The last few days/weeks, I've been reading countless comments on whether the Redskins should consider signing Peyton Manning when he's inevitably released by the Colts. As you are more than likely aware of, quarterback hasn't been a Redskins' strength for a very long time now, and things didn't go well with Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, and John Beck the last couple seasons. Many are convinced that not only is a major upgrade needed, but that it's immediately necessary. Enter Peyton Manning.
For the most part, these are the categories that opinions on this topic can be divided into:
1) Yes, the Redskins should do whatever it takes to sign Manning. They'd be crazy not to.
2) As long as he's healthy, Manning would provide a significant upgrade at quarterback. It's a risk, but it's worth the gamble.
3) No, it's not worth the risk, and it may harm the team's rebuilding movement.
I'm on board with group No. 3, which I'll get into below. I'm going to ramble a bit; hopefully you can follow what I'm getting at.
First, let's all agree on one thing: Quarterback is the most important position on the field. I think we're at a point where all football fans would agree with this. It's ideal to find a quarterback that's good enough to win with, and then to build a team around that guy. It doesn't always work that way and teams can still win games without elite quarterbacks -- just look at the 49ers and Alex Smith, who no other team was rushing to acquire -- but the rest of that team must be very talented, both on defense and special teams. Excellent coaching doesn't hurt either. It's always important to keep upgrading other phases of the team.
Still, people who are against signing Manning don't necessarily disagree that having a top-shelf quarterback is a must. He may still be that guy, but he also turns 36 in a month and a half and is continuing to recover from a neck injury that's required multiple surgeries. It's also not a positive sign when someone's condition needs weekly, or even daily, updates. Manning will probably continue to heal and get stronger, but is that an issue the Redskins really want to be concerning themselves with? The roster still needs to be improved in other ways, and it won't help if their quarterback is one neck-targeted hit away from never playing football again.
The Manning question looms large because of the limited quarterback choices this offseason. In reality, the Redskins were unlucky. Matt Barkley returning to USC for his senior season really threw a wrench into the Redskins' dreams of being able to acquire one of Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III/Barkley. There's no guarantee one of those three would have been available at No. 6, but the odds were better. At this moment, the choices seem to be signing Manning or Kyle Orton, or trading up to draft Griffin. Drew Brees and Alex Smith are likely staying in New Orleans and San Francisco, respectively, and other teams seem to be better fits for Matt Flynn. Another name may be tossed in, but Manning/Orton/Griffin seem to be the realistic options.
Signing Orton would present a slight upgrade over Grossman, but he'd still be a stopgap option. If the Redskins sign Orton, they'd also likely select a quarterback in the first few rounds of the draft. If they're able to identify a young quarterback they believe is a fit, Orton could play for a while until the rookie is eventually ready to take over.
The thought of trading up for Griffin rivals the popularity of signing Manning. A trade for Griffin would demand at least two first-round picks and probably another high-round pick or two. But by paying that steep price, the Redskins would obtain their franchise quarterback to build around. Griffin turns 22 in a couple days, and to some he's not all that far behind Luck in terms of a pro quarterback prospect. Like Manning, there's no guarantee that Griffin would work out. But there's a huge difference between worrying about how Griffin will develop and learn to play the position in the NFL than believing Manning's career could be over every time he absorbs a hit from an opposing defender. And while the Redskins' offensive line was a bit better this season, they're far from a dominant unit.
Other than his injury -- which is the chief concern -- what are my reservations about signing Manning?
1) He would alter the team's upcoming draft strategy. I've heard some people disagree with this, and I'm not quite sure why. If the Redskins sign Manning, they'll have to do everything in their power to make sure the offensive line protects him. They will also need more offensive firepower. Those are two of the team's important needs regardless, but with Manning, they may focus on trying to upgrade those two areas early in the draft. It's also possible they reach for a few players in those spots to plug holes instead of valuing talent over position. With Manning on board, the Redskins could also wait much further to take a quarterback than they would if they signed someone like Orton. It's not a guarantee that would happen, but it's at least a mild concern.
2) The Redskins may shift to win-now mode, which means bad free agent signings. For the most part, last offseason was the ideal offseason for how most (levelheaded) fans want the Redskins to rebuild. The Redskins selected lots of players in the draft and didn't throw a ton of money at old players coming off career years. Oshiomogho Atogwe was probably the worst signing, but guys like Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Josh Wilson, etc. (all well under 30) played well and should be able to contribute a lot going forward. But if the Redskins sign Manning and start worrying about winning now at all costs, that could mean switching that free agent mentality back to that old Dan Snyder-type thinking, which means taking chances on older players whose best days are behind them. That could mean reuniting Manning with Reggie Wayne or Jeff Saturday -- that type of signing. They may not be terrible moves, but they are ones that (hopefully) this franchise has learned from.
3) A clash between Manning and the Shanahans. This point is the main reason why I don't think it makes much sense for Manning to come to DC. With Manning around, Kyle Shanahan would essentially be superfluous. Manning is one of the NFL's all-time gifted offensive minds, and while Kyle Shanahan obviously brings a lot to the table, there's little reason for them both to be around at the same time. Would Mike Shanahan be willing to get rid of his son to bring in Manning? Would Manning and Kyle somehow be willing to coexist? And what type of offense would that team run? It's all very confusing, and it would be a huge mess to sort out.
Those are all legitimate concerns for me, though I don't have a perfect solution to the team's quarterback conundrum. I'm against them signing Manning, but I'm also not sure giving up valuable picks to bring Griffin aboard is infinitely wiser. In that situation, the team would likely still be pretty bad, so would Shanahan be able to keep his job heading into year four? And if the Redskins decide to bring in Orton and also draft a quarterback semi-early, that team would likely be no better than 8-8. And again, would Shanahan survive that?
Really, there's no obvious answer. But heading down the Manning road seems like something the Redskins have tried before. It didn't work with McNabb -- yes, Manning is better, but he's not really a much better fit than McNabb was -- and the Redskins wouldn't even commit to him longer than one season, which was pretty funny considering they gave up two draft picks for him. They've taken the sign-the-aging-veteran route all too many times in the past.
Just because the Redskins wouldn't have to surrender any draft choices for Manning doesn't mean such a move won't have any lasting effects on this team. If they're going to choose that option, they should understand the very real consequences that it'll blow up in their faces.