By now you may or may not have heard that Indianapolis Colt Peyton Manning has been cleared to play football again, or that he hasn’t. You may or may not have heard that Miami could or could not be a landing spot for the future Hall of Famer QB. Confused yet? Well you have every right to be confused because nothing is crazier than all this Manning talk.
To clear a little bit up before we jump into the talk of whether Manning can win in Miami, Peyton Manning has been cleared to resume his NFL career. His doctors have told him that he can play football again without the risk of further damaging his neck. However, they also said that he is not ready to throw a football and that nerves have not regenerated yet in his shoulder. So he can play without concern for his future, but can’t play until sometime, maybe, in the future.
To address the “sources say” rumors from Miami regarding the Dolphins being on Manning’s short list of appealing cities, let’s simply look at like this. Manning and his wife apparently own a condo on SouthBeach and love the city and the ocean. We can also leave it right there because frankly, he isn’t going to come to Miami over say Washington or the New York Jets simply because he has a better view. He will however come to Miami before other cities because they offer a better contract. Or they offer a similar contract and then the condo comes into play. And the beach.
So while the media want to hash out Manning’s choices before Manning actually makes any choices, let’s look at something far more substantial. Like Peyton Manning’s fit with the Dolphins offense.
We can assume with some degree of certainty that new HC Joe Philbin and new OC Mike Sherman would love to have a guy with Manning talent and it’s also pretty certain that if in fact they did have Manning, they would tailor the offense to his strengths, which is just about everything except mobility out of the pocket. He is 38 after all. How Manning would fit into a “west coast” offense isn’t as important as the team he would be surrounded by.
Two years ago the Indy Colts were 10-6 and lost to the NY Jets in the first round of the playoffs by one point…they only scored 16 but were still the third seed in the AFC. Manning had a solid offensive unit. It’s obvious that all things being equal, and they were heading into the 2011 season until Manning got hurt, the Colts were going to win their division yet again. Unfortunately for the Colts, Manning was injured, did not play, and they basically toweled the season. Of course that as it turned out wasn’t so “unLucky” at all.
If, and that is a big IF on so many levels, Manning ended up in Miami, the AFC East would not be a cake walk, but Manning may have a far better team than he had two seasons ago in Indianapolis. Oh, and in case you are wondering, the Colts were in the Super Bowl in 2009. Just in case you were wondering.
So the question is can we compare apples to oranges or is really a matter of oranges to oranges and apples to apples? Either way throw it in a juicer and you get “juice”. Obviously Manning compared to Manning is Manning but if you move outwards from that position and compare Manning’s division winning and Super Bowl appearing teams in his last two “playing” seasons. Miami is actually a better team.
The easiest position to hand to the Colts is the TE spot. Manning had Dallas Clark to throw to and the two of them were always on the same page. It’s hard to say that Anthony Fasano is anywhere on that level so I would say the Colts have that position over Miami…however, imagine what Fasano might be able to do with a guy like Manning tossing him the rock?
Surrounding Manning in the back-field was a trio of running backs who frankly platooned at the position. Joseph Addai was the lead horse but only by a small margin. The fact is that the Colt running game did Manning no favors and outside of Edgerrin James so many years ago, Manning never had a true workhorse stud RB, oh and they didn’t go to the Super Bowl with James. Donald Brown and Javarris James were the other two. Combined, the three of them totaled around 1100 yards on the season.
In contrast, Manning would have a much better starting group of RB’s in Miami. Reggie Bush is an electric threat that would actually give Manning a go to option from the start of the play instead of a dump off option. Daniel Thomas is the workhorse north and south runner who with a better line can improve his inconsistency issues. Still, he is a better option than what the Colts have had. Throw in a flexing Charles Clay and suddenly Manning has a RB corp than can catch and run.
The wide-receivers are a bit more daunting to compare. While no one will argue that Reggie Wayne is one of the premier pass catchers in NFL history, the truth is that he is a lot older and when you factor in his age and then compare him to a much younger Brandon Marshall, you can actually call it a push for Peyton Manning. Both players are able to get separation and I would say that as of now, Marshall is the speedier wide-out.
Pierre Garcon is not as familiar as Reggie Wayne but he is productive. He is also not a legit number 2 WR. While Miami does not have a legit number 2 either, they do have Brian Hartline who has great hands and doesn’t need a lot of space to work in and Davone Bess who can create space and offer a QB like Manning an excellent option over the middle and in the slot. Throw in the waiting to show some speed Clyde Gates and Manning has a plethora of talented WR’s compared to the “Not named Wayne” guys in Indy. Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez.
The Colts WR’s (Not named Wayne) excelled because of Peyton Manning’s talent not because they are superior athletes. In Miami, guys like Hartline and Bess are not superior but they are better route runners than Collie and Gonzalez. With Manning, they should be even better.
The offensive lines are also hard to compare. No one would say that Jeff Saturday at Center is a slouch. He is an All-Pro and one of the best Pro-Bowl centers in the game, he is also likely going to retire. In Miami, the up and coming sophomore Mike Pouncey will hand the ball back to Manning. Pouncey has all the intangibles to be great and protecting Manning won’t be a problem. Nor will the left side of Manning where Jake Long will have his blind side and Ritchie Incognito will likely play between Long and Pouncey.
The questions come in on the right side of the line where both Marc Columbo and Vernon Carey should be gone. Joe Philbin is originally an offensive line coach so there is hope that the Dolphins will fix the issue with their line, and in reality it’s easier to get the line fixed than finding playmakers at other positions. Still when you compare the Indy team of 2010 to this one, they were needing to fix the right side of their line as well.
Ryan Diem is a very solid RT but he is not an end all option. He needs a good supporting cast as well. He did not have that in RG Kyle DeVan who wasn’t even playing in the NFL the year before but for an indoor franchise. Tony Ugoh was a second round pick for the Colts who didn’t break into the starting lineup. All things being equal and the Dolphins should easily be able to find the protection on the right side to block for Manning.
Are you salivating yet? Seriously, the Dolphins roster on offense is much better on paper than the Colts have had in their last three seasons. The missing component in Miami is a QB and offensive line consistency. Miami also does not have that go to guy like Dallas Clark but they do have a very solid Charles Clay and much better pass catching options out of the back-field than the Colts did. So Manning has more aerial options in Miami.
Then there is the defense. The Colts didn’t have one. In their Super Bowl season of 2009, the Colts defense was ranked 20th overall. In 2010, they improved to 18. By contrast, the Dolphins defense was ranked 15th last season but much of that low ranking was a result of early season collapses. The Phins will switch to a 4-3 this year but the reality is they should still be a formidable unit as the personnel will not be overhauled in the process.
So what does that mean? It means that Manning shouldn’t be playing from behind as much as he was in Indianapolis which also means that he won’t have the need to throw as much as he did in Indianapolis which means that he will have a better opportunity to control a game from the outset of games and not have to bring his team back as often.
Miami is not the Indianapolis Colts. They went to the Super Bowl in 2009 for a reason. That reason is Peyton Manning, evidenced by how far they fell two seasons later with virtually the same personnel…except one. Miami offers a better personnel package for Manning and apparently a nicer view.
Still, this does not mean that Manning is the best option for the Dolphins future or that he will even be able to throw the ball down the field with the accuracy and zip he did with the Colts. What it is, is an interesting story line with a lot of debate. The Dolphins may not reach the Super Bowl under Manning and if I were a betting man, I would bet against it. He is however a great QB who knows how to lead and win. Something Miami has not had in a long time.
The question is and will be, can he play or will he simply just be “cleared to play”.