5 Reasons Tennessee Titans Are Better off Without Peyton Manning
The hype surrounding Peyton Manning's potential arrival in Tennessee was surpassed by the deflation of his decision to join the Denver Broncos, but a Manning-less Titans team will prove to be the best move for the franchise.
The Titans weren't expected to chase their state's favorite son after GM Ruston Webster's comments in February, but a hard pitch to The Tennessean by owner Bud Adams had the Titans in serious contention for the former University of Tennessee standout.
Manning broke the hearts of both Volunteer and Titan fans alike, but his decision to follow John Elway to Denver could be the best thing that happened to the Titans this offseason.
Let's take a look at why the Titans will benefit without Manning at the helm.
Jake Locker's Growth Is Not Stunted
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Already a second-year player, Locker could've lost a good chunk of his prime playing years sitting behind Manning.
I like to compare Locker's early years to Aaron Rodgers' in Green Bay. Behind Brett Favre, Rodgers rode the bench for three full seasons as he adjusted to the pros. Now entering his fifth season as a starter, Rodgers is among the NFL's elite quarterbacks, a Super Bowl champion who boasts a 41-21 record as a starter.
If Rodgers were to sit the first six seasons of his career like Locker would have been forced to, he would just be starting his second season and would have no Super Bowl to speak of. In fact, he probably would have been traded and the Packers would be struggling.
An ultra-competitive player, Manning also wouldn't be as hands-on of a teacher as Matt Hasselbeck, who has embraced that role in Nashville as a mentor to Locker.
As hard as it is for many Titans fans to see their favorite player in the game choose Denver, it does wonders for Locker's future success.
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Bud Adams may not be smiling yet, but he will when he takes a bath in the $95 million that he isn't giving to Peyton Manning.
Adams indicated early on in the process that money would not be an object in his team's pursuit of Manning, a promise that could have crippled his team financially for years to come.
Manning may be the best free agent ever, but the Titans aren't strong enough at every position to be contenders just yet. He would undoubtedly boost ticket sales and create hype, but quarterback is not the position this team needs to blow close to $100 million on.
Oh, wait, it's too late for that to happen.
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At the end of his career, Manning could very well be considered the greatest regular season QB ever, and it could be some time until he is surpassed in that regard.
But there's a reason why he only has one Super Bowl victory in his career, and that's because he's far from the most dominant game changer come playoff time.
His career record in the postseason is 9-10, which includes seven losses in his team's first postseason game. He has a respectable 29 touchdowns to 19 interceptions in the postseason, but those aren't typical Manning numbers.
The Titans are a team on the verge of being perennial postseason contenders, but they don't seem to have the talent at every level to get over the hump and make a championship run.
With Manning's arrival would come expectations of a Super Bowl in the next two to three years, a lofty expectation centered around one average playoff quarterback. Now that Manning is elsewhere, the fan base can calm down and have faith that Locker will bring Nashville its first Lombardi Trophy.
No Health Questions
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There's a reason Manning is standing in front of a Broncos logo and not a Colts one, and that's his neck.
All three teams in the hunt, the Titans, Broncos and 49ers, saw Manning throw and said he looked great. But it's been a full season since he was a starting quarterback, and the ridiculous game speed of the NFL and brutal violence could create problems for his surgically repaired neck.
A historically low-spending franchise, the Titans would've had to risk a lot to sign Manning. They would be without Hasselbeck and wouldn't have the money to sign a pass-rushing end in free agency (which they did with Kamerion Wimbley).
How much of Denver's success is now in the hands of one questionable neck?
Hasselbeck's Leadership/Chemistry Still Intact
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Coming in as a new member of the team nearly a month before the regular season began, the 36-year-old Hasselbeck injected life into a Titans team that was dejected after the loss of head coach Jeff Fisher, both coordinators and their franchise quarterback, Vince Young.
Hasselbeck revitalized his own passing touch last season with 3,571 yards and 18 touchdowns, his highest such marks since 2007. Hasselbeck enjoyed unique chemistry with star WR Kenny Britt before Britt's early-season ACL tear, and Nate Washington's career year was largely attributed to him.
Viewed as a decent pick up by the fan base to mentor Locker, Hasselbeck impressed by leading a mediocre-at-best team to a 9-7 record, a tiebreaker away from the playoffs. Many expected Locker to be the outright starter going into 2012, but this team will win more with Hasselbeck at the helm.
I've got a message for Manning from Titans fans: Thanks for giving us a chance, but we already have ourselves a 36-year-old quarterback who can win us a Super Bowl.