Monday, January 30, 2012

Peyton Manning to the Niners? - I think Ill Pass

        Just in time for the entire sporting world to descend upon Indianapolis, it seems that things have completely fallen apart for the Colts. In the wake of an unprecedented housecleaning that saw both the head coach and GM pack up their desks, this once great franchise is now deteriorating into a glorified episode of "Yo Mama" starring Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning. It seems that after over a decade of domination (in the AFC South, at least), the horseshoe's run with Manning is all but over.
        So I guess this is what happens when you "suck for Luck." Never in all of my years watching football have I seen a franchise actually trash their own season for a draft pick (but then again, never have I seen a college prospect as drooled over as Andrew Luck). And don't be fooled - The Colts threw their own season for the pick.
        Obviously a team's offense will suffer if their franchise quarterback goes down, but losing Manning doesn't account for how bad the entire Colts team was in 2011. Their defense gave up over 25 points per game in over half of their games, including a 62-7 routing by the Saints in week 7. Many fans called for their respective teams to sell out for the number one pick in 2012, but few understood the ramifications of a disaster season like the one that the Colts just had. Indy made their bed this way, and now they are laying in it while the whole world ridicules them.
        A few things are certain - Peyton Manning is done in Indianapolis and Andrew Luck's career there is about to begin. If you thought the Brett Favre speculation was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. Many teams are in need of a proven commodity at quarterback, and Manning equates to the most attractive chick in a bar on Chestnut Street.
        Several bloggers have spoken out against the 49ers pursuing Manning and I tried to find a way to play devil's advocate - I really did. I just can't do it.
        The Colts will likely release Manning. As Bay Area Sports Guy pointed out to me, Indianapolis will owe Manning an over 20 million dollar roster bonus if he's still on the team in March. That would mean spending big bucks to make a trade for talent if they decide to seek one, which they won't. So the next road block would be the money that Peyton would command in free agency. The Colts paid Manning 28 million dollars to be a glorified quarterback coach in 2011 - how much would he ask for to be on the playing field in 2012? The 49ers have already made it clear that they will pursue a new contract with Alex Smith, and they will probably be shelling out around 8 million a year to keep Smith in red and gold. The 49ers don't have time to dilly dally around their quarterback situation - there will be suitors for Alex if the 49ers hesitate. They can't wait to find out if Peyton will be healthy enough to play before offering one of these two quarterbacks a contract.
        Their options are as follows: 1.) Let Alex walk and make a push for Peyton, 2.) Sign Alex to a cap friendly contract and let other franchises fight over Manning or 3.) Sign both quarterbacks and blow around 36 million dollars a year on quarterbacks alone.
        And this is all without mentioning the three neck surgeries that Peyton Manning has endured. There's no guarantee that the 35 year old quarterback is even in good enough health to ever play in the league again. The 49ers offensive line has improved, but they would have to play perfect football in order to keep their 28 million dollar investment in working condition.
        All this makes for great talk radio fodder, especially in the wake of a heartbreaking loss in the NFC Championship that still has 49ers fans searching for answers. But very little of it is grounded in reality. A signing like this is just not Trent Baalke's MO and it's probably for the best. The Bay Area has longed for an elite quarterback, and certainly Peyton Manning is a tantalizing dream. But 49ers fans would do well to see past the mirage that is the Peyton of old because the risk of signing him now is far too great for this organization to take.

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