Frank Doyle reacts to the news about Peyton Manning’s imminent departure from Indianapolis, and speculates about where the future Hall of Famer will now finish his career.
The NFL isn’t a sentimental business while players are still playing. Once their hair has turned grey and they’ve had their new hips and new knees, you can get sentimental in Canton and reminisce about what great days at Lambeau and Candlestick Park, but until then they’re just assets, and quantifiable as such. No room for legend or magic or glory. A player is just one more entry in a spreadsheet, nothing more, nothing less.
This is a history that keeps repeating. Peyton Manning is not the first Hall of Fame quarterback to be discarded by his team. Joe Montana left San Francisco when the front office decided the Steve Young was ready to take over.
Joe Namath, the man who made the New York Jets, was farmed out to the LA Rams when his knees were shot. Johnny Unitas, the man who stayed in Baltimore even after the Colts had left, was exiled for a year to the San Diego Chargers in the final year of his storied career.
Peyton Manning has always been a student of the game. He knows how it’s played and he probably knew all winter that this day was coming. And now, like the competitor he is, he’ll be assessing his options and wondering what team will now give him his best chance to make Jim Irsay regret his decision for the rest of his life.
There are lots of teams that could use Manning and, more importantly, could afford him. Peyton Manning still a hero in Tennessee from his college days. Dan Synder, owner of the Redskins, is an enthusiastic shopper during free agency. He doesn’t always shop very well, but Synder can no more resist star players than fat kids can resist candy bars.
Kansas City is the NFL betting favorite to sign Peyton Manning, chiefly because the Chiefs have not been coy about expressing their interest in him. Certainly, Manning could do for Kansas City what Montana did for the Chiefs twenty years ago.
But the most likely option is that Manning will, in the phrase of the age, take his talents to South Beach. Every other team being mentioned in connection with Manning has parts missing. The Dolphins are only one quarterback short of being a contender again, and what better quarterback could they choose than the four time NFL MVP?