The Redskins may need Peyton Manning more than he needs the Redskins
Now that the tears are dried and the breakup is final, now that the Indianapolis Colts dumped the best thing they ever had — heck, now that “The Divorce” showed “The Decision” the proper way to leave the franchise that drafted you — it’s time for Peyton Manning to stop mourning and find a rebound team to get his confidence back.
Whether you want to see Manning in burgundy and gold or not, there is one detail to remember in order to come up with the right numbers to win PeytonBall:
The teams interested in signing the only four-time MVP in NFL history need the right qualities for a creaky-necked 35-year-old trying to recapture glory in another town.
Honest? After Daniel Snyder’s wallet and Mike Shanahan’s rebuilding program, it’s a tough sell next to other interested teams.
For one, Manning doesn’t need money right now as much as he needs to matter. If his window to take a team to the Super Bowl remains open for two to three years (he’ll be 36 later this month), he would have to believe that a franchise that’s been to the playoffs three times in 19 years — and has brought up the rear in the NFC East three seasons running — was suddenly ready for multiple postseason runs.
He would have to do this largely on faith and the belief in his own powers of persuasion, because the NFL’s best free agent wide receivers would probably not make a decision to come to Washington until they knew Manning was signed.
In addition to the burdens of rehabilitating his surgically repaired neck and becoming in an instant the Face of the Franchise, Manning would have to be the Redskins’ recruiting coordinator.
He would have to choose Washington not for what’s here; he would do it for the promise of what might be here after he signs.
The question marks don’t stop with wide receiver. The right side of the offensive line would have to be upgraded.
The Redskins gave up 41 sacks last season, which was just four above the league average but 15 more than Manning absorbed the last two seasons he played with the Colts.
Manning would have to believe left tackle Trent Williams will remain healthy, protect his blind side and not throw away a full season with another positive drug test.
The same goes for tight end Fred Davis, who would be Manning’s most viable receiving target.
The most attractive thing to Manning about Washington would probably be to work with Shanahan. The Redskins’ coach and team architect is still thought of as one of the game’s brightest offensive minds.
But would Mike and his son Kyle cede play-calling duties and the offense to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time? Donovan McNabb didn’t think so a week ago in a radio interview when he said emphatically, “Peyton Manning is not going there,” for almost expressly that reason. For a father-and-son who only know control, that might be a bigger sacrifice than Snyder being patient and waiting for a genuine rebuild.
Which brings us to the last intangible of whether Manning would believe Washington is the best place to play.
If Mike Shanahan is really making Manning the priority before the alternatives at quarterback — going after the No. 2 pick in the draft and Robert Griffin III or holding on to the Redskins’ No. 6 pick and taking Ryan Tannehill — it’s an indication he might need Manning more than Manning needs him and the Redskins.
This would be the last big gamble of Shanahan’s career in Washington, his last shot to get the most important position on the field right after being wrong thus far (trading for McNabb in 2010, settling on Rex Grossman and John Beck in 2011).
The difference between Manning taking Washington to the postseason and being another high-priced star from elsewhere who flames out is the difference between Shanahan finishing his five-year contract in Washington and the premature end of another failed regime under Snyder.
It’s the difference between Shanahan being able to make good on his goal of turning the franchise around — and perhaps handing the head job to his son — and a tremendously disappointing period that did more to hurt than help Shanahan’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
The fact that Shanahan is this serious about Manning at this juncture of “the build” would have me worried if I were Manning. It would signal he feels he needs to win now rather than endure the lumps involved in grooming a future franchise quarterback.
And if you’re Manning, wouldn’t you wonder where that pressure was coming from?
On one level, they would be all-in together. With Snyder’s checkbook at their disposal, Manning and Shanahan would be trying to bolster their legacies and electrify a disenchanted fan base almost overnight.
On the other, this has Michael Jordan Goes to Washington written all over it. Lots of buzz and jerseys sold, little progress, no playoffs and ultimately another bad ending.
Consider all your options carefully, Peyton. Go through all your progressions. And when it comes to genuinely considering playing for Shanahan, do what you do best: pass.
Shanahan needs to get younger at the quarterback position, not older. And you can do better.
For previous Mike Wise columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.
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