That’s the debate going on the week before, leading into and after Super Bowl 46 and frankly, the most critical NFL storyline of the offseason. Amazing how much the topic of Manning’s future seemed to have slightly overshadowed the Super Bowl festivities. It only took a brief hiatus while brother Eli was beating Tom Brady and the Patriots for his second Lombardi Trophy. But it’s back again and sure to gain more momentum as we inch closer to the infamous March deadline where his inevitable departure from the Indianapolis Colts will become reality.
Manning has recovered from neck surgery and now he has several months to get his weak triceps back into shape. He has had multiple doctor’s approve his return behind center in the NFL and looks primed for a vengeful comeback story that only a Manning could really write. Amidst all the speculation on his throwing arm I can only say I am not a doctor and do not play one on television. But I will say that I personally dismiss that stuff, simply because it was the same mumbo-jumbo we were hearing about Manning throughout the course of the 2011 NFL season. He defied that logic and I suspect he will do the same here.
So with all of that aside and at the expensive of being labeled a complete “homer” I am going to tell you the perfect fit and eventual landing spot for Peyton Manning. The Miami Dolphins.
Here are my reasons why Peyton will end up in teal, white and orange in 2012.
1. The Dolphins Defense
Sure the Dolphins started off horribly in the first part of the 2011 but the defense really came on in the 2nd half of the season. In fact the Dolphins were one of the Top Defensive units in the NFL int he 2nd half of the season. Led by Karlos Dansby the Dolphins boast a young, dangerous and potent defensive with rising defensive stars like Cameron Wake, Vontae Davis, Shawn Smith, Randy Starks, Kevin Burnett, Koa Misi and Kendall Langford.
Granted I was sad to see defensive coordinator Mike Nolan depart for greener pastures in Atlanta with the Falcons, but I was bowled over by the Phins hiring of Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle. Not sure who Coyle is? Take a look at this quote about Coyle from Josh Kirkendall who operates “Cincy Jungle” on SB Nation’s website:
“Since Kevin Coyle was promoted as the team’s secondary coach in 2003, Bengals defensive backs have posted 133 interceptions, including Pro Bowl players like Deltha O’Neal, Tory James and alternate Pro Bowlers in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Coyle, who has some defensive coordinator experience in college at Holy Cross, Syracuse, Maryland and Fresno State, is good at identifying a player’s strength and where he can contribute. In the past four years Cincinnati has started a seventh-round safety, a re-tread Reggie Nelson and an aging Chris Crocker, all of whom contributed within a top-ten defense two of the past three seasons.”
The Dolphins defense may switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 but this unit is primed for the next step. Can’t help but add to allure of Manning coming to Miami. It can be debated that this defense is much more than he has had in Indy the past few years.
2. A Running Game
For once in his career Peyton Manning will have a backfield that is truly legit, both backs. Reggie Bush posted his first career 1,000 yard season and showed that he can handle being a feature back. Bush is the type of offensive weapon that Manning would thrive with.
But don’t forget about Bush’s backfield partner in crime, 2nd year pro Daniel Thomas. Thomas is the hard-hitting, down-hill power back that is the perfect compliment to Bush. He is also coming into his own and showcased some real promise last year. I saw every game of the season the Phins played and his progression was apparent in each game he played.
Bush is also an accomplished receiver and capable of leading any given team in receptions. He has also worked with elite quarterbacks and high-octane systems before, during his time with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees
Both backs are decent blockers as well. Some icing on the cake for Manning
3. Weapons, Weapons, Weapons
Brandon Marshall is the type of receiver Manning has never had in Indianapolis. Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison certainly can be called elite receivers but neither of them are/were the type of receiver that Marshall is.
On top of that he has one of the best slot receivers in the game in Devon Bess. Bess is under-rated and one of the better possession receivers in the game. A nice safety net for Manning.
Anthony Fasano is another under-rated player on the roster. A solid tight end who won’t blow you away with his stat line but is consistent, reliable and a solid blocker.
4. The Offensive Line. No, I’m not kidding
I am the first one to rip the Phins O-Line and their struggles in recent years. But I do believe a portion of the blame is to be placed on former head coach Tony Sparano who moved lineman around, in and out of the lineup on a weekly basis. But the talent is certainly there and with a new Head Coach I am confident they can right the ship.
Jake Long is one of the best, if not the best Left Tackle in the game. Mike Pouncey made impressive strides in his rookie season behind center and is surely to be an elite lineman once he evolves. Richie Incognito also made improvements at the guard position and should contribute even more. Not to mention the toughness he brings to the field on each down.
It’s questionable at best if the Phins decide to retain right tackle Vernon Carey, but even if they don’t it’s safe to assume the Dolphins are leaning towards using the 9th pick in the draft to grab their next elite RT or guard.
Needless to say, this line will be better. Much better.
5. Finally Intelligence
This coaching staff turned out pretty darn good. Joe Philbin has worked for years in a successful offensive system (Green Bay), has won a Super Bowl and has worked with quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Matt Flynn. Something that has to be appealing to a quarterback.
In addition the Phins hired former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman as their offensive coordinator.
Stability. Experience. A track record of stability and success.
6. Stephen Ross
I’m not the biggest fan of Ross. I think he is a clown of an owner. But he is an owner that will throw whatever money it takes at Manning to land him.
Although I am critical with how Ross has marketed the team and how he has structured the Dolphins to be more “star-studded” I can’t help but assume this would appeal to Manning as well. A big market, a celebrity filled city and a huge stage. A perfect transition for Manning to step into a career in media should he choose to when he retires.
It also will help his branding value overall, although he is still raking in a good chunk of change for endorsements.
7. Deep Pockets
The Dolphins will spend in free agency to bolster the Phins arsenal surrounding Manning.
Free agents like guard Carl Nicks (Saints), Vincent Jackson (Chargers), Mario Williams (Texans), Cortland Finnegan (Titans), Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs), Ben Grubbs (Ravens), Marques Colston (Saints), Fred Davis (Redskins), Michael Griffin (Titans), Steve Johnson (Bills) head a class of free agents that can certainly help Miami.
I don’t particularly see them landing Manning and a top flight free-agent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe, Fred Davis or Ben Grubbs get some look from the Dolphins. Don’t be surprised if they take a longshot at Cortland Finnegan and/or Vincent Jackson as well.
They have the money to spend, the owner who wants to spend it and a team that is certainly on the rise. Plus the benefits of South Beach and the tax breaks.
In conclusion my opinion is that it’s not a matter of if Manning will suit up for the Dolphins next year, but a matter of when. The stars align almost perfectly and in reality I think the Phins are a quarterback away from a Super Bowl. Manning, if healthy, can certainly provide that boost that can propel the Phins to Super Bowl 47, 48 or both.