I admit, it’s a tantalizing proposition. In fact, if I close my eyes, I can picture Peyton Manning wearing a burgundy-and-gold number-18 jersey, standing under center at FedEx Field, barking out one of his manic series of pre-snap audibles, and then firing one of those quick-release over-the-middle touchdown passes that have made him the MVP of the league four times.
And then I come to my senses.
Manning will go down as one of the finest quarterbacks of this (or any other) generation, but to the Redskins he should be considered nothing more than fool’s gold. The scary part is, when it comes to the Redskins, the term fool’s gold is less of a metaphor and more of literal definition—since never in the history of sports has an owner been more foolish in pursuing overvalued assets than the one who controls this franchise.
Synder continues to be a dangerous owner because while he desperately wants to win, he also desperately wants to be loved. He cannot fathom why Washington has loathed him so intensely since he took over the team more than a decade ago. He craves the affection and appreciation from his fan base that Ted Leonsis has so readily received from his. Consequently, Snyder has a track record of acquiring players with high name recognition, even when those players are past their prime and overvalued. He does this because he thinks it will please the fans and provide a shortcut to winning. As we all know by now, it rarely does. Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders,and Donovan McNabb are all shining examples of this failed philosophy. I believe Manning would be another. And despite the mountain of evidence Snyder now has that should compel him to hold his water in the case of Manning, I fear that after last season’s debacle, he won’t be able to help himself.
If we could guarantee that the Redskins would be getting the Peyton Manning from two or three years ago, I’d be all in. But it’s hard to say whether that quarterback exists anymore. The Redskins would be getting a 36-year-old version of Peyton Manning, who is coming off three neck surgeries, including one in which two of his vertebrae were fused together, and who hasn’t thrown a football in anger in over a year. If you’re looking for a sure thing, this isn’t it.
Even if Manning were healthy, the question still remains: Could he actually succeed here? Forget the fact that he’s played in only one system for his entire career and would need some time to adjust (see: McNabb), but Manning is the kind of guy you’d want to plug in as the final piece of the puzzle on a team that was close to being a contender. Due respect to the Redskins, but they don’t appear to be close to contending for anything. The 2012 version of Manning is going to be even less mobile than the one we knew before. Pass protection is going to be paramount. Does Manning really want his blind side being protected by a guy who got suspended for the last four games of last season because he has a jones for the chronic? Moreover, after a career spent throwing passes to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, is he really going to make it work flinging the ball to Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong? If I were Peyton faced with those prospects, I’d seriously consider taking the workers’ comp payout and getting season tickets to watch my little brother play in New York.
At best, Manning would be a stopgap solution to the Redskins’ problems. At 36, with a failing body, how long could he reasonably be expected to keep playing? Two years? Maybe three? That still fails to address the Redskins’ long-term problems at quarterback, assuming we all agree that the three quarterbacks on the roster last year would be better served holding a clipboard, if not a deep fryer at a fast food joint. Yes, Manning might solve the problem on a temporary basis, but his acquisition would almost certainly scuttle any plans they might have to move up in the draft to get a possible long-term franchise quarterback like Robert Griffin III. This is what they need to do, but as we all know, drafting a quarterback requires patience and forethought and careful nurturing—qualities Snyder doesn’t seem to possess when he can just as easily go out and get the well-established brand name that everyone already knows and admires.
Snyder is an extremely charitable guy, but he is also gaudy and ostentatious. I believe he likes to make an impression. He likes other people to know that he can have the best and most expensive things in life. Manning falls into this category, and I suspect Snyder will do his best to add the future Hall of Fame quarterback to his collection, regardless of whether it’s in the best long-term interest of his football team.