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Peyton's Place

’Citing “several people familiar with the Redskins’ thinking,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday morning that Mike Shanahan’s team will make an aggressive bid to sign quarterback Peyton Manning after he’s released by the Colts.’

Say it ain’t so Joe. Or Mike. Or Bruce. Don’t say anything at all Dan.

Seeing the Colts part ways with an apparently near-healthy face-of-the-franchise Manning is downright surreal. But it’s a topsy-turvy, crazy, wacky, mixed-up NFL world we live in where the news that the Redskins may make a serious effort to bring all-world QB Peyton Manning to DC conjures up feelings of fear, concern, and disappointment.

And yet, that’s exactly where I am. And I sense I’ve got plenty of company amongst my burgundy and gold-loving brethren.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the majority of Redskins fans would’ve been absolutely giddy about the prospect of Peyton Manning under center for the Redskins. During a succession of quarterbacks spanning some 10 years, Redskins fans have tried desperately to convince themselves that, with just another season, a little better supporting cast, some coaching up, and gosh darn it, some heartfelt love and devotion from the fans, guys named Ramsey, Campbell, McNabb, and (gasp) Grossman or Beck could magically become 'the guy’. But DC isn’t Disneyland and dreams don’t come true.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in this world. The future is hazy, unknowable, and success an ethereal and elusive mirage seemingly always just out of reach. But I know 2 things. Snooki’s kid will not attend an Ivy League school, and the Redskins need a quarterback.

So what’s not to love about a Manning to DC scenario? What are the Pros and Cons of a Manning to Washington scenario?

Cons: Manning’s health is clearly the pink elephant in the room. Short lots of leaked reassurances and a grainy video of Manning chucking some balls to friends on a Duke practice field, we just don’t know if Manning can still be the Man. Nerves don’t regrow. The body can regenerate the myelin sheath that covers the nerve pathways, or shunt signals to muscle fibers around damaged cells, but most neurologists will tell you, once a nerve is significantly damaged, partial restoration of function, not full recovery is usually a realistic prognosis. There are still some significant doubts as to what version of Peyton Manning suitors can expect to see – not whether he can play or not, but whether he will still be able to deliver the ball with the velocity and authority that has become his trademark?

Pros: A John Madden impersonator once proclaimed 'Even without arms and legs, Brett Favre is still the best torso in football!’. The same can be argued here. Manning at 75% is still likely a top 5 quarterback. Steve Young recently made some excellent points regarding Manning’s health, pointing out that 36 year old quarterbacks, whether coming off a significant injury or not, are already losing their physical tools. Young pointed out that it’s what’s between Manning’s ears and his years of invaluable on-the-field experience that will allow him continued success. The 'health argument’ may be the biggest red herring of all since no NFL team is going to sign Manning with an intensive physical exam and on-the-field assessment of his current physical capabilities. And the argument that Manning is now 'brittle’ holds little water medically as fused vertebra tend to be as strong or stronger structurally than the original bone. Manning has been an exceptionally durable QB during his career. One can reasonably expect him to be just as durable as any other 36 year old NFL quarterback going forward.

Cons: Many believe Redskins Park would have to be doubled in size were Manning to come to town, in order to accommodate both he and Mike Shanahan’s egos. There’s a widely held belief that Manning called his own shots in Indianapolis, that what Peyton wanted, Peyton got, both on the field and off of it. The Shanahans are old-school. Ask Donovan McNabb. You do it the Shanahan’s way, or you won’t do it at all. The Shanahans have spent 2 years moving malcontents, egos, and divas out. Some argue bringing in Manning is a recipe for disaster, a chemistry experiment bound to end in a catastrophic explosion.

Pros: The idea that Manning was God in Indy is a myth. Manning was certainly the single-most important player in Indianapolis history. But he didn’t call all the shots. If the events of the past 24 hours don’t prove that, nothing does. Manning is a team guy. He respects the game, it’s history, and his role in an organization. I firmly believe that if Manning were to come to DC, he’d be the antithesis of Donovan McNabb. Manning would continue to be a company guy. Any disagreements he might have with the coaching staff would be dealt with behind closed doors and professionally. Furthermore, although whether Manning wants to play for a guy like Mike Shanahan or not is an unknown, there’s no question Manning respects Shanahan and his accomplishments. It’s quite possible the opportunity to play for Shanahan might well attract, rather than deter.

Cons: There’s only one reason why Peyton Manning wants to continue playing. Money isn’t it. Ego isn’t it. It’s all about legacy. Manning is driven to win another championship, and it’s the factor most likely to determine his ultimate landing spot. And we all know the Redskins, coming off an impressive 5-11 2011 season, are just a player away from their next Super Bowl appearance. Besides, Manning calls his own plays. The idea of working for a control freak like Mike Shanahan (and his less experienced control freak son Kyle) is anathema to a guy who calls his own shots.

Pros: There may be a few exceptions (San Francisco? The Jets?), but how many current perennial playoff contenders are there out there who lack a great QB? Sure – it sounds logical – Manning will only go to a team knocking on the Super Bowl's door. But when you start looking at candidates who fit that criteria, and don’t have a QB, the possibilities dwindle. And are the Redskins really that far off? They’re drafting well and Manning to DC means they keep every one of their 2012 draft picks and can continue the re-build around him. Shanahan’s Skins have shown they can run the ball and run it well, and it doesn’t much matter who is carrying the rock. The O-line is questionable, fair enough, but surely there are plans to shore that up? And Manning has played beyond shaky and piecemeal lines for a decade – often with great success. Great QBs make their offensive lines immediately better. And don’t forget the Redskins suddenly relevant and capable defense. Talent in DC may not be the issue some think it is in the overall equation. Can Manning adapt to another offensive scheme, including the potential that he no longer independently calls the on-the-field shots? That remains to be seen. But Manning is a smart cookie, and he no doubt knows that he can’t go into any new offense and expect his role to be identical to the unique role he played in Indy.

Cons: What about the prospect of playing little brother a least twice a year in NFC East battles? What sibling would relish that? And what parent would look forward to it? Peyton owns property in Florida many point out – surely that makes Miami his likely landing spot? Maybe so. The Redskins just recently got done blowing up their inflatable practice dome, but play games in cold, nasty, outdoor Fed Ex Field. Peyton’s hands might get cold, and that’s the reason he’ll eschew DC for some warmer (and preferably temperature-controlled) venue. Finally, many have predicted that Manning’s primary motivation will be to show the Colts that they’ve made a monumental mistake. That means staying in the AFC, and having the opportunity to stick it to his former long-term employers as frequently as possible.

Pros: A year ago, I might have bought into the idea that Manning would never voluntarily put himself into a position where he had to face brother Eli multiple times per year. But that was before Eli won yet another Super Bowl with the Giants and stole dinner table bragging rights away from his supposedly superior brother. In my opinion, that changes everything. After nearly 2 years away from the game, Manning will be hungry and eager to show the experts who the best QB in the family really is. What better way to do that than to join an up and coming NFC East rival of little brother. And anyone who thinks Manning’s stats are a product of the covered roof, AC, and artificial turf at Lucas Oil Stadium just isn’t paying attention. Manning is a tough, aggressive, natural QB. If he’s physically capable to return to some semblance of his former self, he’ll be a great QB indoors or out.

The Redskins
Cons: The Redskins have tried this before. The mere idea of Peyton Manning conjures up apparitions of Redskins failures past. Snyder’s early history where no check was too large to sign if it meant securing an over-priced vet or 10 to try and purchase a winning season. Even the recent specter of Donovan McNabb, former Pro Bowler instantly transformed to mediocrity once in burgundy and gold, torments Redskin fans souls as they sleep. Signing Manning goes against every instinct today’s Redskins fans have – that we are currently and finally doing things the right way, building a respectable and capable team the right way, acquiring blue collar players with character, skill, and commitment through the draft. From this perspective, Manning is a great QB who’s just the wrong choice. Couple those concerns with the undeniable fact that Manning probably has 3-4 years left even under the rosiest of scenarios, and most Redskins fans are screaming 'Just Say No’.

Pros: The Redskins are rebuilding. Had they had even a competent QB under center in 2011, one could easily foresee a .500 season. They swept the eventual Super Bowl champions and beat them convincingly. With a QB of Peyton Manning’s capability, this team is an immediate wildcard threat. RGIII worship aside, were the Redskins to acquire Manning, fans would quickly embrace him as the first real threat at QB they’ve had under center in a decade. Not having to relinquish draft picks to 'get their guy’, the Skins could continue to build the lines and skill position around Manning. Year 2 we’re competing for the division. By Year 3, a Super Bowl appearance is within grasp. It’s not an impossibility. And let’s face it, when your last Super Bowl appearance was in 1991, bringing in a hired gun, if it results in another Lombardi trophy on the team mantle – well, there are worse outcomes for a starving fanbase.

So where does that leave this fan?


I’d prefer the Redskins resist the urge to pull the trigger on Manning. It’s a move that, for me at least, would smack of desperation. The Redskins are on the right path. Minus the McNabb debacle (which I chalk up to a relatively inexpensive mistaken roll of the dice), they’ve got a good thing going. The signing of Peyton Manning would be a clear signal that they don’t have the courage of their convictions. It would signal that this second Shanahan era is more about securing Shanahan’s job and taking the safe route in order to do so, than it is about really guaranteeing his legacy by showing he can rebuild a troubled and failed franchise from the ground up. Manning is the safe pick for Shanahan, but he’s not the right pick.

Finally, I’m tired of trying to ride the coattails of other NFL’s team stars. I want to root for Redskins I’ve watched grow up as Redskins. The idea of seeing a top tier QB prospect drafted by my Redskins, mentored and coached to success, and leading us to glory again is so appealing, I’m almost afraid to wish for it. But I do wish for it. I’m tired of buying lottery tickets. I want to invest for the long haul.

I hope the Washington Redskins ultimately decide they’re in it for the long haul too. The rewards could last for years and years to come.
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