Manning Logic 101

Mar 9, 2012, 1:33 PM | Updated: 1:40 pm

I think the Arizona Cardinals are driving the Peyton
Manning Free Agent Bus.

Sources close to Manning have reported he wants to make a
decision in less than a week. Many experts believe this is
because Manning wants to sign with a team before free-
agency begins so that whatever team he goes to will be
able to sign other free agents – such as Reggie Wayne.
Still others believe Manning wants to get to work as soon
as he possibly can, grabbing a playbook and immersing
himself in a team’s terminology. Both of these reasons
make sense and have merit but neither of them makes the
most sense.

I believe Peyton Manning wants to get this free agent
process over within a week because he has already narrowed
down the teams he wants to play for and the Arizona
Cardinals are one of them. If, in fact, the Arizona
Cardinals are a team Manning will seriously consider, why
wouldn’t he move with alacrity to alleviate the Cardinals
pressing quarterback concerns?

The Cardinals owe Kevin Kolb a roster bonus of $7 million
on March 17. They need to know where Peyton’s level of
interest is before they can put a plan in place. I believe
Manning knows this.

Manning would be a perfect fit in Arizona. In Larry
Fitzgerald, Peyton would have the best receiver in the
game to throw the ball to, the consummate professional
with a work ethic and desire that rivals his own. Ken
Whisenhunt and his staff have already embraced a
quarterback in Kurt Warner that was heavily involved in
the type of offense being run and, moreover, was allowed
to game plan with the staff. The Cardinals offense is a
conceptual offense that’s both fluid and flexible – just
like the offense Manning ran in Indianapolis. Ken
Whisenhunt’s scheme more closely resembles the offense
Manning played in than any of the digit system or West
Coast offenses in the league. The Cardinals play in a dome
and also have Peyton’s former quarterback coach and
current Cardinals wide receiver coach, Frank Reich, on
their staff. Coach Reich could help assimilate and blend
Manning’s offense with coach Whisenhunt’s offense. The
Cardinals won 7 of their last 9 games and have a young,
up-and-coming defense.

Although the Cardinals offensive line is a concern, I’m
told it’s not a priority over a marquee receiver, strong
and established head coach, type of scheme and desire to
win. Keep in mind that Manning never played behind great
offensive lines in Indy.

Why wouldn’t he want to play in Arizona? Expert analyst
after expert analyst has said it’s not going to be about
the money for Peyton; it’s going to be about the
situation.

As I write this column, NFL.com has the Miami Dolphins and
the Arizona Cardinals as the top two teams in the Manning
sweepstakes – with their stock rising. Well of course,
Manning had to be eyeballing the Dolphins and Cardinals
the whole time Jim Irsay was calling him a “politician”
and dropping hints to the Colts faithful that Peyton was
going to be moving on. Manning had to have his agent, Tom
Condon, looking into each team’s situation, studying their
personnel, evaluating how much interest they might have.
This has not been a surprise to Manning.

Which brings me back to Kevin Kolb, a deadline and why
Manning will decide where he’s going within the week.

If you believe the Cardinals are one of the favorites in
the Manning game, if you believe they have much to offer
Peyton, if you believe the Cardinals may be one of two
teams Manning is seriously considering, don’t you think
Manning knows that too? Don’t you think Peyton has
evaluated the situation and had a pretty good idea of not
only who might be interested in him but whom he would be
interested in? If you believe the Cardinals might be a
great fit for Manning, don’t you think Manning might think
it’s a great fit for him? And if Manning thinks it’s a
great fit for him why wouldn’t he be in a rush to
accommodate the Cardinals and their situation with Kevin
Kolb?

If you believe the Cardinals have a ton to offer Manning
and think he knows the Cards have a ton to offer him but
think he’s not considering the Cardinals March 17
deadline, you have just contradicted your beliefs. You
have vitiated your own logic, undercut and debased what
you believe.

Either you think the Cardinals are real players – one, two
or three in the Manning endgame – or you do not. But if
the Cardinals are a viable, vibrant option for Manning,
why wouldn’t March 17th be paramount in his thinking?

There’s a good chance Manning will choose the Miami
Dolphins over Arizona, but the Cardinals are driving
Manning’s bus.

Penguin Air

Ron Wolfley

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