I had been avoiding this story since the rumors and pundits had started to bring it up – mostly because I thought the idea itself was so absurd that it didn’t warrant talking about – but I cannot ignore it any longer. It seems that many people, some quite respectable and others who hold about as much significance as myself, believe there is a good chance Peyton Manning comes to the Washington Redskins next season.
My girlfriend, Meg Cooksey, has said that it would be a huge mistake because Peyton “is practically dead already.” And while I am of the same school of thought that it would be a huge mistake, I will attempt to put in a little more thought than a hyperbolic statement of Manning’s age.
First of all, there’s a notion that the Redskins, and the Shanahan regime, specifically, signing Manning absolutely reeks of Donovan McNabb Part 2. And while I don’t think Manning would be as colossal of a failure as Donovan was in the nation’s capital, even improving them by 3 or 4 wins wouldn’t guarantee the Redskins of making the playoffs let alone the Super Bowl.
Then there is the concern of Washington’s offensive line. Manning’s streak of consecutive games started ended wholly by spending an entire season sidelined by a bizarre and lingering injury. Whoever Peyton plays for next season is going to have to keep him upright for their investment to pan out. And, simply put, the Redskins would have an incredibly difficult time of doing just that.
And even if they can keep him upright, who is he going to throw to? Manning, as brilliant as he has been, got a lot of help during his career from having big, athletic receivers on the outside that could make the plays and get to the balls only he could throw. Washington’s best receiving option right now is Santana Moss. The problem with that is, in a perfect world on a perfect team, Santana Moss is an undersized, tough receiver designed for the slot.
Perhaps most importantly of all, though, is the fact that signing Peyton Manning would go directly against the rebuilding effort the Redskins started last season. As horrible as their quarterback play has been and as frustrating as the Shanahan’s have been when it comes to handling the position, they made monumental leaps towards rebuilding other positions last year. Players like Roy Helu, Leonard Hankerson (pre-injury), Riley Perry, Brian Orakpo, and Ryan Kerrigan have all shown that they may have a future as franchise players, and bringing in a 36-year-old quarterback, no matter how great he is, will destroy that momentum.
I can see where the Shanahan’s would be interested in Manning, but the concerning thing is only a few of the reasons would actually benefit the team. The biggest reason why Mike and Kyle Shanahan would sign Manning is that the clock is ticking on their future in D.C. With only 11 wins in their first two seasons, one thing is clear: the Shanahan’s need to start winning and they need to start winning now. In my estimation, anything short of an 8-8 record next year could end with yet another regime change under Snyder’s Redskins, and that bar may even be higher. I don’t honestly know whether or not Mike Shanahan believes his NFL success is tied to having a Hall of Fame quarterback, but there’s no arguing that Peyton Manning, even at 36, is a huge upgrade over Grossman and Beck. And if the Shanahan’s believe signing Peyton is their only way of extending their tenure in Washington beyond three seasons, you can bet they’ll think long and hard about making that call.
The only way I can really see Manning coming to Washington being good for the franchise is the sort of “Playing Mentor” theory. If the Redskins were to go out and get a Robert Griffin III or a Ryan Tannehill and then sign Manning with the intent of having him play two seasons or so before the youngster took over as signal caller, you could then see signing Manning as a solid move. Both Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers sat behind Hall of Fame quarterbacks before taking over and you would have a hard time arguing that that didn’t have some influence on their careers But the fact of the matter is the Redskins are a 5-win team with several holes to fill. They simply just aren’t going to give Peyton Manning over $40 million and use their top draft pick to bring in a top tier quarterback. To go that route is just too costly for the burgundy-and-gold and there are other successful ways of mentoring young quarterbacks.
The best move the Redskins, as a franchise, can make is to bring in a young quarterback to be their future franchise signal caller. Both the ‘Aging Veteran’ and ‘Underrated Journeyman’ experiments have failed for Mike Shanahan. The last option he has is door number three. And entering season number three, time will only tell if it is simply too late for the Shanahan’s to start fresh at quarterback again.
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