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Guest Column: Joe McGrath On Why the “Peyton Sweepstakes” Could Be “Catch-22” or “Let’s Make A Deal”

Editor’s Note: Mr. McGrath has long and storied history in the management of professional sports franchises, most notably as the general manager of the Charlestown Chiefs of the now-defunct Federal League. Oh, and this is probably a good time to mention that Mr. McGrath’s views are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Dubsism, our staff, or anybody else whose house you might want to burn to the ground.

So, as I’m having coffee this morning, I’m watching this fiasco going on around Peyton Manning. The last time I wrote about this, I got into an argument over whether the Manning era should be over in Indianapolis. Well, I was right, Manning has moved on, and now it is time to watch this situation get really ridiculous.

All of a sudden, everybody thinks that the simple addition of a 36-year old quarterback who has had four neck surgeries can by his very presence turn a mediocre team into a Super Bowl winner. I’m here to tell you that is a great way to buy a “pig in a poke. ”

I understand the excitement in fans who believe this stuff; this guy will put butts in the seats wherever he goes. But when you are in the general manager’s seat, you get a whole different view of this issue. Let me show you what I mean – there’s a whole lot of stuff you’ve got to think about if you want to buy a Manning Lottery ticket.

Right up front, he’s old.  Discounting every other circumstance, he’s over what I call the “magic number.” Go look at the career statistics of any professional athlete and tell me how many of them didn’t decline after the age of 35. If you look at Manning’s career season-by-season, age 35 is going to be a clear “line in the sand” as to his performance, because no matter what, that’s the season he never even saw the field. Sure, he had a big year in 2010 statistically speaking, but even that wasn’t enough to hide the fact the Colts were not a complete team. I’ll come back to that point in a minute.

For right now, let’s look at the numbers he put up in 2010. Don’t forget, this happened in an offense that had been tailor-made for him, gave him coordinator-level control over the offense, and had been that way through an entire decade and two head coaches. No matter where he goes, that isn’t going to happen again. The best you can hope for is a reasonable facsimile built around different coaches (with different personalities), different players with different abilities, all around a quarterback who will undoubtedly be a different player physically. I’m just a kid who grew up playing hockey on a frozen pond in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. I wasn’t good at math, but even I know that’s too many variables to expect a constant result.

Think about it. Wherever Manning goes, either everybody has to buy in to doing things his way, which still introduces all the variables I just mentioned – or – Manning has to play the role of a 36-year old quarterback with a neck held together with duct tape and happy thoughts who gets to learn a new system, a system which will undoubtedly have different blocking schemes, which may mean he’s going to get pressure from spots he’s not used to.

Now, let’s come back to that “complete team” thing I mentioned.  Manning by himself does not bring that a team. Teams that are complete now don’t need him, and the teams that want him won’t be complete even with him. It’s a football “Catch-22” and some team is going to mortgage its future getting sucked into this. You would think people would have learned from the Brett Favre/Minnesota Vikings fiasco, but that clearly isn’t the case.

Clearly, nobody learned from this.

Don’t even try to tell me that wasn’t a complete failure. Sure, the first year they almost went to the Super Bowl and Favre had a great season, but it all fell apart after that, and that decision to bring in Favre doomed that franchise to at least five years of being terrible. Besides, the goal in Minnesota was “Super Bowl or Bust.” And they hit “bust.”

If you are the general manager in Kansas City, Denver, or Arizona, you are an 8-8/7-9 sort of team who can’t even begin to call themselves “complete” enough to say   the simple addition of Manning means they are “Super Bowl” ready.  Denver made the playoffs out of lousy division, had their miracle against the Steelers, then took their expected blowout loss to the conference champion Patriots. Manning by himself doesn’t close the gap between the Broncos and the Patriots.  Arizona got left in the dust early on in the season, but there are so many people who got sucked in by their 5-1 finish and think that Manning makes them an instant playoff contender. Not even close. The only offensive weapon the Cardinals have that isn’t over-the-hill (Todd Heap) or constantly hurt (Beanie Wells) is Larry Fitzgerald.  The Cardinals are the Los Angeles Clippers of the NFL; sure they might have an interesting young star now, but they are still owned by an idiot and that’s why they are a third-rate organization. Kansas City offers a whole other set of problems. Offensively, they are either over-the-hill (Thomas Jones and half the offensive line), over-rated (Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin), never-will-be (Dexter McCluster and Steve Breaston) or going to spend the rest of their careers in between injuries (Jamaal Charles).

The point is that if you are the general manager of either of those three teams, Manning represents poison for you. To get him, you are going to expend resources you could use to solve other problems, and you are doing so for a big gamble. This is because there are only five possible outcomes, and four of them are potentially bad.

  • You sign Manning, and he isn’t healthy – Team goes 4-12, you’ve tanked the future so the team sucks for five years and you get fired.
  • You sign Manning, and he sucks – Team goes 4-12, you’ve tanked the future so the team sucks for five years and you get fired.
  • You sign Manning, and he is effective – You may still get fired because like what happened in Minnesota, anything short of a Super Bowl win may still be considered a failure
  • You don’t sign Manning, and he is effective elsewhere – You better hope you team doesn’t suck at the same time that happens, or not only do you get fired, you likely never get another job
  • You don’t sign Manning, and he is ineffective elsewhere – Best case scenario, this is the only one that has no potential for you getting fired.

Then, there’s that whole issue of his health everybody is blowing right past. This is where you get the Monty Hall “Let’s Make A Deal Problem.” This is the one where you have $25 million dollars and the future of your quarterbacking situation in your hand, and Monty offers you the trade – the money and the future for a choice of what’s behind one of three doors.

  • Door #1 – A healthy Manning who can still play
  • Door #2 – A healthy Manning who can’t play anymore (don’t forget, he’s old)
  • Door #3 – An unhealthy Manning who can’t play, but still cost you the money and the future

Frankly, I think its a bad bet. The best case is I get an aging Hall-of-Famer, and it costs me the ability to build for the future. The worst case, I get a multi-million dollar talking paper-weight. I’ve never liked desperation bets, and this surely smacks of one.

-Dubsism is a proud member of Sports Blog Movement

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

9 comments on “Guest Column: Joe McGrath On Why the “Peyton Sweepstakes” Could Be “Catch-22” or “Let’s Make A Deal”

  1. Jsportsfan
    March 11, 2012

    Most fans don’t realize that Peyton’s playoff record is mediocre at best. I’d rather have the horseradish behind Door # 3.

    Like

    • J-Dub
      March 11, 2012

      Great point. I’d even up that to say that if it weren’t for Rex Grossman gift-wrapping a Super Bowl for the Colts, Manning might be known as on of the best big-game choke artists of all-time.

      Like

  2. Sam's Sports Brief
    March 11, 2012

    Great piece, Joe, I think Manning is healthy. He’s going to continue to rehab, and will be close to 100% by the beginning of the season.

    Like

  3. sportsattitudes
    March 12, 2012

    Four procedures for a neck/nerve injury. Take the door marked “Canton,” Peyton. That Colt offensive line ain’t walking through any of the other doors. Great piece!

    Like

    • J-Dub
      March 13, 2012

      I wonder what guys like TJ Ford and Michael Irvin, who both had their careers ended by similar neck issues, think of all this?

      Like

      • sportsattitudes
        March 13, 2012

        J-Dub…I think he’s forgetting that bubble he played within while a Colt. The next line that blocks for him likely won’t be as rugged…he hasn’t thrown a ball in anger in over a year…and the bounty on that neck will be…priceless.

        Like

      • J-Dub
        March 13, 2012

        Bounties are illegal at Bushwood, sir…(wink, nudge…)

        Like

  4. Agreed, Joe. Fortunately someone who writes for this website has a little sense.

    Eventually, Indianapolis fans will realize Mr. Irsay made the right decision.

    Like

    • J-Dub
      March 13, 2012

      Sober up, buddy. Nobody has ever written anything sensible on this blog ever.

      Like

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