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Should the Tennessee Titans Pursue Archfoe Peyton Manning? Local Fan’s Take
The Indianapolis Colts could be moving on from the era of Peyton Manning. They've already replaced the majority of the front office and coaching staff following a 2011-12 season that resulted in a 2-14 record. The Colts are expected to take Andrew Luck with the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
That doesn't leave much room for Manning, who is due a $28-million roster bonus in a few weeks. The Colts may decide to save that money and let him go elsewhere. That leads to the question: where?
The Tennessee Titans already have a stopgap quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck. They also invested a top-ten pick in Jake Locker. Yet, that hasn't eliminated the speculation about whether the Titans should pursue Manning this offseason. 3HL of 104.5 FM in Nashville, Tennessee, asked the following question on their Facebook account on January 28, 2012:
Do you think the Titans should make a run at Peyton Manning if he's healthy?
The Titans were the only team with a winning record who didn't qualify for the postseason. They lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Cincinnati Bengals because the Bengals won the Week 9 matchup, 24-17. The Titans also hurt themselves with road losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts.
Hasselbeck will turn 37-years-old this year. He started all 16 games in 2011. Hasselbeck enjoyed his best season since 2007 as he completed 61.6-percent of his passes for 3,571 yards. He had 18 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. However, Hasselbeck struggled with numerous injuries from Week 10 through Week 16. He had eight interceptions with three touchdowns during that stretch. Hasselbeck failed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions in any of those seven games.
Would Manning put this team over the top in a division that could feature two teams with new head coaches and young quarterbacks? It'd be difficult to argue that a healthy Manning wouldn't be an upgrade over a healthy Hasselbeck. Of course, "Healthy" is the key word.
Let's review some of the pros and cons with a reunion between Manning and the Rocky Top state.
Pro: Best Quarterback
As long as Manning is healthy (big if), he's the best quarterback for winning immediately.
From a national perspective, the Titans have recently been one of the NFL's most irrelevant franchises. That's evidenced with how they received no prime-time games during the 2011-12 season. The Titans don't have much star power on their roster. They've also been involved in controversial headlines with Cortland Finnegan, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Albert Haynesworth, Kenny Britt, Vince Young and Chris Johnson. Owner Bud Adams has even been a tad animated.
Manning changes that. His presence will have a significant impact on jersey sales and attendance. Manning would be the biggest sports star in this franchise's history. He's probably the biggest sports star in city history when one considers the Nashville Predators. Manning might not be as big of a star as Michael W. Smith though. I kid.
Pro: AFC South Familiarity
Manning has been with the Colts since before the inception of the AFC South in 2002. He has more experience playing the AFC South rivals than Locker and Hasselbeck combined (two years). Throw in Rusty Smith and they're still behind Manning.
Pro or Con: Development of Jake Locker
Will Manning have a positive or negative impact on Locker's development? This could be argued both ways.
One argument is that Locker will benefit from the presence of Manning. While Hasselbeck is a veteran quarterback who played in a Super Bowl, Manning is often considered amongst the top-ten quarterbacks in NFL history. He has led the Colts to two conference championships and one Super Bowl victory during 2006-07 season.
A counterargument is that it'll take away from potential playing time for Locker. I don't think it's reasonable to expect Manning to be sidelined unless he's injured. I also don't think he's going to join any organization where he has to win the starting quarterback job or hold a clipboard. Therefore, Locker would likely be sidelined for another two-to-three seasons.
The interesting scenario would be if Manning was still starting in 2014. That's because Locker will become a free agent in 2015. The Titans could let him walk or apply the franchise tag on him after he's been benched for four seasons. That would probably be a costly maneuver if one considers that Matt Flynn could make $14 million if the Green Bay Packers tagged him.
How many hits can Manning withstand? Will there be any mental barriers whenever Manning finds himself getting pressured? Will the injury and/or the long layoff negatively affect how well he plays?
Manning will want a hefty contract. The Colts signed him to a five-year, $90-million contract immediately after the NFL lockout ended. That was before the Colts understood the significance of Manning's neck injury.
I'm not sure how much Manning will cost. It shouldn't be anywhere near $18 million per season because of all the health concerns and his age. However, his contract could become another obstacle for the Titans in trying to re-sign someone like Cortland Finnegan or a free agent for their defense.
Con: Adjustment Period
Manning has had the luxury of developing long-term chemistry with players like Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai over the past decade. Therefore, how long would it take him to adapt to Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer? What about with other skill-position players like Nate Washington and Chris Johnson?
Important Note: Bud Adams is 89-years-old
Bud Adams has never owned a Super Bowl champion. At 89-years-old, he can't wait much longer.
Personally, I believe Locker showed enough last season to where he should start building chemistry with guys like Jared Cook and Kenny Britt. The Titans have a plethora of young and talented offensive players and I think Locker fits right in with them. How long can an organization keep a top-ten pick on the bench, especially one who turns 24-years-old in June of 2012?
With that said, I won't be too surprised if this happened. The biggest factor for that is Adams' age. That could force an aggressive approach to winning in the short term. I don't think Adams' situation bodes well with Locker seeing the field.
Does Adams have enough confidence in that he'll be around if the Titans rely on the long-term development of a franchise quarterback? If the answer is yes, then it's "Locker vs. Hasselbeck." If the answer is no, then it could be "Hasselbeck vs. (Peyton) Manning."
You do the math.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 while completing a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs and Nashville Predators. He also follows the Tennessee Titans, his favorite AFC team.
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