He’s no longer a Colt, and suddenly everyone who doesn’t already have a Brady or Brees or Manning (Eli version) wants a piece. But even aside from the fact we’re not totally sure he can actually, you know, throw, Peyton Manning is one seriously risky bet. Here are five compelling reasons your team, no matter how desperate, should keep that checkbook closed.
1. He’s Turning 36
The average NFL career lasts roughly 3.5 years, meaning odds are good a player will retire before 26. Even if you limit the figure to guys who make opening day rosters, it only increases to six years, which is why the average NFL player age is about 27 (and that includes kickers jogging onto the field for one play before hauling ass back to the bench). Whatever stat you use, it boils down to this: by pro football standards, Peyton should already be looking at a nice place in Boca.
There’s a funny reason Manning doesn’t now have Dan Marino status as the guy with huge numbers but no title: he was on a team capable of winning not because of him, but in spite of him for much of that championship run.
2. His Defenses May Be Down
Peyton long had an ideal survival technique for a quarterback: he could get rid of the ball before anyone had a chance to hit him. Doing so requires an offensive line solid enough to give some protection, receivers skilled enough to get open, and sufficient familiarity with his teammates that he could make a snap decision and know exactly where everyone would be. Soon Peyton shall be on a new team with new people. Even if they have the necessary talent (not a given), it’s going to take time to get that rhythm. Beyond this hangup, it’s worth noting he hasn’t faced any kind of a pass rush for months. (Those leaked videos of him tossing around the pigskin are sadly devoid of Clay Matthews types.) As a 36-year-old who in his youth didn’t boast Usain Bolt-speed, Manning may be entering “I just pooped myself” territory.
3. He’s Not Actually a One-Man Show
Three touchdowns, seven interceptions. Those were Manning’s totals from his four postseason starts in 2006, the season he won his first and thus far only Super Bowl title. Shocking as it may be after the Colts’ implosion of a season during Manning-free 2011, there’s a funny reason Manning doesn’t now have Dan Marino status as the guy with huge numbers but no title: he was on a team capable of winning not because of him, but in spite of him for much of that championship run. If you think Peyton can single-handedly carry your team to the Promised Land, his 15th season will mark the first time he’s done so. The reality is, if you’re a poorly run franchise—looking at you, Redskins—signing Manning transforms you instantly into a poorly run franchise with an ancient starting quarterback.
The last time we saw Mr. Manning on the field? Losing to those “dysfunctional” Jets…
4. You Shall Pay Dearly
In 2011, Manning was the highest paid player in the NFL, with a salary of $23 million. Manning clearly wants to keep playing for love of the game as much as the money, but if he can preserve his child-like zeal and also earn huge sums of cash, that’s fine with him. (Don’t blame the guy: he did just miss out on that $28 million bonus and his 401K has some catching up to do.) Pray a big chunk of his salary is based on incentives and not guaranteed, so if he goes bust, your team won’t go broke.
5. The Bigger the Stage, the Smaller He Becomes
While undeniably the greatest regular season QB ever, these are Peyton’s career playoff stats: 9-10, 29 touchdowns, 19 interceptions… and he owes a big thank you to Denver for those marks, because he went 2-0 against them with nine TDs and only a single pick. So when Colorado isn’t involved in the equation, it’s 7-10, 20 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions, with the Colts in the playoffs 11 times and headed home immediately seven of them. And this was before he had multiple neck surgeries. And suddenly Mark Sanchez doesn’t seem that bad.