Peyton Manning has gotten the green light. And that’s the news that everyone has been waiting for.
Here’s the scenario. Andrew Luck is the sure thing. Robert Griffin III is filled with potential. Matt Flynn is the intriguing back-up. Other than that, the quarterback class for 2012 between the NFL Draft and the free agency class is uninspiring. Sure, Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden might turn out to be fine starting quarterbacks. Perhaps a team could do well with Jason Campbell under center. But for the most part, there is only one sure thing on the market. Even Griffin and Flynn are questionable properties, albeit exciting ones.
Obviously there are more than three quarterback needy teams in the NFL. The Chiefs might not count themselves among them. But it’s hard to find anybody fan or media who believes that Matt Cassel has proven himself to be the consistent winner as the starter for the Chiefs that the team hoped he’d turn out to be if given the full-time keys.
You live and die by the quarterback position in the NFL, and it’s hard to believe that even Scott Pioli would believe he’s set for the long term with Cassel. That said, if they are going to go after someone — that someone is not on the market. Unless that someone is Peyton Manning.
The only way the Chiefs are truly going to improve at the quarterback position is if Peyton Manning is healthy and available:
1. He’s finally been cleared medically. Word today is as follows: The sources said Watkins examined Manning recently in Los Angeles and concluded the stability in his neck would have allowed the quarterback to play this Sunday if the nerves in his arm had regenerated to a satisfactory performance level. Watkins also instructed the quarterback to continue an aggressive rehabilitation path that provides an optimistic outlook for Manning to play in 2012.
2. He has to be available for trade or signing. Watching the drama go down in Naptown between Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning tells you all you need to know about their ability to co-exist while seeing other people (on the field). Andrew Luck is going to be the man. Chuck Pagano is going to be the coach. There’s no way Manning comes back for a victory lap with the Colts.
That means that Manning will be both healthy and available. And check the line in that healthy paragraph: he will likely be ready for this next season. Those were the magic words.
There is no way that Scott Pioli is going to go for Matt Flynn after already trying the back-up quarterback route and paying him rather well to do so. Cassel was the one experiment there, and it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs trading draft picks and paying a big salary to yet another unproven NFL back-up quarterback three years apart. Just won’t happen.
There’s also no way that Pioli trades up in this draft. Unless Griffin falls a bit in the draft order (not happening), then the Chiefs are out of it from the outset. The team has too many holes to trade so many draft assets. Whether or not the fans think they will go for it, the perceived value by the KC front office simply won’t allow it. That’s called cost-prohibitive and the Chiefs lack the roster depth to accommodate that loss.
That means that the team will not make a move at quarterback other than bringing in veteran competition for the starting job a la Jason Campbell or Kyle Orton. Unless someone else is in the mix.
Consider Manning. The Chiefs have the players at the right skill positions to make Manning happy. He loves a Dallas Clark type of tight end and he has the second coming of him that’s even an Iowa product in Tony Moeaki. He has a new first round stud in Jon Baldwin who should develop quite well to go with veteran receivers like Steve Breaston and, presumably, Dwayne Bowe, who continues to show just how amazing of a receiver he is year after year despite his detractors.
The running game would instantly become better than anything Manning has ever enjoyed in Indianapolis as well. Jamaal Charles will be coming off of major surgery and rehab, but he’s young, dynamic and things have been reportedly going well there. The Chiefs should be expected to add another body and Dexter McCluster also keeps things interesting. Manning is smart enough to help whoever the new offensive coordinator is to utilize all of the talent properly.
Even more, Manning is owed a $28 million roster bonus that will likely earn him his freedom from the Colts. It’s hard to tell monetarily what will happen between the Colts and their franchise icon, but some sort of deal will be made. The thing is, Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt are sitting on around that same amount of unspent cash from last year. In other words, if the Chiefs need to absorb a major payment and/or pony up something major for Peyton, the money is absolutely there and available.
More than anything, the Chiefs have a major public relations nightmare on their hands. They have an outstanding lawsuit filed against the team alleging age discrimination on the part of the powers-that-be in the front office. They have Todd Haley’s allegations (and other former employees) that the team had a paranoid, controlling, manipulative environment that even included phone tampering and spying. They have the unspent money that no one has explained well to the fan base who continue to pay exorbitant prices. In short, Arrowhead is a place to be.
One move changes all of that. Short of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning is the prize of the off-season. This story is even overshadowing the Super Bowl of all things. This is the big fish. If the Chiefs were to get him, they instantly become not only the favorites in the AFC West but guaranteed of several prime time games. The reality is that not only would they instantly sell a million of anything remotely team-related, but any and all ill feelings would dissipate immediately. A PR nightmare needs a salve that heals all wounds. Peyton is that salve.
That might sound dramatic, but imagine the frenzy if Manning were to sport a Chiefs uniform. Imagine the trade announcement. Imagine the analysis that would ensue. Imagine the press coverage of practices, workouts and the lead-up to his first official game action since 2011. Once you’re done imagining all of that, then tell me it’s not worth the move. Thought so.