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Updated Mar 21, 2012 - 2:33 pm

Bloggerment: Would Arizona have given Manning an easier path to Super Bowl?


Bloggerment: Arizona Sports 620 bloggers Rod Lakin and
Jarrett Carlen argue whether Peyton Manning made the best
selection to add to his Super Bowl résumé?.

Question: Would Arizona have given Manning an easier
path to the Super Bowl than Denver?

Rod Lakin: It was starting to make sense. Last
Friday’s unexpected (and unwanted) report about Peyton
Manning’s interest in the San Francisco 49ers finally
provided what had previously been absent: The trump card.
For those like myself, who were confused at Manning’s
hesitancy in signing with Arizona over dubious-at-best
situations in Denver and Tennessee, the 49ers finally
provided a semblance of sanity to a process that had
seemed to veer away from it. Now this. Not only is
signing with Denver a mistake for Peyton Manning, but it
also cuts away from the core assumption that we were
operating under: Which team will give Manning the best
chance to win a Super Bowl? The answer should be easy:
The San Francisco 49ers. This is not to say that choosing
San Francisco over the Arizona Cardinals would be equally
as simple a proposition. Jim Harbaugh, after all, is
quite a departure from the docile, hands-off leadership
profiles that are proven to work best with Manning. Randy
Moss and Michael Crabtree would also not seem to fit the
Peyton paradigm established by Marvin Harrison and
continued by Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis. In other
words, you can make a distinction between the best and the
ideal, but what you cannot do is convince me that Denver
would fit into either category. The Arizona Cardinals, by
contrast, would not only be a more functional situation
than San Francisco, but would also provide a better path
to win a Super Bowl than the one he has chosen. More
details to come…

Jarrett Carlen: I agree that San Francisco would
have been the best choice for Manning. Of all the
potential suitors, they were the best team last year, and
they also return almost all of their starters. The reason
Manning should have gone there is the same reason that
Arizona would not have been the optimal selection. The
49ers were one of the best teams in the NFC last year and
they, of course, play in the Cardinals’ division. The
Cards finished 8-8 and were several games behind the
Niners. The Denver Broncos, on the other hand, won their
division with an 8-8 record. And while the NFC West got
better this offseason (the Seahawks get Matt Flynn, the
Rams get a healthy Sam Bradford and a ton of draft picks,
the Niners get Randy Moss and Mario Manningham) the AFC
West basically stood pat. Outside the division, the AFC,
as a whole, offers the easier road to the Super Bowl.
Instead of having to go through young, powerful teams like
Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco and the New York
Giants, Peyton now only has to get past aging contenders
like Pittsburgh, New England and Baltimore. Because of
their division and conference, the Broncos provide Manning
with the best chance at winning a championship. And that’s
without even going into their personnel advantages….

Rod Lakin: I promised details, so I’ll begin with
a few: The top 6 pass defenses in the NFL are all AFC
teams. Eight of the top 10 are AFC. Eleven of the top
15, and so on… So who can seriously assert that the road
through the AFC is “easier?” Of the three contenders you
named, two could be could be considered “aging,” but
Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley
are all 30 or younger. These “contenders” aren’t going
anywhere anytime soon, in other words, and there’s at
least 10 years of history that suggests both organizations
can and will continue to augment this claim. As to the
AFC West, two of the aforementioned 15 are the Broncos
division rivals and the Kansas City Chiefs could certainly
not be accused of “standing pat.” Last year Kansas City
lost 4 key players to season ending injuries (Matt Cassel,
Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki), 3 of which
received Pro Bowl invitations the previous year. To
return those 4 would be a significant boost, but not
content with it, the Chiefs signed two players considered
to be the best available free agents at their position in
cornerback Stanford Routt and right tackle Eric Winston.
They also agreed to very economical 1-year contract for a
very motivated Peyton Hillis. So I think you can (and
should) probably concede that Kansas City did not “stand
pat,” which will assuredly shift the debate to the
remaining teams in the AFC West. It is true that the
Oakland Raiders spent much of their off-season shedding
bad contracts and that San Diego could not match one given
to Vincent Jackson. But that would only make them
slightly worse teams that, by most accounts, underachieved
last season, and that, by all accounts, still have two of
the better quarterbacks in the NFL. So, if the tiebreaker
becomes Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer vs. Sam Bradford
and Matt Flynn, I’ll ask it again: How is it that this
road is “easier?”

Jarrett Carlen: Let the record show that Rod
referred to Carson Palmer as one of the “better
quarterbacks in the NFL”. His internet must be really
slow, because he clearly typed and sent that in 2005. As
for the Chiefs’ improvements, I admit that on paper they
should be a better team. Of course they still have an
uncertain situation at QB and a new head coach who has a
career record of 26-41. If you think that makes for a
tougher road than going through a team in the 49ers who
were a play away from the Super Bowl, then I suppose
that’s your opinion. Now that we’ve looked at their
competition, let’s look at what each team has to offer.
The Cardinals have one advantage – Larry Fitzgerald. But
one great receiver a team does not make. Denver has a good
young core of receivers. Because the Broncos were a run
first, sometimes option offense, this group had far fewer
targets and total yards than Arizona, but virtually the
same yards per catch and TDs. Each team has a decent
running game, though the Broncos gained more yards on the
ground last year. Each team has a coach who has been to
the Super Bowl, though John Fox has proven to be flexible,
changing his game plan depending on what he has available.
And if he gave control to Tebow, he’ll surely give control
to Manning. Both teams have similar young defenses, but
the Broncos offensive line is superior to an Arizona line
that was second in the league in sacks allowed for 2
straight years. That might be important to a QB coming off
several neck surgeries.

Rod Lakin: Well I’m glad that you’ve conceded one
crucial point. As to the frivolous one about Carson
Palmer, I wouldn’t back away from that statement, and as
it relates to the argument, I would say that 3 teams in
the “easier” division would gladly take him over their
incumbent starter. If this is not the case, I would
invite you to explain how it is that Tavaris Jackson,
Kevin Kolb, and Alex Smith are any better. Let’s put that
on the record. The more important point, in the meantime,
was already conceded with the mention of Larry Fitzgerald,
and I don’t think the Cardinals admittedly bad offensive
line is enough to undermine it. For example, you probably
wouldn’t need more than two guesses (Marvin Harrison and
Reggie Wayne) to name Peyton Manning’s leading receiver
for every season past his rookie year in 1998. Now try a
similar exercise over the last four seasons for the most
critical position on the offensive line. If you can name
both Tony Ugoh, and Charlie Johnson, you’re better than I
am, and you might also notice that Manning was no worse a
quarterback, or a more-sacked one with two left tackles
who are no longer on the Colts’ roster. Stability, it
seems, cuts the Cardinals way in this regard, as the
Peyton paradigm thrives more on an All-Pro wide receiver
than it does a an All-Pro offensive line. This is not to
say that any quarterback (4 neck surgeries
notwithstanding) would not want a solid offensive line,
good receivers, stout defense and productive running game.
Rather that the Broncos only hold the clear edge in the
most negligible of those factors, while the Cardinals hold
a decisive advantage in the most imperative.

Jarrett Carlen: I will simply go back to the fact
that it takes much more than a great receiver to win a
championship. Yes, Peyton Manning was very successful with
Wayne and Harrison. But if you think that wide receiver is
the most “imperative” of positions, look up how many Super
Bowl championships Peyton Manning currently has compared
to how many Tom Brady has. Then look at their stable of
receivers. The Broncos have the best overall team. The
Broncos have the easier division and the easier
conference. And Denver is where Peyton Manning should be.


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