Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some Small and Obvious Points About The Peyton Manning Sweepstakes

He's, um, 36 years old.

With a serious medical condition that just put him on a shelf for more than a year.

He's going to go to a place where the coach doesn't let him be, well, the de facto coach. He's also going to have a new offensive line that isn't so experienced with his pre-snap machinations, running backs that aren't quite used to his demanding ways with blitz pick up (Damn it, Donald!), wideouts that won't be on the same psychic page with back shoulder throws, and a fan base that won't sit quietly in perfect faith when it all doesn't go well from the start.

He's going to have a home field that he doesn't, in all likelihood, know like the back of his hand. He isn't going to be playing, in all likelihood, in a division that's borderline terrified of him, because he's owned them for the better part of a decade. He's going to have to move his family, his belongings, and his life to some new city, some new living arrangement, with the constant reminders of how life has changed, and not necessarily for the better.

He was not, before the injury, better than Tom Brady. Or Drew Brees. Or Aaron Rodgers. Right now, even if he has a comeback season for the ages, he's not certain to be better than Matthew Stafford, or his brother. In all likelihood, he's going to be about as good as Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers.

Which puts him in the top dozen to play the position. Give him tools, a true team around him and years of health, and sure, he can get back to the MVP mountaintop and deep playoff runs. If he goes someplace cushy (Kansas City might be an idea, though that outdoor cold isn't a win at his age), with a running game and a weak division, the situation looks even better.

But the far more likely outcome is the 3 I's that await every aging QB who is bound for Canton: injuries, interceptions, ineffectiveness. Football is not baseball, where a top-tier starting pitcher can go nomad in his final years and just rack up more counting stats. There's a reason why free agency is less effective here than in MLB or NBA. It's because the numbers don't really translate, and it's very rare that a guy just moves and doesn't skip a beat.

Especially at this age, and with this injury history.

So, enjoy the Sweepstakes. It's a fine way to pass the time before the college basketball sideshow, spring training baseball, and the next great arrest or scandal.

But please, please... do not think that the next Super Bowl is dependent on where Peyton Manning goes next.

He's just not that guy anymore.

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