Back in February I told you several key things about the whole Manning story that had to be considered (see “PEYTON MANNING — WILL HE PLAY AGAIN?”, 2/19/12).  I warned you to not pay too much attention to the experts, since they would change their storylines every day and try to convince you that this time they were absolutely correct.

Two weeks later, I compared my track record to the experts (see “MANNING SAGA CONTINUES — WAS THERE EVER ANY DOUBT?”, 3/8/12) and came out on top, three to nothing.

Here we are a month later.  The story continues, but the list of players has been shortened down to three teams — San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans.  Let’s see how we reached this point.

First, after leaving the press conference that announced the parting of ways between Peyton and the Indianapolis Colts, Manning went home and began to receive a couple of phone calls.  Okay, he received boat loads of phone calls.  Some of them were even from football teams!

Within 24 hours, there were reportedly twelve teams that had made contact and/or offers of some sort.  Peyton decided to make trips to the local facilities of two of them, the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Cardinals.  This inspired all of the experts to immediately report that these were the only teams in serious contention for Manning’s services.  Some of them began to claim that Arizona was the obvious choice, due to weather, domed stadium, experienced coaching staff, Larry Fitzgerald, etc.  Others went with the Broncos, since he visited them first and John Elway was involved.

Then Peyton agreed to meet with Miami and Tennessee.  All of a sudden, the experts reported that those two teams were the sure fire choices, since Manning has ties to both locales, with Tennessee being the clear leader.

Then we heard that the Jets and Redskins were going after him, making them clear contenders for the Manning lottery.  That is, until the Redskins traded away all of their first round picks until 2024 (okay, maybe not that many) to move up to the #2 spot in this year’s draft, ensuring that they will draft RGIII, taking them out of the conversation.  Oh yeah, the Jets extended Sanchez’ contract, virtually announcing that they, too have withdrawn from the circus.

Houston jumped into the conversation for a day, bringing with them all of the expert’s guarantees that they were now the clear leader in the Manning sweepstakes.  That is until they took their name off the list the next day.

Peyton then helped the experts out a little bit by announcing that Arizona and Miami had been removed from his own short list.  This made things easier for all of the experts, except for the “warm-weather” gurus that had predicted either Miami or Arizona were sure things.

So that left us with Tennessee and Denver.  Most experts were sticking with Denver and their lovely weather (yes, I’m being sarcastic.  C’mon lighten up!), while others were going with school ties and Tennessee.  But it was definitely going to be one of them.

That is until it was announced that Manning had worked out for the 49ers, a team that had earlier promised that they already had their man in Alex Smith.

Which leads us to where we are today.  At this point, I’m not going to waste any more time making WAGs about which team is the front runner.  Why?  Because I don’t have any more information to work with than the experts do, and look at their track record!

What many, including yours truly, believed to be one of the more important factors in Peyton’s decision, the local climate of his next team, apparently is not that important.  Otherwise Denver would have been the first team eliminated from this discussion.

Arguments could be made for all three of the remaining teams.  However, the most logical choice of the three remaining teams, at least to me, is San Francisco.  Let’s face it, they were one play away from the Super Bowl last year.  Most of their key pieces are coming back this year.  The ones that are not have already been replaced.  They have one of the most dominating defenses in the league, a very good offensive line, some good receivers, a Pro Bowl caliber tight end and running back, and a very good head coach.  And in two years, they will have a brand new stadium for Peyton to end his career in.

Folks, it pains me to have to state my case so clearly, since I live in the home of the Cardinals, but the reality is, the 49ers would be the closest thing to a guarantee of at least one more Super Bowl victory before Peyton Manning retires.  And isn’t that the bottom line?



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