A new Peyton Manning-era will begin somewhere in 2012, and the hope for many is that it is Miami.
The Dolphins have had 16 starting quarterbacks (16 being Peyton Manning's number while at the University of Tennessee) in the last 13 years (13 being Dan Marino's number). Manning would be the 17th starting quarterback since Marino hung up his cleats for the final time in January of 2000.
But does Manning fit? How would he fit?
Yes, Peyton Manning is a great fit in Miami. He would be a great fit everywhere, which is why 12 teams have already reached out to Manning since he was released by the Colts.
Miami, however, will run a West Coast offense under new head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Manning has never worked the West Coast offense.
That shouldn't matter. When you have the chance to acquire a Peyton Manning, you make it work and tailor the offense around him. This isn't a Matt Flynn or Rich Gannon—two guys made by the system—a Peyton Manning is your system (like the Kobe System, only Manning passes).
But Manning is a fit for Miami for other reasons. Here's a look at those other reasons.
So what does an offense led by Peyton Manning need (you know, other than Peyton Manning)?
Let's start with a speedy running back that is great at catching passes out of the backfield but can also run between the tackles when needed.
Reggie Bush showed in his first season with the Dolphins that he could do both. Check.
A wide receiver who commands a double team and is tough to bring down.
Hey, don't the Dolphins have Brandon Marshall? Check.
Tight ends that can block but also have good hands.
Peyton, meet Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay and possibly a potential Dolphins draft pick. Check, check, maybe check.
A slot wide receiver in the same vein as Austin Collie?
Davone Bess fills in that slot well. Check.
A great left tackle that can protect Peyton's blindside.
Good thing Miami only has the best left tackle in the game, Jake Long. Check.
A speedy second wide receiver like a Reggie Wayne?
We'll get to that in the next slide.
Miami, however, needs to improve the rest of their offensive line outside of Jake Long. Mike Pouncey is a serviceable center, however he would contribute more if he was moved to the right guard position. If Peyton comes to Miami, he could bring in his long time center with the Colts, Jeff Saturday. This will move Pouncey over to the right guard position, giving Miami an offensive line with Long, Incognito, Saturday, Pouncey and Lydon Murtha (who missed all of 2011 with an injury but was effective in the preseason filling in for Jake Long at left tackle).
The Dolphins still have to add depth on the O-Line, however, after signing Manning, that becomes a lot easier with the impending draft.
This offense, just how it is right now, is a great one for Manning.
One thing could put it over the top.
Reggie Wayne already has experience living in Miami.
The New Orleans-native lives in Miami during the offseason and has already been training with Manning (who also lives in Miami during the offseason) the last few weeks. He also attended the University of Miami.
While at The U, Wayne had a distinguished career as he racked up 175 receptions for 2,510 yards and 20 touchdowns in 43 games. He started 42 of those games.
But I don't have to tell you that Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning would be a great fit for the Miami Dolphins. I'll let Reggie tell you himself in this interview with former Hurricanes and Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin on Irvin's midday show on Miami Sports-Talk station 560am WQAM:
“I could see it, I’m definitely not opposed to it, you know? He’s a great worker, and I consider myself a great worker. And when you put great workers together, good things happen. Me being in his trail going to Miami? I would love it. I would definitely love it. I am totally available. My phone is working. Make sure you put that out there, my phone is working. I paid my bills ahead of time, just so we have no problems. So I am ready for anything that comes right now.
“It can definitely be dangerous,” Wayne said. “It can truly be dangerous, if they put us all together. The league might not want that, Mike. They might not want that. They might not want to see that. South Florida is already hot out here, baby, so you put us all together, it’ll be burning up.”
“It’s be great, it’d be fun, exciting. Now you got me visualizing it. I see the visual, it is there. I see it. It would be great. It would definitely be a fun time, and an outstanding journey in South Florida.”
You have to listen to the interview to really hear the giddiness Wayne showed while posed with this possibility. I could just be looking at this through homer-eyes, but it seems like Wayne would legitimately be disappointed if Peyton doesn't sign with Miami because that's Wayne's preferred destination —but signing Matt Flynn or trading up for Robert Griffin III isn't going to cut it for him. Wayne seems like he's going where ever Peyton goes, and he wants Peyton to go to Miami.
Plus, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Marshall would work a lot like the Wayne/Marvin Harrison combination worked in Indianapolis. Wayne could provide Marshall with leadership (Marshall has already grown by leaps and bounds in the maturity department, but with two big veterans in Manning and Wayne, his growth would only continue), while confusing defenses into whom they should double-team.
Only the Jets secondary could really match up with Miami's receiving corps, and even then that will spring Bess, Hartline, Bush or the Fasano/Clay tight end combination.
So we've already discussed how the offense is Manning-friendly and would just need to add depth along the offensive line in the draft. However, this depth can be taken care of in the later rounds of the draft.
On the other side of the ball, you have a defense that last season ranked 15th in yards allowed per game, but also sixth in points allowed. The defense itself is already solid, but a change in philosophy likely means a change in personnel.
The fact that the Dolphins don't give up many points with their defense as it is (they allowed 19.6 points per game last season) means a Manning-led offense will outscore anybody—including the Patriots, Bills and Jets. However, they're going to want something better, and they'll be able to build that through the draft.
With most of the offense already in place after Manning signs (if he does), Miami can focus on drafting another pass rusher in the draft and then adding some depth in the secondary, especially at the safety positions. Without Manning, these positions would likely be filled with lower draft picks and cheap free agents. With Manning, Miami could use their first three picks on these defensive positions.
It's true what they say sometimes; great offense can lead to great defense. In this case, having the pieces in place for a great offense can lead to cheaply acquiring the pieces needed to make a good defense great.
Peyton Manning will be motivated and ticked off. Manning somewhat reminds me of Michael Jordan in that sense—you don't ever want to cross him, or else you might as well tuck your head in between your legs and kiss your posterior good-bye.
What does this have to do with the Miami Dolphins? Nothing, yet everything.
Next season the Dolphins schedule looks like this: home and away series against the Patriots, Bills and Jets, road games against the Colts, Texans, Bengals, 49ers and Cardinals, and home dates against the Titans, Raiders, Jaguars, Rams and Seahawks.
On paper, a top-heavy schedule, but not necessarily the hardest. However for at least eight of those games, the storylines write themselves.
The two games against the Patriots do not need any hype: Manning vs. Brady. For years it was the matchup that NBC, CBS and ABC (prior to losing Monday Night Football) would look forward to broadcasting. With two such matchups, CBS could get one early in the season, and NBC could get the other one later in the season with the division on the line.
Then you have the two games against the Jets. In case you forgot, Manning's last game as a Colt was the 2010 AFC Wild Card Round game against the Jets. New York won that one 17-16 to move on to the division round (where they defeated the Patriots).
Going back another season, the Jets (with help from the Colts deciding to rest their starters for the second half, which Peyton never seemed to pleased with based off of the faces he seemed to have while sitting on the bench) kept the Colts from going undefeated with a 29-15 victory in Week 16 of the 2009 season. Indianapolis was up by five when Manning and the rest of the starters were taken out.
Manning is also more than familiar with the AFC South, and every AFC South team is on the Dolphins' schedule this season. The Houston game is a big one. The Texans could never get over the hump while Manning was playing for the Colts, and finally won their division last season when Manning didn't take a single snap.
Then finally, there's the game against the Colts in Indianapolis. Manning vs. Luck, Manning vs. Irsay, Manning's homecoming—the storylines for this game sell themselves.
Miami is the best team for the Manning revenge tour. He could battle Brady not just for the AFC East, but possibly even for home-field advantage in the playoffs. He could put an end to the Rex Ryan-era in New York by keeping the Jets out of the playoffs (and I haven't even mentioned the fact that on the Jets' side you have Tony Sparano and his fist-pumps).
With Indianapolis, it could be as simple as Manning telling Andrew Luck with his play on the field "one day you might be ready, but not now, I'm still the Man-ning."
Also something else to keep in mind: this article from ESPN.com states according to sources that while Manning is open to signing with an NFC team, he would prefer to remain in the AFC. Based off of this and the Dolphins' schedule, Miami would be the best place for him.
I know there are Dolphins fans who aren't from Miami and actually despise the Miami Heat with a passion reserved for the New York Jets. This slide is NOT for you. Technically it's not for me either since I'm also going to mention the Miami Marlins and I'm a Cubs fan who at times despise the Marlins with the passion reserved for the New York Jets.
In fact, being a fan of both the Dolphins and Cubs, I once blamed Bartman for the Dolphins losing a game to New England in October of 2003 due to Mare missing a field goal kicking off of the Marlins infield dirt, dirt that wouldn't have been there had the Cubs taken care of business in the 2003 NLCS.
However, you have to admit that it's cool that LeBron James used the interview above, as well as a crucial part of the game, to send out hints to get Peyton Manning to Miami (cue other NBA fans criticizing him for this). If LeBron were really as egotistical as one would think, you would think he wouldn't want a bigger star than he playing football in his adopted city.
But LeBron James isn't the only one who would love to see Manning in Miami.
Dwyane Wade used his Twitter account in an attempt to recruit the All-Pro signal caller:
Speaking of the Marlins, they too anticipate a big 2012. They've signed Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle while trading for Carlos Zambrano and hiring Ozzie Guillen to manage the team. They're also opening a new ballpark. Now mix the Marlins and Twitter, and you get Logan Morrison, who had this to say about Peyton Manning:
The seeds have already been planted for a 2012 Miami Sports Renaissance. The Marlins are relevant for the first time since Josh Beckett won Game 6 of the 2003 World Series in Yankee Stadium (for the right reasons I mean, not for fire sales) and the Heat are favorites to win the 2012 NBA Title.
Depending on how you view Pro Wrestling (it's somewhat of a sport to me, but I'm a fan), Wrestlemania is in Miami this year featuring a matchup between The Rock (one of the biggest stars of all time) and John Cena (today's big thing).
The Florida Panthers meanwhile (that's our hockey team in case you forgot, and based off of some of the attendance figures you probably have), lead their division and are looking to make their first playoff appearance in 12 years.
The Miami Dolphins are slipping into irrelevancy and need to make the big splash to stay afloat in the Miami sports scene.
With Peyton Manning, the Dolphins become relevant again. Not just in their own city (where they'll still have to share the spotlight in a way that they've never had to before), but across the country. You likely won't see a star-studded Dolphins team be as hated as the Heat. If anything, they'll be the exact opposite: A feel-good team led by a quarterback looking to prove that he still has what it take to win a Super Bowl.
If the Dolphins make the Super Bowl, and you don't have any rooting interest in the game (not counting Patriots, Jets and Bills fans—who by law must hate the Dolphins), you're going to gravitate towards the Dolphins simply because of Peyton Manning.
And as for the spotlight? There is plenty to go around in this town. It wasn't like that before, but it is now. Athletes from other Miami-area sports teams want Peyton in town. Dolphins fans want Peyton in town. The media wants Peyton in town (yet is way too pushy, yes I'm looking at you Rosh Lowe from Fox affiliate WSVN Channel 7), and given every single factor (historic team, great schedule filled with intriguing matchups, big market) the NFL should want Peyton Manning in Miami.
Of course, there's a negative to everything. Not everything is a bed of roses.
Peyton Manning signing with the Dolphins does come with its own inherent risks.
His arm strength does look good in the video posted above. However, it is different when you have someone coming at you. Manning would never agree to it, but if I were the Dolphins, I'd run him through one test: Peyton, let's see how you throw with someone coming after you. Oh and the someone coming after you is Cameron Wake. If you can survive a hit from him, or preferably avoid it, welcome to Miami.
Peyton would never agree to such a thing, but what a great test that would be.
Also, could the Dolphins be risking their future going for Manning, and will it be worth it in the end?
By future I mean Robert Griffin III. I'd love to see him in a Dolphins uniform, and I'd love for the Dolphins to trade up for him. Manning could mean a 13-3 season, possibly even a Super Bowl. However, it could also mean the Dolphins looking for a quarterback in 2013 or 2014 (unless they select a quarterback in the later rounds of this year's draft, and there are plenty to choose from). With RG3, Miami might get to 8-8 in 2012, followed by at least five years of being a contender in the AFC. This has me somewhat on the fence.
And just so we're clear: not a Matt Flynn fan. Matt Flynn to me conjures up images of Scott Mitchell, AJ Feely and Kevin Kolb.
However, considering that I spent five slides looking at the positives, and only one looking at the negatives, I think you know where I stand.
Peyton in Miami has to happen. Stephen Ross, listen to Dwyane Wade: Go all in and get this thing done!