Why Peyton Manning Is a Luxury but Not a Need for San Francisco 49ers

Brandon Burnett@B_Burnett49Contributor IIIMarch 19, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts gestures a she calls signals out at the line of scrimmage against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jets won 17-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Anyone who saw the Indianapolis Colts throughout the 2011 season should have no troubles explaining the impact Peyton Manning can have on an NFL team.

So, needless to say, I would have no qualms with seeing the sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback suiting up in red and gold next season. The 35-year-old veteran has impressed in enough workouts to convince me he'll soon be ready to make an effective return to the gridiron.

However, as the Manning tour chugs along, it almost seems that if Manning doesn't end up in San Francisco, the franchise will suddenly revert right back to mediocrity. And with the 49ers' current free-agent quarterback Alex Smith spending his Sunday in Miami with the Dolphins, the panic meter seems to be rising quickly in San Fran.

The truth is, however, the 49ers franchise is in good hands no matter which signal-caller lines up behind center next season.

We've seen general manager Trent Baalke consistently pull gems out of the NFL draft, and head coach Jim Harbaugh has quickly shown the NFL he knows a thing or two about coaching.

Oh, and I know offense is what the NFL seems to be all about these days, but did we forget about the Niners' tenacious defense? You know, the unit that took the league by storm in 2011 and will now be returning each of its starters from a year ago.

Plain and simple, these 49ers are built for the long haul.

Of course, having Manning on your side is going to help more than it hurts. However, do the 49ers really, truly, need Manning in San Fran?


Harbaugh deserves a ton of credit for reviving Alex Smith's career, no doubt about that—but he deserves even more credit for reviving the 49ers franchise as a whole. And you can bet Smith won't be signing on the dotted line before Manning does. Smith is fully aware of the situation, and he understands his future is brightest alongside Harbaugh moving forward.

However, Smith can only control Smith, and if the 49ers are exploring other avenues, you can't expect him just to sit back and enjoy the show. Most team's quarterback vacancies have either already been claimed or will be once the NFL draft arrives, and the Dolphins are basically his only chance to start next season if he's not in San Francisco.

The front office has done an admirable job of bulking up the receiving corps, adding the speedy Randy Moss and a promising youngster in Mario Manningham to the mix. The defense, believe it or not, should actually improve next season. And the 49ers special teams unit is arguably the best in the NFL.

Plus, Colin Kaepernick is still waiting for a shot at the starting job. After all, the 49ers' second-round pick of the '11 draft was taken to be the quarterback of the future, you know.

Obviously, if the 49ers are willing to risk missing out on Manning and losing Smith in the process, they like what they've seen from Kaepernick. While a bit hesitant to wish Harbaugh would hand Kaepernick the keys to the offense for a full 16-game season so soon, I'm also quite intrigued when it comes to seeing what kind of production the 49ers coach could pull out of the fierce competitor that Kaepernick is.

So, amidst all the unexpected chaos surrounding the 49ers' quarterback situation this free agency, know one thing:

No matter what else happens this offseason, things are gonna be just fine in San Fran.


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