Peyton Manning's Dilemma: Where to Start a Second Act

Paul WardContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2012

Peyton Manning's dilemma
Peyton Manning's dilemmaJamie Squire/Getty Images

Best bet: Peyton Mannning doesn't stay in Indy.  Something about those empty offices in mid January, the dead air, the empty drawers, the non transferable memories.

And Ryan Grigson? He is no lure.  Or Chuck Pagano, for that matter.  He is, after all, about D-FENCE.  And how is he ever going to deal with Peyton Manning?  Are you saying some guy from middle management is going to direct the company's thought leader?  It's not a good match.  Ask an astrologer: Libra and Aries are polar opposites.

But you get the sense that for Peyton until even a few weeks ago the idea of leaving seemed far- fetched.  After all, think of what he has done for that city, the money he's given, the good will he's always shown.  And what about his relationships with so many team members? Not to mention his church...  

How could Big Blue ever leave the company?  Mr. True-Blue.  This town is the home of insurance companies.  For God's sake, they still make knitted garments and bricks in this place.  Who could be a better face of this town?  Who is a better ambassador?

But it's one thing to acknowledge the adage that the game is really just a business, and quite another when you come face to face with an owner who really only wants you for a year or two, to help get some new luck going.  

Remember that Irsay is a "legacy".  He listens to The Who, collects guitars and is willing to pay $2.4 million for the original manuscript of Kerouac's On The Road, but he's a legacy.  His father owned this franchise.  The younger certainly respects Manning, would love to have him stay, but in the end, you don't sense it's that important.  A legacy doesn't build a fortune; he, or she, protects it. 

Peyton only wanted to play in one city in his career, but now don't we think he's starting to see how he could recreate himself?  It's hard, no question.  Who else has had a great second act?  Montana had a brief curtain call—and yet long enough to put away doubt that he could only do it in one system, with one team.  One of his great games was putting the 49ers to rest, a nice little ball in the flat and he's got his arms over his head like a man hanging from the clock tower.

Or Fran Tarkenton going back to the Vikes, at what should have been last call. That was a fair second act: he goes to three Super Bowls.  Three lost super bowls you might add, and none of them were close.  And now he's a motivational speaker.  What can you say?

On the other hand, there's Rich Gannon, journeyman turned MVP, turned absolute star.  What fun was he to watch?  When Al Davis was king and blacked out Sundays, for what seemed like spite, you could send a limo with champagne and I wouldn't go see the Raiders.  (Actually, if it was 2001, or any year, and you sent the limo with Elsa Benitez inside, I would go.)

But the point is, as much as I wouldn't watch the Raiders under any other circumstances, I would go to a sports bar to watch Gannon.  And by the way he would have done much better in his one Super Bowl if his coach had not been brain dead.  My God, in war time the man would have been shot for treason.

Can Manning have that sort of second life?  A few critical assumptions aside, yes.  Because he's never quite gotten his due.  He may not be good to go for five years, but let's say three.  

So of course Peyton will go to Miami.

Where else?  Washington's a haunted house; they're still looking at old Sonny Jurgensen tapes. Cleveland is in another part of Ohio.  The Jets are in the tabloids.  Kansas City is a dark horse, but why ride it?

You go to Miami, you have a house already, a fan base on ceviche and fufu who would nearly give up their lives to see you get to a Super Bowl.  You're in with a smart coach, whose background is as an offensive coordinator, and a franchise that's on the up.  They lost some close games that could have gone either way.  Yes, they were last in pass coverage and rushing, but they have good special teams, and overall, they're in about the middle of the pack.  

If Irsay doesn't want to gamble, which isn't in his heart, then yes, by all means, Peyton, get the grunion running.