On their daily morning ESPN radio show, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, with the help of guest analyst Mark Schlereth, took up the topic of Peyton Manning and specifically whether it would make sense for the Washington Redskins to pursue him and for him to sign with them. The basic premise, as articulated by Greenberg, is that any team that needs a quarterback would be nuts not to take on Manning assuming he's 100 percent healthy. That last part is the key, because if Manning can't first prove he's able to throw the ball the way he was before his neck problems, no one's going to sign him and he's probably going to retire. But if he can somehow prove that his arm is sound, he becomes the best available quarterback on the market by a mile.
I've written that I think it makes sense for the Redskins to bring in Manning. This would not be Donovan McNabb Part II, and those who dismiss it as such fail to understand the root of the McNabb problem in Washington. It would not be a reversion to the ill-advised free-agent silliness of the Redskins' past, when the team collected big names for big names' sake. It would be an addressing of the team's biggest need with the best possible player. (Assuming, again, that Manning is healthy. If they can't be sure of that, they need to look elsewhere, or have a great backup plan. As in, better than Rex Grossman.)
In the video here, Schlereth points out that the team that won the NFC East this year went 9-7, and that two of that team's losses were to the Redskins, and asks the question, "If you're the Washington Redskins, are you not saying, 'We're one quarterback away from winning this division?'"
Well, I happen to know first-hand that the Redskins do not believe they are that. Mike Shanahan believes he needs a No. 1 wide receiver, help on the offensive line, help in the secondary and more depth overall. If Manning is healthy and in demand, the Redskins' biggest obstacle to bringing him in might well be their ability to convince him he can win there right away. By the time Manning is ready to sign, Shanahan will need either to have filled those aforementioned holes or to be able to show Manning the point-by-point plan he has for doing so. The Redskins are not, currently, Peyton Manning away from contending in 2012. But if they can get to that point and convince Manning they are, their chances of signing him will improve dramatically. They probably have time. While Manning will be released by the Colts sometime in the next three weeks, the market for his services isn't likely to develop until teams have had a chance to see him throw and talk to doctors about him.
But assuming he clears all of the medical hurdles, and assuming the Redskins can't trade up for Robert Griffin III and they use the draft and free agency to fill their other needs on offense, Manning remains a realistic and sensible option, regardless of reasons people might be making up to convince themselves otherwise.
I love what Schlereth says at the end there about this foolishness that Manning wouldn't want to play in the same division as his brother, for example. That might have been said somewhere along the line, and it might have even once been true. But Eli Manning isn't exactly playing in big brother's shadow anymore. And while Peyton might be the sort of guy who wants to pick and choose his perfect situation, I imagine he's also smart enough to know that an exact replica of the Colts' system, in which he fit so perfectly and took so much responsibility for the way things ran, probably isn't going to be available to him.