Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Could Peyton Manning Make a Run for President?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 7, 2017

Peyton Manning speaks at the 6th annual NFL Honors at the Wortham Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Houston. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision for NFL/AP Images)
John Salangsang/Associated Press

Politics is in the air. Could Peyton Manning soon be on the ballot? Would the Chiefs front office win any popularity contests after their latest move? And we should all hope Jim Kelly keeps winning his battle with cancer.

    

1. President Manning?

After a photograph of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning departing the White House after reportedly golfing with President Donald Trump circulated over the weekend, some in the NFL, busy with OTAs and other offseason shenanigans, started talking about it. 

When I asked one AFC general manager his thoughts about the picture, he texted back, succinctly: "Peyton Manning will be president one day."

He suggested, as did others, that one day America could see a Republican nomination fight between Manning and Tom Brady. Another NFL voice even went so far as to predict a Manning-Brady faceoff against LeBron James for the presidency.

Sure, for now that sounds like science fiction, but it is a fact that some of Manning's former teammates, and others around football, believe Manning would make an excellent politician. Pat McAfee, who joined the Colts before Manning's last three years in Indianapolis and is now with Barstool Sports, said he believes Manning would be a great political leader.

"If he was to become a politician, I assume he'd be incredible at it," McAfee told B/R. "He's a leader, a tireless worker and a fabulous communicator. I don't know much about politics, but I think if you have those three traits, you have a chance of being a real world-changer. I hope he gets into it someday; would be great for our country."

Some of you may love the idea of a Manning presidency. Some of you may have just thrown up in your mouth a little. But before a fight breaks out in this edition of the 10-Point Stance, let's back up a little to understand why this is even a debate.

TheHill.com reported over the weekend that Manning, Trump and Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, were seen returning from one of Trump's golf courses. Other reports noted that Manning was later seen on the White House South Lawn with Corker.

As photos of the outing went viral, I texted various players and team executives to get their thoughts, and the responses basically were the same: No one was surprised.

Around the league, one of the worst-kept secrets was that Manning would go into politics and eventually make a run at the presidency as a Republican. The Trump photo only bolsters that speculation.

Now it's possible that all Manning was doing was showing respect for the office of the president by golfing with Trump when asked. Maybe it's as simple as that. Manning has often publicly denied any interest in pursuing politics, and when asked in March about speculation that in 2020 he would run for the Senate, he said he had "no interest in the political world." Even McAfee told me Manning never mentioned politics to him when they played together, and the two "shared a few beers back in the day," McAfee said.

But few in football buy it. I've heard from former teammates how much Manning actually loves the idea of getting into the political world. Many feel as McAfee does—that Manning would be an excellent politician, and that one day he'd get into it not only to serve but also because it would appeal to his ego.

Republican leaders in the past have said that if Manning ran for office in Tennessee, he'd be a dominant candidate.

"He is a Tennessee hero, and if he should ever choose to use his legendary determination, knowledge and drive in politics, he would be an extremely formidable candidate," Scott Golden, the Tennessee state party chairman, told the Commercial Appeal in March.

Manning is seen as someone who, in a locker room, united many different kinds of people from all different types of backgrounds. His backers think he could do the same with a city or a state or even the country. (Though he likely would lose the "idiot kicker" vote.) And with Manning's smarts and leadership ability, some around the league argue he couldn't do any worse than some of the politicians we see now.

I'm just relaying what I'm hearing. Don't @ me.

There is, of course, a precedent for athletes getting into politics—Bill Bradley, Lynn Swann, Jack Kemp and former President Gerald Ford, just to name a few (and, interestingly, a lot of them are former quarterbacks). There's even precedent for a former Tennessee quarterback doing it. Heath Shuler played for the Volunteers and in the NFL before he became a U.S. Representative from 2007-13 for the state of North Carolina.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

What I think we're seeing is Manning perhaps testing the political waters, using Trump as a temperature gauge. Another Michael Freeman (he's the smart one), a speechwriter and communications consultant, made the point to me on Twitter—and I think he's right—that Manning wanted the picture with Trump as a way of saying: "If he can do it..."

While a Manning run at the White House is what has some in the NFL talking, it seems unlikely he would start there. More realistic may be a run at a lower level, even for a statewide office, and to then build up, the way Kemp did.

Either way, we might want to start getting used to the idea that Manning may be on CNN a lot more than ESPN in years to come.

    

2. Is Kaepernick Out of Options?

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Seattle was one of, if not the absolute, last chances for Colin Kaepernick to sign a deal this year. Instead, the Seahawks this week signed backup quarterback...Austin Davis.

Austin. Davis. A man with a career 3-7 record as a starter and someone who didn't take a snap in 2016.

You feel your way about it. I feel mine. But this is an embarrassment for the NFL, which has effectively banned (in my opinion) the former 49ers quarterback for his social activism. Yet all he has done is try to better the world around him.

Things can always change, but it appears the next opportunity for Kaepernick might be training camp, and that's likely only if a team has a rash of injuries at the position.

    

3. Still Bill

He's the best coach of all time. In fact, I think his latest Super Bowl win separates him, pretty significantly, from other greats, like Bill Walsh and Don Shula. Go ahead, scream at me that I'm wrong. I can take it.

Despite his greatness, sometimes Bill Belichick seems just freaking miserable. His latest news conference was a thing to behold. He had no you-know-whats to give, and it's only June.

    

4. Grounded in New York

On Tuesday, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY summed up the Jets' quarterback situation well—even if it was sad—while watching practice:

Dear gawd.

It won't get better, either, because none of those quarterbacks are any good.

Welcome to 4-12, Jets.

    

5. Dak Prescott Is a Rare Player, Indeed

Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott arrives on the red carpet prior to the 6th Annual NFL Honors at Wortham Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's not common for a player in just his second season to think about his post-NFL career. But Dak Prescott already has proved he is not a common player. So it didn't come as a shock that the preternaturally mature Cowboys quarterback told the Talk of Fame Network that he wants to start pursuing a doctorate in psychology.

Prescott also discussed what he thinks teams missed about him in the draft, in which he was the eighth quarterback taken. The eighth. Now he's one of the league's great prospects, mainly because he gets it.

    

6. A Look Inside One of the NFL's Most Interesting Locker Rooms

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The Seahawks have one of the more intelligent, passionate and, at times, chaotic locker rooms in football. What's it like to be inside? Let receiver Doug Baldwin, one of the more blunt players on the roster, offer a description, which he did in an interview with PFT Live (via Pro Football Talk):

"I know that our locker room is different," Baldwin said. "We have a lot of vibrant personalities that are not hesitant to share their emotions and their opinions, but that's what makes us great. And Pete Carroll has embraced that environment; he's made that environment. We celebrate individuality, and he's done a great job of handling those different personalities and giving us a platform to express ourselves because ultimately he feels that in doing so, that's how we become the best version of ourselves on the football field.

"... Yeah, we do argue, we do have disagreements, but at the end of the day, we know what we're fighting for, we know we're going in the same direction."

    

7. What Are the Chiefs Doing?

Steven Senne/Associated Press

The Chiefs recently cut receiver Jeremy Maclin, which was one of the dumbest moves, by any team, this offseason. The move left Kansas City—as this story by Arrowhead Pride noted—extremely thin on passing targets.

There are few better than Andy Reid at manufacturing offense. It's not always pretty, but it often works well. But the jettisoning of Maclin will test Reid's abilities. The Chiefs have a gifted backfield, but with no reason to fear the team's wide receiving corps, opponents will be able to focus their attack elsewhere, like on tight end Travis Kelce and that capable running game.

Good luck, Alex Smith. You're going to need it.

    

8. Another Reason to Be Wary of the Raiders

Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

An NFC scout thinks Derek Carr may have a little company for the role of the team's best player this fall.

"If I had to pick one player I thought would be an MVP candidate that maybe not a lot of people are looking at, it's [Amari Cooper]. Just after all of the quarterbacks," he said. "I think he's going to be the best receiver in football next year. Part of it will be him. The other part of it is what the Raiders have done around him. This is one of the most talented offenses in football."

    

9. That Didn't Take Long

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Almost everyone with whom I speak about Denver's crowded backfield—which includes holdovers Devontae Booker and C.J. Anderson along with newly signed Jamaal Charles—expects Charles to emerge as the starter. Whatever committee the team has in mind for now likely won't last long.

Not a bad promotion for a player who signed in May.

    

10. Good News

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly continues to do well after he twice had cancer. At his golf tournament, he talked about meeting with others who have the disease, and his words were inspiring.

"I travel now, thank God," Kelly told Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. "I speak more than I ever have by far, but when you go places, you see people that have the same cancer you have had. You see other people struggling and realize you don't have it that bad. I'm blessed that I'm able to go out and hopefully make a difference for others. I do understand that some people have that attitude that they're done, no more, but if I can change their mind and give their family a little more hope, than that's what I'm going to do."

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.

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