend time with him.”

Manning wouldn’t indicate how close the Titans came in losing

out to Denver on Wednesday in a conference call with Tennessee

reporters. He didn’t want to go back down memory lane during a game

week, but Manning called it a whirlwind process with the Titans

first-class with him, which included a couple conversations with

Adams.

He compared the decision to the challenge of picking a college.

But this recruitment could not have been more public or in a short

period of time.

”I enjoyed the time that I spent with the Titans’

organization,” Manning said. ”Obviously, I had to pick one place.

You can only go to one place, and I picked Denver. I’ve worked hard

every day to try and make it a good choice.”

Not everyone was so eager to see Manning land in Tennessee.

Receiver Nate Washington said he felt very confident in Locker

going into his second season, so he tried to keep his quarterback’s

confidence up by texting regularly. Washington is not among those

thinking of what might be different if Manning picked Titans’

Columbia blue.

”The reality of it is we don’t have him, we didn’t have him at

the time, we don’t have him now,” Washington said. ”As great as

it would be to imagine a situation like that, this is real

life.”

Cornerback Jason McCourty thinks it was good the Titans were in

the chase. He would not have minded picking Manning’s brain to see

how the quarterback dissects a defense before, during and after a

snap or the challenge of practicing against him daily.

”But we didn’t get that opportunity,” McCourty said.

Notes: TE Delanie Walker and Craig Stevens (concussions) did not

practice, though Stevens did some running on a side field

Wednesday. RT David Stewart (shoulder) also did not practice along

with P Brett Kern (sore back). WR Kendall Wright (ankle) was

limited, and WR Damian Williams (hip) was limited in his return

after missing three games.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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