Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days, you already know that Peyton Manning has been released by the Colts and is now a free agent. Currently, he’s looking for a new place to continue his career, and NFL teams — Seattle included — are lining up around the block to secure his services.
It’d be a gross understatement to say that Manning is a special talent. There are only a handful of players in NFL history whose accomplishments come anywhere close to his, and all of them are either in the Hall of Fame or have already been penciled in for a pedestal in Canton. Ranking his averages against the 27 quarterbacks already in the Hall of Fame (I’m counting all enshrinees who threw for over 5,000 yards), Manning’s touchdown percentage would be good for tenth place (5.5%, tied with Y.A. Tittle), his interception percentage would be third best (2.7%, a mere tenth of a percentage point behind Joe Montana and Steve Young’s 2.6%), and his 64.9% pass completion rate would put him solidly in first place.
So yes, Manning is already without a doubt one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, but every great athlete breaks down eventually. Remember, he missed all of last year because an injury to his neck ended up requiring two vertebrae in his neck to be fused together, and take it from me, spine injuries are a gift that keeps on giving whether you like it or not. On top of that, he already has 13 NFL seasons’ worth of wear and tear on his body, and in two weeks he’ll celebrate his 36th birthday. If there’s a lesson to be learned from Johnny Unitas’ one year stint with the Chargers or Joe Namath gritting his way through one last sad, crippled-up season in a Rams uniform, it’s that it doesn’t matter how much talent you have if you’re too damaged to play effectively anymore.
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That said, it’s not like there haven’t been quarterbacks who have found success late in their careers. Fran Tarkenton didn’t play in a single postseason game for the first 12 years of his career, but after that led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in four years, the last one coming in 1976 when he was 36 (he also took them to the playoffs in his last season in ’78 at the ripe old age of 38). John Elway won his first Super Bowl when he was 37, then came back when he was 38 and earned himself a second ring. Roger Staubach went to back-to-back Super Bowls in ’77 and ‘78 when he was 35 and 36, respectively, winning the first of those appearances (he also led the Cowboys to the playoffs in his last season in 1979). And by the time Y.A. Tittle played in his first championship game in 1961, he was 35, in his 14th season in the NFL, and playing for his third team, the Giants. He then led them to two more championship appearances in 1962 and ’63, playing in that last one at the age of 37.
As things stand at the moment, Peyton Manning is roaming around the country being wined and dined by NFL franchises and mobbed by reporters at every stop along the way. We know that the Seahawks’ front office has contacted his people to let him know that they’re interested in a meeting, and there are conflicting reports about whether or not Manning has responded: some say he has yet to rule them out, while others say that he has definitely declined to visit with the team. In the last two seasons, the Seahawks have restocked their roster with some great young talent on both sides of the ball, and a selling point like that is hard to pass up. On the other hand, if Manning were to review the offensive line’s pass protection from last season in a few choice games, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine him concluding that suiting up in Seahawks blue would be a one-way ticket back to surgeryville.
If Manning were to stick to his original timeline of making a decision as to which team he was going to sign with by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, Seattle would already be out of the running. However, that was before his people announced that he would be visiting with both Miami and Tennessee over the next few days — and if Tennessee somehow made his list, a team that is already set with a promising young franchise QB in Jake Locker and a veteran mentor in Matt Hasselbeck, then there’s no predicting where he’ll go next or when he might get around to making up his mind. But if and when he does show up on the VMAC’s doorstep, we can all rest easy knowing that the Seahawks are uniquely suited to determine whether or not Manning’s fused cervical vertebrae are sound enough to hold up on the field. After all, team physician Stan Herring is one of the top spine specialists in the country. In fact, Herring is well known enough that if Manning declines to visit the Pacific Northwest, that could very well be a red flag that his neck is still an issue, and a thumbs-down by the good doctor could effectively torpedo his chances of being signed by any team this season.
But assuming Manning is given a clean bill of health, I’d love to see him join the Seahawks. Realistically speaking, he probably only has a few good years left in his arm, but imagine what even just two seasons of Manning throwing to Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Zach Miller could accomplish, especially since it’d be backed up by Marshawn Lynch’s running and the Hawks’ newfound physical, intimidating defense. On top of that, Manning’s presence would give Pete Carroll and his staff time to find out if Josh Portis is capable of eventually taking over as the starting QB or acquire and groom someone else if he comes up wanting. Also, my wife has been telling me every day since Peyton was released that she is going to buy about a million Manning jerseys if he signs up, so I guess there’s that, too.
But first, he has to get around to returning John Schneider’s phone calls.
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On a more personal note, I just want to thank all of you for your patience with me over the last several weeks. Problems with my aging computer gave way to health problems, which gave way to a second bout of computer issues, which gave way in turn to a seemingly endless barrage of other problems, including some stuff so completely out of left field that you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you, and all of it conspired to keep me mostly absent from this site. Well, I may get knocked down from time to time, but I always manage to get back up again, no matter how long it takes me. I’m too damn stubborn to do otherwise.
I love running this site; it combines two of my favorite things, the Seahawks and writing, and the conversations I’ve had with you guys via the comments and by email have made it all the more enjoyable. In short, you guys rock, I’m back (again), and it’s high time we got back to talking some Seahawks around here.