To answer the question posed in the title of this piece, one must consider the comments that Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning former coach, made on March 18 on The Dan Patrick Show. It's likely that no person in the national football world is closer to Peyton Manning than his former coach Tony Dungy. Dungy had many serious conversations with Manning in the past few weeks. Dungy's comments make it appear that Manning's decision to sign with Denver centered around two reasons. Firstly, his respect and love for his idol growing up -- John Elway. Elway went to Manning, rather than Manning flying into Denver and he answered all the questions QB-to-QB. The second reason was Manning's familiarity with the AFC. Most of his experience has been playing against AFC teams over the years. In the regular season, Manning has played maybe four NFC teams on average in regular season play not including Super Bowl. This apparently was a very important element in his decision. Money supposedly was secondary.
This decision is shocking. Where was the consideration of personnel -- because that should be Manning's greatest concern. What is most important to a quarterback with age and injuries? A great protective offensive line that allows a pocket quarterback to identify and hit his receivers at will. Just remember what the Giants defensive front line did to the New England Patriots' Tom Brady in his two Super Bowls playing against them. The real question is does Denver have the players to win a Super Bowl in the very near future? You do not win in the NFL without quality players and terrific coaching!
Peyton Manning has everything: a great family, many football records, and the love of the fans. So what is the point at this stage in his career? Peyton Manning probably only wants one thing: a Super Bowl. That will not happen in Denver. I predict that with Manning as the QB, the Broncos will not win their division this year. I further predict that Peyton Manning will not bring Super Bowl victories in the next few years to the Denver Broncos. Maybe having Peyton Manning will make the fans feel better. But they will need more than John Fox's coaching to achieve victory in the ultimate contest. Denver has too many holes unless the Broncos pull in some great free agents soon. Manning will get swallowed in Denver because he doesn't move. The Colts were blessed with terrific receivers that Peyton Manning was used to and an offensive group that gave him the freedom to be successful on many levels.
There is no doubt that Manning is one of a kind in one respect. He is the only quarterback of his era who is a coach on the field. He can study defense strategies while the defense is unrolling and make his countermoves instantly. No other quarterback presently playing has the football mind of Peyton Manning. So what gives with this absurd decision? Do we continue to anoint Peyton Manning with greatness because he made a judgment call not to play NFC opponents because he is not used to the NFC teams? The Broncos will not instantly become a well-oiled machine merely because Manning arrives. Look what happened to the Philadelphia Eagles dream team that ended at 8-8 with a bunch of proven superstars that never gelled. Are we to believe the Manning at 36 is the savior? The Broncos are at least two to three years from a Super Bowl appearance under the best conditions of infusing new talent and having overall injury-free seasons. More importantly, how effective will Manning be three or four years from today when he looks 40 squarely in the face?
Where should Peyton Manning have signed? The San Francisco 49ers are set up perfectly as Super Bowl contenders for the next five years barring major injuries. They are a young team with a terrific offensive line that will protect Manning's backside, great receivers including the recent acquisition of Mario Manningham, a phenomenal running back in Frank Gore who is always a threat the defense can never forget and arguably the best coach in football aside from Bill Belichick -- Jim Harbaugh. The only weakness on the entire 49er team is the quarterback. Harbaugh knows quarterbacks, after all he was the coach who recruited and worked with Andrew Luck of Stanford. It is wonderful that Manning's doctors all tell him not to worry and gave him a clean bill of health. But, as Dungy said, even Peyton is not sure of his physical ability to withstand punishment from hits, the weather and other unknown factors. So, in summary, here is what football's greatest quarterback mind chose to ignore: the best defense in football, a team that was two fumbles from the Super Bowl, playing in great weather with a great quarterback coach, a terrific offensive line and no weaknesses.
As an aside in all this, it will be interesting to see what will happen to Tim Tebow who took a disaster of a football team into the playoffs under the coaching theories of John Fox. John Fox we need to remember ended his last season at Carolina at 2-14. Only the future will tell if Tebow grows as a QB. Agreeably he is not the passer that Manning is -- few are. On the other hand many of Tebow's passes that were dropped seemed to have razor blades on the football since his receivers caught like they were playing in the pee wee league. If Tebow goes to a team like the New York Jets, it will not be because some questionable coach thinks Tebow has no future.
Is Peyton Manning afraid of the unknown? Is he afraid of facing new defensive strategies by not having played that competition? Are we supposed to honor him as the greatest quarterback of all-time because he chooses to play against most of the teams he has met before? This alone singularly questions just how great a quarterback he will end up being? Would Joe Montana, John Elway, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers fear a defense they haven't played? Of course not.
At face value this deal makes little sense on a number of levels. So is there more to this deal that has not been announced? Was there a side promise of partial ownership? Stay tuned. Peyton Manning you are a great player -- I wish you only good luck in Denver because you will need it.
This post has been updated since its original publication.