- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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I'll mix in some color commentary for portions reaching into the NFC West.
King notes that the teams Manning considered the strongest featured former NFL players as point men. That included John Elway in Denver, Mike Munchak in Tennessee, Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, and Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona.
Wait, Manning didn't know Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was an all-conference safety at University of the Pacific? He didn't know Seahawks GM John Schneider played a year at University of St. Thomas? Ha. Ha.
King says Manning was thrown off when Carroll and Schneider flew to Denver "unannounced" for a shot at meeting before Manning left for Arizona.
"Peyton Manning does not like surprises," King writes. "He said no thanks. Carroll flew home."
The decade Carroll spent away from the NFL made him even more of a Manning outsider. Neither was there sufficient connection between Seattle and Manning's former teammate, Brandon Stokley, for that relationship to work for Seattle. Stokley played for Carroll in 2010, but King pointed to Stokely's connections to Manning and Denver as helping make Manning more comfortable with the Broncos.
And so Manning was off to Arizona for a meeting with the Cardinals. What happened there? What did Manning think of Arizona? How serious was he about the Cardinals? Those questions remain unanswered.
Within a couple days, Harbaugh and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman were scouting a Manning workout in North Carolina.
"First they watched from a car by the side of the field, then, to get a better view, they came onto the field, hoodies pulled over their heads so as not to be recognized by some nosy iPhoner," King writes.
The 49ers' interest in Manning had not yet become known publicly. Still, the drama and secrecy seems silly. Manning and Stokley took similar precautions while throwing together in Denver.
Manning's tour was all about Manning and what made him comfortable. As Carroll found out, if you had to ask what made Manning comfortable, you didn't have a chance.