On Friday, ESPN Radio’s Galloway and Company posed the question of trading Tony Romo and signing Peyton Manning this offseason. Not only did it make great radio, but it had me thinking all weekend. Would I do it?
Manning is probably my favorite active NFL player, and I would LOVE to have him on my team. He’s the only quarterback that I don’t want DeMarcus Ware to decapitate, and watching him destroy little brother twice a year for the Cowboys would be phenomenal. End of discussion, right?
Peyton Manning is probably done in Indianapolis, and will most likely be cut–no one is going to trade for that contract–before his twenty-eight million dollar roster bonus is due March 8 (a roster bonus is just that–a lump some of money that a player receives in his account one day just for being on the team). The exact scenario proposed by Galloway and Company was this: trade Romo to another team in exchange for a Pro Bowl interior lineman still in his prime, and then sign Manning as a free agent. In addition to having the best quarterback in the league (history?), this would allow the Cowboys to upgrade the offensive line before even utilizing a draft pick, and then using the first round draft pick on either a SEC cornerback or defensive lineman. Upgrading those lines is crucial to success in 2012, and the less draft picks that we use for that, the better.
This could be a move that made the Cowboys truly great. Think about the possibilities: Manning has never had a defense worth anything, even when they won the Super Bowl in 2007. The 2011 Cowboys were infamously bad, but even minor improvements would give Peyton the luxury of not having to score 35 points each week just to keep the game close in the fourth quarter. He would also help the defense–they would only need to hold teams to 20 (still a challenge for a group led by Gerald Sensabaugh and Orlando Scandrick) because you know number 18 is going to score at least 21 points on even the elite defenses. That alone could have improved the Cowboys to 10-6 this year.
His offense hasn’t been perfect either. He might be the best passer in league history, but his best running back was Edgerrin James. Yeah, that Edgerrin James. He’s never had the benefit of a legitimate running game. No quarterback can execute a play action pass as well as he does. On film, his footwork and ball placement are exactly the same on running plays and play action. It is so good, that it can make the strong safety come forward a few steps to stop a run when there is no relevant running game to threaten with. Imagine how deadly he would be with DeMarco Murray in the backfield.
Manning is a very cerebral quarterback, maybe even more so than Jason Garrett. He embodies Garrett’s “Be great today” mantra. His work ethic is exactly what Garrett is looking for in a quarterback–Romo’s might be, but we don’t know for sure. There just isn’t a consensus from people in position to know. Work ethic matters even more than normal when needing going to a new team.
The Cowboys don’t need to sell any more merchandise, but Manning would be a marketing match made in heaven. Like his ball placement, his endorsements are the best in the league. You would have the most marketable player on the most popular team and, if possible, more money would be made. I guarantee you that Jerry Jones is losing sleep thinking about this possibility. He probably has some poor intern working nights at Valley Ranch, super imposing a Cowboys jersey on Manning’s body into his latest WingStop commercial.
I would love to have Peyton Manning on America’s Team, but it just wouldn’t help the team.
Peyton runs a certain type of offense, and no team that signs him is going to make him fit their existing offense–they will make the offense fit him. The entire unit would have to relearn language and concepts, in addition to the improvements they need to make to be better in 2012. Learning a new offense is hard enough but when the quarterback basically invented it, the task is impossible in one offseason. It’s said that he receives three plays from the sideline each down–when Manning doesn’t call his own plays without intervention from the coaches.
After getting a working knowledge of the offense in training camp, you still have to run it against defenses in real game situations for sixteen weeks. To run his offense effectively, you need an offensive lineman that can keep up with the multiple protection changes, and complete audibles that Manning will call on each play. Every time he calls a codeword to the line one lineman is responsible for adjusting the protection accordingly, and quick enough to be ready when Manning snaps the ball. Can any of our offensive lineman even have a chance? Our centers needs to work on snapping the ball exactly when Romo is ready–not before. Kosier has shown that he’s a leader by helping Tyron Smith this year, but I’m not sure anyone wants him to be responsible for your new free agent signing’s well being. Jeff Saturday has been making Manning’s protection adjustments for a decade, that chemistry doesn’t get replaced.
Arguably more important than the offensive line knowing the offense, is the receiving corps. Manning loves to throw the ball, and if the receivers can’t be in the right place at the perfect time the offense will go nowhere. Routes in NFL offenses aren’t “run a twelve yard post route”. The post route might be called but if the defense rotates to a cover 3 instead of a Tampa Two, that route would need to be adjusted to a seam route on the fly. These sight adjustments only work well when the quarterback and receiver see the same keys in the defense, and miscommunications were still happening between Manning and his receivers in 2010. Do you trust Dez Bryant to see everything that Peyton does? He would end up being a waste of a roster spot–and not just on your fantasy team.
We also don’t know how many years Manning can play. I’m not a doctor, but nerve issues in your neck aren’t a sign of a long healthy playing career in the next five years. If we got three years out of him, we’re playing with house money.
I love Peyton Manning, and yes, more than Romo. But bringing him in at the expense of Tony costs you at least one year to teach his offense to everyone. What if that was the only healthy year you got out of him? Is Stephen McGee an adequate backup? If these moves were made we could easily find ourselves going into the 2013 season without Manning or Romo at quarterback, agonizing over the battle between Matt Barkley and Stephen McGee. The thought of that will give me more sleepless nights than the fantasy of Manning to Bryant over the middle.