In their lust for possibly the greatest QB of the past two decades I wonder how many teams have taken a step back and evaluated the potential for failure. Alex Smith recently took a trip to Miami to interview for their starting QB position, up until a week ago Smith was considered a lock to return to the 49ers, Harbaugh loved him and he loved Harbaugh. Now, Smith may just be using the Miami trip for leverage on the 49ers but I have a feeling no one has really considered the collateral impact that chasing Peyton Manning is going to have on the franchises that both get him and just as importantly those that fail to secure his services.
So who loses the most if they fail to sign him:
1- San Francisco. Maybe Alex Smith doesn’t go to Miami at the end of the day, but will he really in his heart feel Harbaugh is a true believer in him. That made a huge difference to Smith’s performance last season …even if he returns I don’t see them being able to rekindle that magic. If he departs and Peyton spurns them the 49ers are in a real mess; Colin Kapernick is not a long term option in my opinion, who starts under center Kapernick, Josh Johnson, Brandon Weeden? Even with a good defense and playing in the 2nd weakest division in the NFL the gap between them, QB needy Seattle, and Jeff Fisher led St. Louis could close rapidly. Another possibility, if Kapernick is under center and things go poorly, how long before Randy Moss goes Randy Moss and creates a diversion in this locker room that kills the sense of team they have built.
2- Denver. Any hope of sealing the rift between Tebow and Elway is done. This off-season Tebow went to UCLA to work on his throwing mechanics with offensive guru Gus Malzahn. I saw Tebow interviewed about the possibility of Peyton coming to Denver. I didn’t see the normal shucks He’s a great player who can help us or I can learn a lot from him; either would have been the expected response that the poster boy for nice guys finish first would have normally given. What he said was "I can’t control that". One need look no further than Alex Smith’s tenure in San Francisco to see the value of having a Coach and organization that believes (or makes you think they believe in you) to a QB’s performance. It wasn’t that long ago that he was benched in favor of Troy Smith and throwing late game INT’s. How are the men in Denver’s locker room supposed to rally around Tebow next season now that they KNOW he’s not the teams future. In addition (and perhaps more importantly) Denver is sitting on nearly 40 million in cap space, not aggressively pursuing free agents simply in hopes that they can land Manning and players of his choosing. Rather than instantly inking DT Broderick Bunkley the Broncos have let him visit other clubs not sure what other players Manning will want to bring into the deal.
3- Tennessee. The Titans are perhaps in the most perplexing team to enter into the sweepstakes, like the Broncos they’ve been holding off on spending in free agency even with plenty of cap space for the chance to land Manning. In addition I can’t remember a team that invested a Top 10 pick in a 1st Round QB the year before(Jake Locker) and then less than full year later went QB shopping. As much as Manning is loved in Tennessee I think this speaks volumes about the dysfunction in Tennessee. Why take a QB in round 1 if your not CONVINCED he’s a franchise QB, to me that’s a wasted selection. We don’t see the Vikings diving into this Manning morass even with arguably better offensive pieces to put around Manning than the Titans.
4- Miami. Their brief flirtation with Manning probably cost them a chance to lock up Flynn early in free agency. If Joe Philbin really "believed" in Flynn we would have seen a deal done sooner.
5-Arizona. Arizona ended up keeping Kevin Kolb on their roster, meaning they are not totally done with him. Arguably however one of their biggest needs was a complimentary WR to Larry Fitzgerald, by the time they were done flirting with Manning virtually every big name WR had found a new chair.
6- Kansas City. KC got rebuffed by Manning so quickly the only thing we know about KC is they are not committed to Matt Cassell. They’ve brought in Brady Quinn and don’t be surprised if he isn’t the Starter in Kansas City by the season opener.
7- Seattle. With Tavaris Jackson just a sub-par starter Seattle has always wanted to bring in competition. Flynn or a rookie with get the chance to dislodge Jackson for the starting QB role. If the Niners totally disintegrate , I’d predict the Seahawks make a strong run in their Division.
How Does this effect Tampa?
--I made a joke a week ago that Sander couldn’t connect the Manning story to Tampa and was about to be cited by the NFL for his failure to do so. I was kidding at the time but the more I think about it the more I think the losers in this endeavor could very well spend the next 5 years in NFL irrelevancy. For a practical example look no further than the Baltimore Ravens post SuperBowl. They chased and brought in that years "hot thing" Elvis Grbac (nowhere near as good as Peyton Manning), in the process they put themselves in salary cap hell eschewing the much cheaper Trent Dilfer. Grbac would get them back to the playoffs just once and two seasons later they would have to draft Kyle Boller (BUST) , they didn’t get back the playoffs and relevancy until Steve McNair joined the roster after the Boller error ended.
Don’t rule out the behind the scenes hard feelings of guys who’ve been spurned and insulted by the Manning love. No position is as much about confidence as QB in the NFL, how many QB’s now feel their teams have no confidence in them, how many will look for a team that will trust them? Hasselback, Smith, Tebow, Jackson, Cassell, Locker, and even Flynn before he ends up on a roster? How many already have – even quietly behind the scenes?
We have an away game at Denver in 2012, Will we see a Tebow option attack a Manning aerial assault, or someone totally new if Tebow asks for a divorce?
We have a home game against the Chiefs at home, Cassell or Quinn? It’s pretty clear now Matt isn’t Romeo’s first choice for a date.
Do we play division contenders or celler dwellers in St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland?
Wild card spots- This universal melt down and missed opportunities in free agency will leave some NFC teams behind the power curve even by opening day. QB Controversies KILL teams , if the NFC Worst (I mean West) reverts to its 2010 form, that’s 1 division winner no wild card spot. It opens up some possibilities for us.
These teams see the promise of Manning and the potential for relevancy; I see an opportunity to take advantage of the chaos that will be left in the wake of the also ran’s.