It’s starting to look more and more like Peyton Manning, the NFL’s only four time MVP, may become an Arizona Cardinal. For me, that would be fantastic. Phoenix is a puddle jumper flight from L.A. I might even consider buying season tickets.
Manning wants to make a decision before free agency trading begins on Tuesday, and it looks like he has narrowed his options to three teams: Arizona, Denver, and Miami. Manning can sign with a new team now because he was given his release by the Indianapolis Dolts—er, Colts. (Here’s hoping they return to pre-Manning era football obscurity for many years to come,)
He is meeting with the Cardinals today following discussions with Denver on Friday and Saturday. Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was among those who were there to meet him, along with Coach Ken Whisenhut. When Manning chose to go to the University of Tennessee, the main factor in his decision was the excellence of their receivers. There is no better receiver in the NFL than Larry Fitzgerald. They would make an amazing passing tandem.
Another factor Manning is undoubtedly weighing would be the willingness of the coaches to give Manning the keys to the offense. This seems a much more likely prospect in Phoenix than in Denver, where part-owner and ex Bronco QB John Elway might be reluctant to give Manning that degree of control.
Another factor is that, unlike the Broncos and Dolphins, Arizona plays in a dome stadium, which Manning clearly prefers.
I also suspect that Manning may be very reluctant to join a team that already has a popular quarterback—and Tim Tebow, despite his obvious limitations as a passer, still enjoys tremendous popularity in Denver. If Manning went to Denver, the Broncos would likely trade Tebow, and Manning would have to deal with the fan blowback such a move would generate.
The downside for Miami is that they play in a tough division. Miami has terrific weather, but the other three teams play in cold weather. And Manning would have to face his nemesis—Tom Brady and the Patriots—twice a year. Who needs that grief?
The one stumbling block for Manning might be Cardinal owner Bill Bidwill, a notorious tightwad. I suspect both Denver and Miami may offer him considerably more money. At this point in his career, though, Manning is probably much more interested in Super Bowl rings than money. He already has more money than any human being needs to thrive for several lifetimes.
Manning will probably make his decision Monday, after meeting with the Dolphins.
Here’s what John Madden had to say about Manning:
“There was no one closer to being a coach and a player than Peyton Manning. I’ve had many conversations over the years with him, and you could talk to him as a coach, and he was the level of a coach, and you could talk to him as a player.
“To me, he was the system [in Indianapolis]. The stuff that he could put in his brain and then put out and get on the line of scrimmage and call, that was all him. The Colts did it because he could do it. The Colts did it because he wanted to do it. The Colts did it because he did it better than anyone else.”
Tomorrow, this ex-Colts’ fan becomes either a Cardinals’ fan, a Broncos’ fan or a Dolphins’ fan. Go Cardinals! I can’t imagine a better way to use all my frequent flyer miles.