As the previously unthinkable departure of Peyton Manning from the Indianapolis Colts begins to look increasingly likely, rumors about the Redskins bringing in no.18 persist. But signing Manning would be a betrayal of the promises made by head coach Mike Shanahan and the kind of team the Redskins say they are building.
Shanahan has done an excellent job of moving the goal posts amidst his struggles in D.C. Shortly before the Redskins concluded a 5-11 campaign to mark his second year in charge, Shanahan declared that he wasn't looking for a quick fix.
The former Broncos Super Bowl winner stated that the Redskins are in the formative stages a of long rebuilding process. This is a process designed to ensure the long-term stability and success of a Redskins franchise too often guilty of building only for today, with little or no thought for tomorrow.
If this is indeed the case, then signing the 35-year old Manning would contradict this grand design. Shanahan and Bruce Allen have both received credit for moving the Redskins away from their reliance on aging veterans and constructing a younger roster.
To add Manning to the mix would be a not-so-subtle way of saying the team must win now. They will have abandoned the idea of developing a structure that means they can still be competitive in three or four years time.
But more than that, Manning's presence would inevitably stunt the development of the young crop of talent Shanahan and Allen have been praised for bringing in. With Manning calling the offense, promising runners Roy Helu and Evan Royster can expect less carries. Jim Haslett's defense, commonly regarded as the strength of the team, would have to modify its attacking mentality to adopt a cautious approach, more suited to complementing Manning.
Those in favour of a move would point to the obvious parallels between Manning and John Elway and how Shanahan was able to modify the game of a veteran gunslinger. But the critical difference is that Elway had never won a Super Bowl before Shanahan arrived.
Elway was desperate for success and more willing to adapt his game to a more run-oriented system. Manning has been to two Super Bowls, was victorious in one and has been used to winning seasons for the vast majority of his career.
He may not be so keen to adjust the dynamics of his game and take a backseat to the running of Helu and Royster, which is the Redskins' strength. If that is the case, then the team could find themselves in the middle of another battle of wills between Shanahan and an uncooperative veteran. After the dramas involving Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth, Redskins players and fans don't need more of the same.
Recently both Rex Grossman and Mike Shanahan argued that the Redskins are a better team than their record suggests. A prevailing notion is that the Redskins have the pieces in place but just need more playmaking ability at the quarterback position.
If we accept that the defense is as strong as advertised and the weapons are in place on offense, then the Redskins can risk having a rookie under center in 2012. Both Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan entered losing teams with similar frameworks, and both were able to achieve instant and sustained success.
If Mike Shanahan is truly committed to changing the culture in Washington and not simply seeking a quick fix to rescue his struggling tenure, then he simply cannot sign Peyton Manning.