Commentary

Peyton Manning to Jets? Won't happen

To join Gang Green's mess of a team, Colts QB would have to be crazy -- and he isn't

Updated: January 12, 2012, 2:30 AM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

Given that Peyton Manning needs to get only his neck and not his head examined before he can resume playing in the NFL, the idea that the Colts quarterback would make the Jets his last career stop is an absolute pipe dream.

Just forget it. Wipe it out of your mind. He's not coming to New York, and the fact that it's even being treated as a realistic possibility is just one last desperate gasp of Jets hubris playing out from muscle memory before everyone snaps back to reality and admits the obvious.

Any NFL player with attractive options -- which Manning will surely have if he's given a clean bill of health -- would be nuts to come to the mess that is the Jets' franchise right now.

[+] EnlargeBart Scott and Peyton Manning
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireCan't wait for Peyton Manning to become a Jet? Oh, you poor souls.

First of all, it wouldn't be Manning's style. The big-talking, loudmouth, anything-goes image that Rex Ryan has molded the franchise into has become the laughingstock of the NFL. And Manning has played his entire career for what was one of the most stable franchises in sports, a place so buttoned-down and averse to change, the Colts kept the same staff and ran the same offensive system built around him year after year. The Colts were so loathe to change, things literally fell apart without Manning this season.

Forget about the Tom Moore connection, too.

Moore, the Colts' longtime offensive coach, has been helping the Jets from semi-retirement. But the opinion that's likely to carry the most weight with Peyton will come from his brother Eli, who's had a first-row seat as the Jets self-destructed these last four weeks. Hell, Eli and the Giants reveled in playing a big part in it by shutting up the Jets on Christmas Eve.

Here's what Eli could tell Peyton, if Peyton weren't already paying attention: The Jets have been exposed as a snarl of competing egos and agendas. In their locker room, backstabbing and finger pointing are the norm.

Ryan made the extraordinary admission that he didn't have the pulse of the team all year. He conceded he didn't pay enough attention to the offense, and guess what? On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Bill Callahan left in disgust. But wideout Santonio Holmes, who was ripped by teammates as a locker room cancer and quitter, is still here. And the Jets' incumbent quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has been turned into one of those carnival acts where they latch someone to a wagon wheel and throws knives at him as he spins round and round.

Sanchez may no more be the answer than Chad Pennington was.

But don't compare getting Manning to the Jets landing Brett Favre.

When you look at things accurately -- and not through the sort of gauzy, conveniently rosy revisionist history that's told now about Favre's one-and-done year with the Jets -- you realize what's happening to Sanchez is exactly what happened to Favre when he fell shy of the playoffs.

Favre's only Jets season started with high hopes and ended in abject disappointment. Afterward, plenty of unnamed Jets ripped everything from the carte blanche the franchise gave Favre to his work habits. In other words, it's the same stuff that anonymous Jets players and unnamed organization sources aired out about Sanchez in some scathing quotes that appeared Wednesday in The Daily News.

Same old Jets, all right.

So insist on believing Manning really will come here if you want.

Then prepare to be monumentally disappointed.

If the Colts draft Andrew Luck and part with Manning -- and if Manning is healthy -- he'll have far more options than Favre did. It's easy to think of five or six teams that would be better landing spots for Manning than the Jets. San Francisco comes to mind. So do Arizona and Denver, if John Elway has the guts to make Tim Tebow sit and learn. Even Miami, depending on whom the Dolphins hire as head coach, or a late-career return to Tennessee, where Manning played his college ball, would be more attractive. Minnesota and Seattle would surely beg Manning to consider them, too.

So prepare to have Sanchez back as your quarterback in 2012. Resign yourself to seeing if he can win back a locker room he's at least partially lost, or prove Pete Carroll wasn't right when he said Sanchez wasn't ready for the NFL after just one season as a college starter.

Sanchez is now stuck trying to avoid becoming the new Matt Leinart, another highly drafted USC quarterback who's fighting to stay relevant in the NFL. And Sanchez has never looked so out on the gangplank alone.

That's the ugly reality the Jets are stuck with now.

And this: Peyton Manning would be crazy to come here. His last stop won't be the Jets.

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