Of all the crazy sports stories to happen in the last year, nothing is more outrageous than the following sentence: the Indianapolis Colts have released Peyton Manning. In the words of American tennis star Andy Roddick, “The Colts cutting Peyton feels like the North Pole kicking out Santa.”
Manning, drafted in 1998 out of the University of Tennessee, had completed 4,682 of 7,210 pass attempts (64.9 percent) for 54,828 total yards and 399 touchdowns. In 2009 the Colts were AFC Champions; in 2006, Super Bowl Champions. In fact, Manning led the Colts to nine consecutive 10-win seasons, including seven straight 12-win seasons. A four-time NFL Most Valuable Player (2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009), Manning led the Colts to the playoffs in 11 of his 13 seasons with the Colts, including another Super Bowl appearance in 2009. Each of the seasons that the Colts made the playoffs, Manning was also elected to the AFC Pro-Bowl squad. Yet the Colts decided to use their number one draft pick to pursue Andrew Luck out Stanford, two-time Heisman trophy runner-up, and thus part ways with Peyton Manning.
So what’s next for Peyton? He has made known that he would like to remain in the AFC, which makes sense because he has thrown against the AFC defenses for 13 years. Below is my humble opinion on where he should go:
Top Three Landing Spots:
1. New York Jets
The Jets are known for their stout defense, something that a below-mediocre quarterback like Mark Sanchez was able to ride to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2008 and 2009 (which the Jets lost to Manning and the Colts, followed by the Steelers, respectively). If Sanchez can engineer an 11-5 season with the Jets, imagine what Peyton would be able to conjure up.
2. Denver Broncos
Yes, Tebow-time is amazing. However, as exploited by the Patriots, it can’t win big-time games. The Broncos made the playoffs in 2011 even though their quarterback would average more rushes than passes per game. Tebow fumbled 13 times in 2011, while throwing six interceptions. He only threw 12 passing touchdowns and rushed for a mere six touchdowns as well. The Broncos defense, like the Jets, is what brought them into the 2011 NFL Playoffs. Yes Tebow-time pulled off some improbable victories, but the defense is what kept them in those games to begin with. With a solid rushing game firmly established, the addition of Manning would drastically improve the Broncos.
3. Houston Texans
The Texans started three different quarterbacks throughout the 2011 season: Matt Schaub, Matt Leinhart, and T.J. Yates. Schaub was injured during the season, so Leinhart came in and got injured as well. Yet the Texans still made the playoffs with their third string quarterback: Yates, a rookie out of UNC. This is due, again, to a stout defense, but mostly an unstoppable running game powered by Arian Foster (think 1999-2005 Colts with Edgerrin James). Adding Manning finally gives them the extra dimension they need, and it gives Manning a chance to play against some familiar faces: the Colts and the Texans are in the same division. Peyton gets payback and the Texans are golden.