A proud veteran athlete is facing the end of the line in his career, so that means it’s time for everyone to jump in and tell him to what to do with his life. The athlete in this case is Peyton Manning. I don’t think Peyton should retire—I think a change of venue is in order and the team for him to call is the Houston Texans.
Peyton’s three-year contract with the Denver Broncos is expired and he’s on the free agent market. Denver is facing a lot of changes, with a head coaching vacancy and several key players hitting the open market this offseason. As the team flat-lined on Sunday afternoon against the Indianapolis Colts, you had the strong sense that an era was ending.
One big reason for that sense was the quarterback that Peyton was completely outplayed by. I’ve been critical of the hype accorded to Colt quarterback Andrew Luck, for whom Peyton was kicked to the curb for in Indianapolis, but there was nothing to be critical about in this game—Luck was extremely good, Peyton was very bad and there’s no two ways about it. Of all the games for Peyton to come up small in, this had to be the least desirable spot for it to happen.
It was apparent coming in that Peyton wasn’t completely healthy, and we now know he played with a torn quad muscle. It’s not that he doesn’t have anything left, he was just hurt. And for that reason, I have to believe he’ll still want to play next season.
But why return to Denver? It’s not a bad idea, but Houston is a better one. For one, the Texans have all the pieces needed to reach the Super Bowl—except a quarterback. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for Peyton to get a measure of revenge against his old team, with Houston and Indianapolis being rivals in the AFC South. Think J.J. Watt wouldn’t like to finally play on a team with a legitimate quarterback?
The state of the Houston Texans right now is very much like the Minnesota Vikings were in 2008. The Vikings of that time were a pretty good team, especially on defense. But the problems at quarterback were crippling. They brought in Brett Favre. It was the perfect fit—a veteran quarterback, able to step in and take one last run at a Super Bowl, all the while exacting some vengeance on his former team within the division.
Favre’s last year prior to coming to Minnesota also ended in a dour note with the New York Jets, mainly because Favre was playing hurt. Offseason arm surgery brought him back and he had one of the great years of his career at age 40. Is there any reason Peyton Manning can’t use this offseason to get healthy and then do what Favre did?
I don’t want to see Peyton go out on the kind of note he did on Sunday—playing wounded, looking several steps behind the man who replaced him, and all on a weekend where his peer, Tom Brady, authored a big comeback in New England. Manning deserves better, and while he would certainly have a chance to do better in Denver, the best place for him to go right now is Houston.
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