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The Miami Dolphins were the favorites to sign Manning even before he was released by the Indianapolis Colts. Their fans had believed that he would be a Dolphin in 2012 seemingly since the first whisper of a possibility that he would be available.
They were putting up billboards before we even knew if he would ever throw the ball again. They were making plans and scheming around him from before they even knew who their head coach would be.
The Dolphins were it. Everyone else was a lame duck. Only Miami really stood a real chance. It just made too much sense.
Manning calls Miami home for several months of the year. The Dolphins are a team with the benefit of great weather. They have a great football heritage and a history of nurturing future Hall of Fame QBs.
They are in his beloved AFC. OK, so they play the Patriots twice a year. But what better way to prove that you've still got it.
So confident were the Dolphins, in fact, that they seemed to let it get to their heads. Every move made was reportedly with Manning in mind.
For example, they traded away their only star receiver, Brandon Marshall, apparently due to the fact that Manning expressed an unwillingness to play with him.
Then things started to crumble.
Other teams got meetings with Manning while the Dolphins were left waiting. Players seemed uninterested in signing the speculative offers they made until there was at least a modicum of evidence that Manning was considering them.
When Manning finally did agree to meet with them it seemed more out of pity than anything else, finally giving in to Dan Marino's requests and inviting their head coach to meet him in Indianapolis.
By the first Thursday of the pursuit, the Dolphins were officially the first team with whom Manning had met to be told, "Thanks...but no thanks."
Suddenly they were left scrambling. Plan B, which they never conceived of having to use, was suddenly necessary. Matt Flynn, the former Packers backup, was called and visited the facility.
It was thought that his links to new head coach Joe Philbin would win out, but it was too late. The team had waited too long, allowed Flynn to visit with Seattle; he signed with the Seahawks shortly thereafter.
In need of another option, they interviewed Alex Smith in the hope that he would become surplus to requirement. They apparently got as far as discussing brass tacks, but will apparently also lose out on Smith too.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they now appear to be a bargaining chip in his negotiations with the much more successful 49ers.
They had hoped beyond hope that if all else failed, Manning would sign with the Titans, getting a shot at Matt Hasselbeck. But that too is off the table.
So desperate are things in Miami that the Dolphins are being named as potential trading partners with the Broncos in their attempt to rid themselves of Tebowmania.
Tebow grew up in Jacksonville and made his name in Gainesville, playing for the University of Florida Gators. Like in Denver, he has a loyal fanbase in Miami.
The Dolphins' lack of a real receiving corps also helps Tebow, who is known for his rushing abilities over his passing prowess. His option offense could be installed by Philbin.
But when you set your sights on Manning and end up losing out on more than one of the castoffs, you know you're in trouble.