Saturday, February 11, 2012

Peyton Manning to the Redskins – Risk or Reward?


Everyone has heard the talk—Peyton Manning will be a free agent very soon. And when Manning becomes a free agent, he will arguably be the highest valued free agent, perhaps ever.

But before I get started on all of this, I want to make a few points perfectly clear.

Peyton Manning will not be returning to football if he’s unable to perform at a high level that both he and the team feel is required in order to make a run at Super Bowls. The first sign that Manning feels he’s not going to be able to do that, he will file his papers for retirement. That’s just the competitor he is, and the honest man he is.

Peyton Manning did not break his neck. Peyton Manning had a degenerative issue in the bone and nerves in his neck, causing a pinching of the unprotected nerve(s) and a grinding of the vertebrae in his neck. The standard procedure for this injury is typically to insert a steel plate/rods into the neck along with bone-graphing, a procedure which has prolonged several athletes careers 4-5 years. Peyton Manning opted not to have the steel plate or steel rods inserted into his neck, instead had the bone-graphing and a stem cell treatment which was used to both stop the degeneration of the fat around the nerve(s) and the bones, and the reverse the degeneration and regenerate. Contrary to beliefs that Manning needed the last surgery to further stop degeneration, the problem was that regeneration had started but not finished. Manning’s vertebrae are healed, and he’s now waiting on nerve regeneration, which doctors assume will be complete soon. Manning being hit is at no greater risk of paralysis or life-threatening injury than any other player in the National Football League.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

It’s no stretch of the truth that everybody has an opinion on Peyton Manning’s future right now. It’s currently the most talked about topic in sports. It even overshadowed the week leading up to the Super Bowl, and Eli Manning was asked more about that (not really, but may as well have been) than he was the game itself.

So, what do I think of Peyton Manning coming to the Redskins?

I think it is a genius move. Peyton Manning is a record 4-time NFL MVP, a Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP, and holds many league passing records, and is the closest to threatening most of Brett Favre’s records. Peyton Manning is widely regarded as the greatest regular-season quarterback in the NFL, and the knocks he receives for his playoff performances, I don’t give credence to, because playoff games are won with a run game and defense, something the Colts clearly don’t have. Many weaknesses on the team were exposed without Peyton Manning there, and it became more and more apparent that he truly is the MVP of his team, if not the entire league in general.

So would Manning fit with the Washington Redskins in the Shanahan’s scheme? Yes.

Peyton Manning isn’t the most mobile guy ever, but he’s always looked to pass first. He’s not fast, I won’t even begin to act like he is, but you don’t need speed to be successful in Shanahan’s offense. Rex Grossman isn’t fast, he’s not a threat to run, and Shanahan didn’t use much of the bootleg with Rex Grossman, yet Grossman was able to look somewhat competent in this scheme. What Grossman lacks outside of speed, Manning possesses at the highest level possible. And Manning CAN run the bootleg, because the bootleg is a product of a good run game which the Redskins appear to finally have, which draws a defense away from the quarterback’s bootleg side. Nonetheless, there are no rules specifying that the Shanahan’s have to run the bootleg. Furthermore, Mike Shanahan prefers the bootleg to mask a weakness in the pocket and expose a defense; Peyton Manning has no weakness in the pocket and exposes the defense well enough on his own.

Peyton Manning is as aware in the pocket as any quarterback in the NFL, and has as good of footwork in the pocket as anyone in the league. Manning is also argued one of the best decision makers in the history of the league, Rex Grossman is among one of the worst. Point being? Where Rex Grossman struggled this year, Peyton Manning will shine. And anything Rex can do good, Peyton can do best. The Redskins lost a handful of games by a score, or a play, with Rex Grossman. Peyton Manning wouldn’t have lost those handful of games, and would have been competitive in a few more of them. The Redskins also have a defense which battles and can keep teams from scoring, Peyton Manning can outscore most teams… it’s a win/win in terms of both phases of the game.

On to the run game. The staple of Shanahan’s zone-blocking offense, is the stretch run. Peyton Manning ran the stretch run for a number of years in Indianapolis and was very disappointed when the team let Edgerrin James go and removed the stretch run from the playbook. Bringing back that familiarity to Manning, with a run game that can limit the amount of plays he is personally taking hits, would be ideal for Peyton.

Do I believe both sides are destined to be together and a perfect fit? No. Could they be? Sure. Are there concerns? Of course.

Any neck injury is serious, despite the points I made earlier. Not just physically, but mentally as well. This issue did start with an injury that went untreated and eventually got worse. That can happen again, and the rate of degeneration this time could be serious. We also don’t know exactly what the stem cell treatment that Peyton Manning had will do and how he will react to the numerous tolls his body will take this season.

Peyton is 36 years old, and that may limit him. Many think he could play 3-5 more years if his health is somewhere he’s extremely comfortable. If he’s at 100%, I’d lean more towards the 5 years, if less, it could be 3 or less.

Signing Peyton could mean you don’t go young at quarterback, which means you have to make that decision later when, theoretically, you could be a playoff or Super Bowl team, meaning your chances at landing a top pick don’t exist. There’s the possibility you could still go for your young guy this year even if you sign Manning. Tannehill needs to be on the bench for a couple seasons, so having him behind Manning would be wise, he’d learn from the best on how to prepare for the game. A guy like Robert Griffin III could still be in the mix as well if the Redskins are still willing to offer the farm for him. He is on record as saying he’d love to learn behind Peyton Manning, whether that be for 1 year or more, I don’t know.

But for now, all we can do is speculate. This is Peyton Manning we’re talking about, not Donovan McNabb. Again, Peyton will not play if his body cannot handle it. Mentally, he’s going to prepare for every game, which is one of the knocks against McNabb. If Manning is healthy, I don’t know that you can take a chance in not pursuing him.

You do still run the risk of being outbid for Robert Griffin III as well, and I maintain that any quarterback after he and Andrew Luck is a massive project who needs a couple years on the bench, so you would need a veteran anyways. As this plays out, the picture should become more clear, or perhaps more clouded. One thing is for certain, Washington has their share of opportunities to find someone to help them compete and win, whether in the short-term, mid-term, or long-term.


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