Ever since the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning officially announced this week that they are parting ways, a virtually unanimous consensus has emerged among local Eagles pundits and even most fans: The local team should go out and get him.
Virtually every host and caller on both local sports radio stations has taken this position. An informal poll of callers on Angelo Cataldi’s WIP morning show Wednesday, at the time I was listening, was 12-to-1 in favor of a Peyton signing. Columnists like John Smallwood and Garry Cobb have backed such a move, and even Ray Didinger, the dean of local media Eagles wonks and not always one for talk-radio-driven populist crusades, came out for a Peyton acquisition in his CSNPhilly column.
You can see the appeal: Manning is one of the greatest players in NFL history, a future Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl ring and a sterling reputation as a good guy. He’s the sport’s leading commercial pitchman and would serve as a much less problematic face of the franchise than Michael Vick. He’s a free agent, so he can be had without giving up anything in a trade.
However, don’t get your hopes up, Eagles fans. While we’ve all been surprised before, the odds of Peyton coming to the team are less than remote.
First, there’s the neck injury that ended Manning’s 2011 season before it started. No one knows the status of the quarterback’s health or whether he will be ready for the start of the season. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to make a franchise-altering move based on a guy who may not even be able to play.
Secondly, Andy Reid himself said in an interview Thursday that the team is “obviously happy with” Michael Vick. Now you might be thinking, “who’s better—Manning or Vick?,” and answering Manning, but it’s not quite that simple.
That’s because the team signed Vick to a six-year, $100 million contract only seven months ago. And while long-term contract numbers in the NFL can be highly fictitious, Vick’s deal is structured in such a way that it would be extremely difficult to trade or release him before the 2012 season (after the season is another story.)
Vick wasn’t exactly dominant last year, but he wasn’t terrible enough to justify dumping him now and taking a money/cap hit approaching eight figures, on top of what the team would have to pay Manning. And of course, a big part of fan frustration with Vick last year was that he missed three entire games and parts of several others. Manning missed all 16.
In addition, the teams that have been linked to Peyton in most national rumors either have no quarterback in place (Washington, Miami, Seattle) or have one that’s pretty replaceable (Arizona, the Jets.) The Eagles, unlike every team said to be in the hunt for Manning, have a long-term financial commitment to a veteran quarterback who has shown flashes of brilliance in the past. The ProFootballTalk website published “power rankings” Thursday of the teams most likely to get Peyton, and the Eagles were listed 25th out of the 32 NFL teams.
But there’s more to it than whether the Eagles want Peyton. Would he want to come here? Manning, who is a free agent and therefore in position to choose his own team, has no personal ties to the Eagles, the Philadelphia region or the coaching staff (besides offensive line coach Howard Mudd, a Colts veteran). The Eagles are also a cold-weather team that does not play in a dome, both of which are negative factors for an aging guy coming off an injury.
And on top of that, the Eagles use an offensive system very different from the one Manning’s played in his entire career, and the team has spent the last several years making personnel decisions based on what fits with that offense. I’m aware that just about everyone in town is sick to death of that offense, but abruptly chucking it in favor of something completely different probably isn’t the best move either.
Could the Eagles surprise everyone and grab Manning? They have a history of big, surprising moves, and they’ve shown in the past that when it comes to player personnel, Andy Reid’s word isn’t exactly his bond. But at this point Peyton-to-the-Eagles, much as the fan base would love to see it, doesn’t look like it’s happening.