Peyton Manning is officially a free agent. Over the next couple of months prepare for the endless stream of rumors and breaking developments in the “where will Peyton play?’ saga. I suspect that right now in the bowels of Bristol, Connecticut some ESPN producer salivates like the dog in the Beethoven movies about how much programming he can squeeze out of this. I imagine Chris Mortenson and Adam Schefter losing sleep, sensing their Woodward and Bernstein moment. I bet the stats geeks at Football Outsiders have crunched the numbers and created intense logarithms and projection systems to determine the most logical fit for Peyton’s talents. I know sports radio hosts all over the country will openly pine for Peyton to bring his surgically repaired neck to their market. At this point I cannot tell you where Peyton will eventually land, no one could, but I do have a TOP SECRET formula that will forecast his prospective future. Unlike all the stat head number crunchers, all the ESPN experts and all the ranting drive time radio hosts, my formula is 100% guaranteed. To protect my formula from poachers like ESPN and other sports media outlets I cannot divulge the methods that go into my formula. After just one day on the open market four frontrunners have emerged, the Jets, Redskins, Cardinals and Dolphins, I will give you a quick glimpse of how Peyton would fare on each of these teams.
Peyton arrives to insane fanfare. Jets’ fans trash their Sanchez jerseys and run to the nearest Models to purchase their new #18 Jets’ jersey. Some witty newspaper writer even comes up with an Elton John pun to headline the back page, probably something like “Rocket Manning”. Once the season starts Peyton gets off to a fast start and puts the Jets in prime position for a playoff spot. Jets’ fans all over the city start making Super Bowl plans, and even though the Giants are defending champs, claim the city as a Jets town. But after an 8-3 beginning things turn sour quick. Peyton takes a hard hit, but plays through the pain and finishes the season weak. He loses all ability to throw down field. The Jets finish 1-4 and miss the playoffs at 9-7. As the season winds down teammates take shots at Peyton’s leadership calling him disinterested in the team but things only get worse. Apparently during the season Peyton grew fond of a certain female reporter and after a few forward voicemails he texts her a picture of little Manning (and I don’t mean Eli). Peyton ends up leaving the Jets after just one season and ventures to Minnesota in hopes of one last hoorah.
The Washington D.C scenario has Mike Shanahan reaching out to the future Hall of Fame quarterback in hopes to recapture the magic he once experienced with Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Peyton wins his first game although doesn’t really impress. His second game he plays a lot better but the ‘Skins lose by a field goal. Everything falls apart after that, Peyton clearly does not have the same ability he had before the injury and it shows. Shanahan reveals his fickle nature by benching Peyton in a five point game in the last three minutes for John Beck. Peyton returns to the starting lineup for the following five games but after not showing much, Shanahan relegates him to third on the depth chart stating “he wants to evaluate his backup quarterback.” After the season ends, Peyton gets fat, grows a beard and becomes the new starting quarterback for the Vikings.
Arizona decides to bring in a Super Bowl winning, former MVP quarterback to turn the tides of the franchise. For the first few seasons Peyton plays with varying success, but Arizona ultimately decides to spend a first round pick on a “quarterback of the future” and picks Matt Barkley out of USC. They plan on having Peyton mentor Barkley and eventually hand over the reins. Barkley plays a little but never shows much leadership and has little desire to ever throw downfield. Peyton wins back the job and the Cardinals sign Barkley’s release. Out of nowhere Peyton experiences a resurgence in his career, he makes the Pro Bowl and leads his team to an unlikely Super Bowl run. In the Super Bowl he rallies his team down thirteen to a one point lead, only to have the defense relinquish it in the final minute. Peyton plays one more year than calls it a career and becomes a broadcaster for the Arena Football League.
The forecasting model had to be tweaked a bit for this scenario but we still have it, so all is well. Before Peyton announces where he will play for the upcoming season he buys an hour of programming time on ESPN to broadcast his decision worldwide. Peyton declares on ESPN that he “will be taking his talents to South Beach,” following this off putting move he one ups himself with a preposterous welcome party where he boasts they will win “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” championships. Once the season kicks off he proves to be one of the great players of all time, leading his team to the Super Bowl in his first season. Vegas favors the Dolphins big, over the Dallas Cowboys, as many people wonder if Romo can come through in the clutch. In the Super Bowl, Peyton wilts in the fourth quarter as Romo flourishes. Dallas brings home a championship, Romo is celebrated and the media pounces on Peyton calling him a choke artist. My forecast system does not allow me to forecast any further in the future for his Miami scenario.