Amid all the arm-waving and hand-wringing, it seems that most people's opinions on what Peyton is going to do this year stem from assumptions that go unsaid.
So for the purposes of this article, we need to make a few assumptions out loud.
Assumption one is that Peyton won't retire. Assumption two is that Manning will not be with the Colts. Assumption three is that Flynn will be with the Dolphins, so they won't get Manning. Assumption four is that Manning is working hard at rehabbing his arm. Assumption five is that Peyton is a grown man who isn't afraid of playing against his brother.
If these assumptions hold true, the most likely landing for Manning, based on rumor and "insider" talk, is in Washington or Arizona.
The Redskins have the need, the money and the willingness to sign aging superstars for more than anyone else will offer. This tendency has been met with everything from dancing in the streets to my own wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it means that the Washington Redskins will get Manning if they want him.
This idea has led to an astonishing divergence in opinions about the intelligence of such an acquisition.
However, it seems that almost all the differences in opinion stem from belief in a different likely scenario. Some believe that the Peyton Manning that shows up will be 100-percent healthy, some believe he's worth having even if not healthy, and some think he's done.
So lets look at the four possible scenarios for the 2012 season with Peyton Manning as a Washington Redskin.
Only one of these so far
In this scenario, Peyton Manning defies all known medical assumptions, rehabs nerves 100 percent, defies all known medical science on aging and rehabs his strength to 100 percent in a mere six months.
This is absurd, but those who love the idea of Manning in the Burgundy and Gold have decided it will happen.
In this case, the Skins then build depth of line, a receiver corps, an every-down running back and a defensive backfield in eight draft picks and free agency because Mike Shanahan is secretly the God of Evaluation and Trades.
With the talent already on the team, the Redskins go from 5-11 to 14-2, roll through the playoffs on their way to an NFC championship over the Giants and a Superbowl victory over the Patriots, as Peyton Manning proves once and for all he's better than both Eli and Tom.
If I thought this scenario had even a 10-percent chance of being real, I'd feel differently about getting Manning—but seriously, forget it. It doesn't even make sense.
Scenarios 2-3 are much more likely.
In Scenario 2, Peyton is cleared to play, rehabs his arm enough to handle an entire season of throwing and steps up under the Redskins' center.
In this case, the Skins either trade back in Round 1 and pick up Ryan Tannehill or they grab a great receiver.
They then build some depth to the O-line and try to surround Manning with a few weapons.
They grab a defensive back in F.A., and they get ready to totally overhaul their West Coast offense to play to Manning's strengths.
There are some rough patches as the offense adapts to a QB who calls the offense, rather than Kyle Shanahan. Manning proves his leadership abilities, posts a winning record and flirts with the playoffs.
They may even make the Wild Card in 2012, but Peyton shows his age and injuries down the stretch, especially as his body takes punishment from the NFC East rivals, and is unable to advance a team that honestly isn't quite ready for the Super Bowl.
The circus begins a week later when people begin asking if Peyton is going to retire.
The team looks to add more weapons for Peyton in 2013, and the whole world waits to see if Peyton at age 37 still has it or if Tannehill will have to take the reigns. If Peyton survives three seasons, we have a new QB taking over as Shanahan's contract expires.
To me, this is the most realistic scenario of them all.
Peyton gets signed even though his arm is only 75 percent or so.
All stays the same as Scenario 2 until DeMarcus Ware blows past the protection and plants Peyton's face down in their first meeting. Peyton is shaken and has to go out for a series.
After this game, the combination of a fading arm and his inability to recover from injuries limits his ability to play. He starts only 10 or 11 games.
Ryan Tannehill is thrown to the wolves and either surprises us all or, more likely, underwhelms us all instead.
Manning's neck is never an issue, but by Week 12 he has no steam left on his throws and picks become a regular feature of a Redskins game again. The offense becomes one dimensional and drops their last few games.
Manning spends the last four games running for his life or on the sidelines hurt.
Peyton retires or is let go at the end of the season.
The Redskins go 8-8 and Mike Shanahan is escorted to the bus stop by Snyder at the end of the season.
The Redskins start all over. Again.
I don't think there is a realistic chance of this happening, but as it probably has a better chance than Scenario 1, we need to include it.
Peyton gets crushed in the back by Pierre-Paul and is carted off the field, never to return.
He sits the sideline the rest of the season after surgery number four places him on IR.
He mentors Tannehill about as effectively as he mentored old whatshisname for the Colts. You remember who played QB for the Colts this season? I already forgot.
The whole world screams that they always knew Manning was a mistake and that the Skins should have traded up to get RGIII.
Shanahan is fired.
The Redskins start over. Again.
Draft Robert Griffin III and grab Kyle Orton as a backup.
RGIII is a Day 1 starting-caliber QB, and Orton can manage games and not give them away with two interceptions.
This is how teams build for the future. This is how teams become contenders for 10 or 15 years in a row.
Realistically, with Manning the likely outcome is either Scenario 2 or 3. How either scenario can be construed as better than drafting RGIII escapes me.
In the best case, Manning begins his downhill slide as a Redskin. In our best case, we get three seasons with Peyton as his skills fade. What happens when he's gone?
Don't even get me started on the worst case.