How far did they get with Manning? Well, a meeting at Coach Mike Shanahan’s home in Denver.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has the details; the scene begins with Denver Broncos Vice-President John Elway taking Manning to dinner at a Denver club.
When the Hall of Fame quarterback sat with Manning alone at the club, Elway saw a person “in shock” over being cut and imagined what it would have been like if the Broncos, for whom he played his entire career, had released him after 13 or 14 seasons. “There’s got to be a dagger in your gut right now,” Elway told Manning. “Take your time. Be thorough. Make the right decision, whether it’s us or someone else.”
“I put myself in Peyton’s shoes,” Elway told SI on Sunday night. “No pressure. Don’t give the hard sell. Let the organization speak for itself. I told him that as much as I wanted him to play for the Broncos, I knew it would be stupid if we forced him and it wasn’t a good fit. That’s how I’d feel.”
Midway through the evening Elway received a text telling him the Redskins had just pulled off a huge trade with St. Louis for the second pick in the draft, presumably to take prized Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Elway told Manning, “Whoa—Washington just traded for the second pick. Looks like they’ll get RG3.”
“What!?” Manning said, stunned.
From that reaction, Elway knew that the Redskins had been on Manning’s list.
Manning stayed with former teammate Brandon Stokley during the trip and worked out with him the next day.
That afternoon Manning had another appointment scheduled—with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle, Washington’s offensive coordinator. Though it made little sense after the Rams deal, the Shanahans wanted to keep the date, and Manning did. They discussed football for three hours at Shanahan’s expansive house in Denver. Talk about strange connections. Shanahan had been Elway’s coach for those two Super Bowls and was fired by the Broncos after the 2008 season. Now Elway ran the Broncos. As Shanahan talked with Manning, a text message popped up on the coach’s phone. It was from Elway. “Hey, Mike, put in a good word for us with Peyton.” All Shanahan could do was laugh.