Peyton Manning risks make one suitor seem increasingly likely

Why, with every new piece of bad news about Peyton Manning, does it seem more likely he ends up with the Redskins? Is it just the cumulative effect of spending nearly two decades in Washington, or seeing Albert Haynesworth’s name in bold type in Thursday’s paper, or the spring weather bringing with it the memories of the Easter arrival of Donovan McNabb?

February made me shiver (figuratively, just not this year)

With every paper I’d deliver (electronically)

Bad news on the doorstep (metaphorically)

I couldn’t take one more step (literally; bad back)

Sports Illustrated wrote this week that Manning has had four neck surgeries, not three. That he has bone spurs in his neck, near the fusion. That he might need further fusion surgery.

Asked about all this bad news, Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, said: “I wouldn’t have anything to say about all of that, one way or another.”

There’s a ringing endorsement from an agent!

And yet, it seems the list of teams interested in Manning just keeps growing: Washington, Arizona, Seattle, Miami, the Jets. Certainly no one has backed off.

I still think Manning is crazy to try to play again. He has a Super Bowl ring; he has plenty of money, a great reputation, a likely first-ballot ticket to the Hall of Fame. Why take any kind of risk with your long-term health?

If he wanted to stay in football, he could invest in a team. He could be a coach. He could even be a commentator. The likable Ron Jaworski has been ousted from the “Monday Night Football” booth, leaving the . . . uh . . . the . . . uh . . . well, leaving Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden. Manning could slide right into the “likable” role, except ESPN apparently has decided that two is enough (oh, how times have changed from the 1970s, when eight was enough.)

But Manning wants to stay in football in a football capacity. He wants to stay under center, taking snaps and taking hits and taking home a quarterback-size paycheck, although of course he knows it’s not going to be as much as the $26 million he made last year, when he didn’t play.

Whoever signs him will design a contract heavily structured with incentives. He’ll earn the bulk of his money if he’s healthy and playing, although there will be some up-front money as well.

And that, of course, has long been the Redskins’ strength: up-front money. Everyone is going to load him up with incentives; if he’s looking for one final payday, then look no further than the Redskins. No one writes checks like Dan Snyder.

It’s a business strategy, of course. Manning puts butts in the seats and jerseys on the backs (and fronts) of Redskins fans. Of course, those season ticket packages will have no health-related clauses. If Manning plays two games and winds up in traction in Suburban Hospital, long-suffering fans will have exchanged their hard-earned cash for . . . John Beck?

No one wants to see that, and not just because of the money. Who here wants to see a future Hall of Famer fail, epically, in burgundy and gold? And yet, the worse the news about Manning, the easier it is to see him at a news conference, holding up a burgundy and gold jersey for the cameras — even if he needs help holding it.

For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/
hamilton
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