You’ve got to hand it to Peyton Manning. He at least tried to keep himself out of a negatively-charged drama storm this passed week.
He happily talked up little bro Eli’s Super Bowl appearance.
He offered restaurant recommendations during his ESPN interview with Trey Wingo.
Heck, he even got the go-ahead from two of his doctors to start playing football again.
But that didn’t stop Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay from starting another public catfight via Twitter. Irsay retorted that, despite getting doctors’ approval, the star quarterback still had “not been cleared to play for the Indianapolis Colts.”
And if that doesn’t tell the world that Irsay doesn’t want Manning back next season, nothing will.
So now, one of the most celebrated football players of the past decade is on the verge of getting kicked out of the house that he built and shipping off to a new city.
And while many a team is in need of a franchise quarterback, that doesn’t make them instant contenders in the run for one of the greatest players in the National Football League.
Here’s a look at which teams might be the favorite to land Peyton Manning.
Get past the fantasy split-screen shot of Manning and Dan Marino in matching teal jerseys, and the Miami Dolphins still look like a favorable landing spot for Peyton.
The Dolphins already have the sixth best defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 19.6 points per game, and a more competitive offense could help lead to more Miami wins.
The Arizona Cardinals took a nose-dive after the loss of Kurt Warner two seasons ago, showing that they—not unlike the Colts this passed season—rely on quarterback leadership to have a successful season.
When looking at a team that would prove to be a good fit for Peyton Manning, we should look at teams that already have seasoned offensive players.
And a Manning-to-Larry-Fitzgerald connection could make for a pretty sweet play-by-play.
While beating an undefeated Green Bay Packers team drew attention to Kansas City this past season, it was the boost of energy brought on by interim coach Romeo Crennel that has put the Chiefs back on the map.
This team is definitely set for an up-swing, and Manning could potentially add to it.
But Kansas City’s success could also weigh on how healthy the team stays on both sides of the ball. In addition to Manning’s neck woes, running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry would have to dodge the injury bullet this season to help ensure the Chiefs a shot at the playoffs.
Despite locking down a playoff berth for the first time in nearly 10 years, the 49ers still didn't make it to the Super Bowl, and a lot of that—when you get past the Twitter threats to Kyle Williams—is put on the inconsistency of quarterback Alex Smith.
Coach Jim Harbaugh spent the entirety of the 2011 season boosting Smith’s confidence and bragging to the press about the quarterback’s leadership abilities.
But in the end, San Francisco was being carried by its No. 1-ranked defense and not its QB. With Peyton Manning and beastly running back Frank Gore leading the offense, the 49ers could have an even more successful run in 2012.
But don’t hold your breath.
Harbaugh is big on team chemistry, and it isn't likely he will kick Smith to the curb after he spent a whole season building him up.
And it is safe to assume that he isn’t going to want to play in the same division as Eli.
That being said, Washington’s lackluster offense could certainly benefit from having Manning on their roster.
And, as other sports writers and analysts have already pointed out, Coach Mike Shanahan has past experience with injured quarterbacks: He aided a wounded John Elway, which led to back-to-back Super Bowl wins with the Denver Broncos.
And speaking of Elway. . .
John Elway might have begrudgingly given media-magnet Tim Tebow a starting QB endorsement, but that hasn’t stopped him from expressing interest in Peyton Manning.
Again, if Manning is looking to escape a dramatic media storm, Denver is probably not an ideal destination.
However, he could prove to have success on the playing field. He would have a veteran in Willis McGahee on offense and have help from a defense led by 13-year vet Champ Bailey.
And, if Elway is truly desperate to get out from under the No. 15 hype umbrella, bringing on Peyton Manning could be his chance.