Peyton & the Jets: Pros and cons

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
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If nothing else, it makes for great debate: Should the Jets pursue Peyton Manning?

Here's a look at some of the positives and negatives, many of which the team's brass are considering as they mull the Manning situation:

POSITIVES

1. He's Peyton Freakin' Manning. He'd immediately become the most accomplished player ever to wear a Jets uniform, apologies to Joe Namath.

2. He would elevate the play of those around him, particularly the offensive line and wide receivers -- and those units could use a jolt after last season's struggles. Manning's pocket presence and quick release make him tough to sack and his accuracy would enable the receivers -- Santonio Holmes, in particular -- to catch the ball in stride and make yards after the catch, a dimension sorely lacking last season.

3. He might be the smartest quarterback ever. His ability to read defenses and orchestrate at the line of scrimmage would put tremendous pressure on defenses, opening up so many possibilities. He'd immediately clean up the game-management issues that flared up last season.

4. His ability to see the entire field allows him exploit coverage-based schemes. In other words, he can strike for big plays against defenses designed to stop big plays. Since 2008, Manning has thrown 70 touchdowns and only 37 interceptions when facing four or fewer pass rushers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Mark Sanchez's numbers: 28 touchdowns, 36 interceptions.

5. He would force opponents to defend the entire field. Since 2008, 49 quarterbacks have attempted at least 200 passes outside the field numbers. Sanchez has completed just over 50 percent on such throws, ranking 45th. Manning's mark was just over 61 percent, eighth-best over that time, per ESPN Stats.

6. His presence would open up the running game. The Jets would see fewer eight-man fronts, easing the burden on the line and creating lanes for RB Shonn Greene.

7. Manning would be air freshener in the locker room, meaning he'd command instant respect from teammates and would do wonders for the chemistry issues. You think Holmes would blow off one of Manning's quarterback-receiver meetings? No way.

NEGATIVES

1. His health is a major question. This is a surgically repaired neck we're talking about, not a routine knee reconstruction.

2. He turns 36 later this month, an age when even the best start to decline. Only three quarterbacks in the 36-plus age group have won a Super Bowl -- Johnny Unitas (37), Jim Plunkett (36) and John Elway (37, 38).

3. He missed the entire 2011 season. Can you say "significant rust build-up"?

4. His play has declined in recent years. Since his signature season in 2004, when his passer rating was an astounding 121, his ratings have gone from 104 to 101 to 98 to 95 to 100 to 92. In 2010, he had 17 interceptions, one shy of Sanchez's 2011 total. While Manning's recent numbers still are very good, they're not what they used to be.

5. The cost would restrict the Jets' ability to plug other holes. Sure, the Jets could find the cap room to sign Manning -- they'd get $9 million in cap relief by unloading Sanchez -- but they'd probably have to settle for second-tier players to fill needs at safety, outside linebacker, wide receiver, etc.

6. Manning doesn't fit Tony Sparano's run-oriented offense. They'd have to scrap Sparano's system -- and they just hired the guy -- or try to teach an old quarterback new tricks. Chances are, they'd change to suit him, not vice versa.

7. Right now, the Jets don't have the personnel to suit Manning's style. He has played his entire career in a three-wide receiver, one-tight end, one-back offense. The Jets have only one receiver with a proven track record -- Holmes. They struggled last season in three-receiver sets.

8. Manning doesn't like cold weather. His winning percentage outdoors is .649, but it drops each month, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- .700 in September, .680 in October, .655 in November and .565 in December/January (13-10, including 0-3 in January). And now he has a neck issue to consider.

9. Sanchez will be only 26 and he's still learning. Remember, he had only 16 college starts at USC. Counting his pro experience, he has only 69 lifetime starts. That's not much when considering that some quarterbacks enter the league nowadays with 50 college starts.

10. Despite his ups and downs from last season, Sanchez has proven he can win. His career record is 27-20, plus 4-2 in the playoffs. He threw 26 touchdowns last season, maybe the best "bad" season in recent history.

11. Abandoning Sanchez at the first sign of trouble would be a damning self-indictment. For three years, Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum built everything around Sanchez, and to change course would show a lack of confidence in their franchise player and their own ability to develop that player.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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