For Man­ning, no fond farewell just yet

QB seems in­tent on play­ing, but can he find match?

Chicago Sun-Times - - NFL - Jar­rett Bell jbell@us­ato­ USA TO­DAY Sports FOL­LOW NFL COLUM­NIST JAR­RETT BELL @Jar­ret­tBell for news, com­men­tary and anal­y­sis from the league.

It’s too bad there isn’t some long-lost, grainy video that would clear up the du­el­ing ac­counts of what hap­pened 20 years ago in the train­ing room at the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee.

But at least there’s a retro sound­track from the 1990s that can be ap­plied to Pey­ton Man­ning.

Cue up Boyz II Men, and ded­i­cate the next num­ber to the Sher­iff. It’s so hard to say good­bye ... Man­ning hasn’t an­nounced whether he’s done with his NFL ca­reer, and at this point we’ve sur­passed the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for when it can be called “rid­ing off into the sun­set” af­ter he be­came the first to quar­ter­back two fran­chises to a Su­per Bowl crown.

He’s only had enough time to go the moon and back.

The NFL has es­sen­tially moved on to next sea­son, and it sure seems that Man­ning— whose $19 mil­lion salary for 2016 would be guar­an­teed with the start of the new league year Wed­nes­day if the Den­ver Bron­cos shocked the world and kept him on the ros­ter — wants to come along.

Dur­ing a speech in Florida a few days ago, he had jokes, too. Some­thing about mak­ing a “sig­nif­i­cant an­nounce­ment” that had to do with … half-off piz­zas.

I doubt that Man­ning would try to pull our legs about want­ing to con­tinue play­ing, even though he achieved what seemed like the per­fect end­ing in Su­per Bowl 50.

Re­tire­ment has to be so dif­fi­cult for some­one of Man­ning’s stature, who was so good for so long. Ask Brett Favre. The pride, pas­sion and con­fi­dence that were es­sen­tial parts of Man­ning’s makeup to fuel ex­cel­lence when he was in his prime can still weigh on his de­ci­sion of whether to re­tire.

His arm isn’t what it used to be. He has been nagged by in­juries the past two sea­sons. He’s go­ing on 40.

Yet he still has his high foot­ball IQ, which un­doubt­edly sup­ports the pos­si­bil­ity of play­ing on— while maybe blind­ing him to the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in his game.

No, we haven’t heard squat from Man­ning him­self. But his agent, Tom Con­don, told USA TO­DAY Sports and oth­ers last week that his star client has ex­pressed how­much he still en­joys play­ing. And not long af­ter the Su­per Bowl, Archie Man­ning talked of his son be­ing done in Den­ver … but he didn’t main­tain that Pey­ton was done with his NFL ca­reer.

While the sus­pense lingers and the Bron­cos try­ing seal­ing a deal that keeps Brock Osweiler from bolt­ing, the mes­sages from the Man­ning camp mean some­thing.

Still, it is a bit sur­real that it has come to this for one of the all-time greats: A phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing sea­son. Al­le­ga­tions that linked him to HGH ship­ments. A re­vival of the gross episode that in­volved a fe­male trainer at Ten­nessee. And now a re­al­ity check re­gard­ing Man­ning’s here-and-now NFL value.

Does any­body still want Pey­ton Man­ning?

His last hur­rah could ul­ti­mately be de­ter­mined by mar­ket con­di­tions.

Man­ning, who ranks among the best ever at scan­ning the field, can un­doubt­edly see that amid a typ­i­cally thin quar­ter­back mar­ket there’s at least one team will­ing to try him.

It has been widely spec­u­lated that Man­ning could end up with the Los An­ge­les Rams, who at the­mo­ment are rolling with Case Keenum and Nick Foles.

Man­ning would give the fran­chise star power as it re­lo­cates to Tin­sel Town, but re­mem­ber, the last time he picked a team, he frowned on play­ing in the NFC be­cause of the com­pe­ti­tion he’d en­gage in against his brother, Eli, in the Su­per Bowl chase.

Then again, maybe he’s des­per­ate enough to over­look the Eli-in-the-NFC fac­tor.

And maybe there’s a team more des­per­ate for his ser­vices in Hous­ton.

Just think of Brian Hoyer dur­ing the play­off de­ba­cle against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Tex­ans could buy time in de­vel­op­ing Tom Sav­age and a quar­ter­back from the draft by adding Man­ning to a team that just won the AFC South.

The brain­power, match­ing Man­ning with coach Bill O’Brien, would be in­trigu­ing enough.

O’Brien, who once coached Tom Brady in New Eng­land, was hired by Hous­ton be­cause of his track record with quar­ter­backs. Liv­ing up to that rep, though, has been an is­sue. And af­ter try­ing Ryan Fitz­patrick, Ryan Mal­lett and Hoyer over the past two years, it’s no se­cret that Tex­ans owner Bob McNair’s pa­tience is get­ting thin­ner.

McNair has only pub­licly re­it­er­ated the ob­vi­ous, that there’s no big­ger pri­or­ity than quar­ter­back.

Adding Man­ning would demon­strate a win-now type of ur­gency for the Tex­ans even while also try­ing to de­velop a long-range an­swer at quar­ter­back.

And, of course, it would pre­vent Man­ning from say­ing good­bye just yet.

MARK J. REBILAS, USA TO­DAY SPORTS The Bron­cos’ Pey­tonMan­ning was tri­umphant in Su­per Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, win­ning his se­cond cham­pi­onship at age 39.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.