Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I Am Not Sold On Peyton Manning For Seahawks

Hall of Fame quarterbacks don't enter the free agent market too often. Seattle needs an upgrade at quarterback and has very few options (possibly none) in the draft that will address this need. The Seahawks have enough cap room to sign a premier free agent, and the team is probably a quarterback and pass rush away from being a true Super Bowl contender. This should be a no-brainer. Give Peyton Manning a Top Pot donut, an umbrella and a big check. Call the Mayor's office and start preparations for the ticker tape parade next January. The truth is, it might be that simple. Manning is that good, and teams have made bigger jumps to the Super Bowl than the Seahawks would have to in 2012. The more likely outcome is far less glamorous, and should be familiar to Seattle sports fans who have seen super stars come to Seattle for the final few gasps of their storied careers. A few major concerns come to mind when evaluating the possibility of Manning coming to Seattle.

The Cost Of The Peyton Manning Offense
Manning was drafted by the Colts, and has played his entire career there. The team was built around him. He runs an offense unlike any other in the NFL where the quarterback controls every aspect of what will happen from play-to-play. He makes the line calls, decides between run and pass, chooses which run and which pass, and does it all based on unparalleled understanding of defensive sets, personnel, and tendencies. There may never be another quarterback who both desires, and is capable of, taking on that level of responsibility. 

Seattle runs an offense close to opposite the of Manning's. Pete Carroll's philosophy is to take as much pressure off the quarterback as possible by establishing a healthy running game that gets the team into manageable third down situations and reduces the chances for the other team's offense to get on the field and score points. He finally saw the first glimpses of this approach toward the end of last season. That does not preclude Carroll setting aside his philosophy for an extraordinary exception like Manning, but it would absolutely be a major departure from the identify Carroll is trying to establish.

Assume that Carroll does believe it is worth changing the offensive identity for Manning. Assume that Manning can play at a high level for a couple of years. Do you think Josh Portis or Kirk Cousins or any other quarterback the Seahawks decide to groom behind Manning would be capable of running Manning's offense? Not likely. Not likely at all. That means that the team would have to brace for a big drop-off once Manning leaves as the team has to install a new system that has not been practiced for a few years. That would be worth it if you have a few trophies to show for it, but would be a major detour from a championship if the team has not won one with Manning. 

Nerve Damage And Spinal Injuries Are Unpredictable, Uncontrollable
Manning is not recovering from a torn ACL, broken leg, or even a shoulder injury. He has had four surgeries in less than two years on vertebrae in his neck. Nobody seems to know for sure if it was repeated surgery on the same disc in his neck (single-level degenerative disc disease), or separate surgeries on different discs (multi-level degenerative disc disease). The outlook varies dramatically depending on which type of situation Manning is facing. Degenerative disc disease is not something you recover from, or something that can be controlled. The surgery Manning had removes a disc between two vertebrae to seal/fuse them together so that they don't pinch the nerve between them. Pinching the nerve is what causes loss of strength, numbness and tingling, which is what caused Manning to get the first surgery. Fusion can address that particular problem, but spines are not meant to be fused, so the lack of flexibility can result in problems in other discs and/or arthritis in the fused section of the spine. There is also risk of the nerves effected by the surgery never fully recovering. You can't go to the gym and rehab a nerve. It either recovers, or it doesn't. Assume that Manning has the best-case scenario single-level degenerative disc disease, and that his nerves recover fully. He would be able to throw well enough to get signed. What happens when he takes his first hit? His 40th hit? Discs are designed to handle shock and impact by compressing without allowing vertebrae to collide. Taking one out creates more strain on the remaining discs, and can lead to more nerve damage. As someone who has degenerative disc disease, and has experienced intense pain from the simple motion of shampooing my hair, it is very hard to imagine how someone could play a sport like football very long before serious problems crop up. 

Manning Is Not Conducive To Perennial Contention
John Schneider and Pete Carroll regularly talk about wanting to contend year in, and year out. Evidence suggests that Super Bowl winners breed a culture of winning, as opposed to flashing and fading. The best franchises win the lion's share of championships. It is possible that Manning could come in and help the team get its first Super Bowl trophy, and that's nothing to belittle. It is hard to see, however, how it would not hamstring the teams attempt to build a perpetually winning franchise. If building a winning franchise is like building a house, the quarterback is the foundation. Manning is more like the foundation, the electrical wiring, the furnace, and the plumbing. Swapping him out is no easy task. Ask the Colts. The Seahawks will be contenders for the division title with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. They are getting their system in place, have a young developing line, and an emerging running game. All of that gets shelved if Manning comes in. 

Manning famously prefers to take all the reps in practice, as opposed to the 2nd string QB getting ~10-20% and the 3rd string getting ~5%. Nobody doubts that Manning would be a short-term solution, which means the team would be 2-3 years from needing a replacement. How do you develop his replacement while running a different system while giving him no reps? Manning is not known for his mentoring abilities either. In fact, he is known for seeing his quarterback teammates as threats. Again, that would probably be forgiven if he wins you a championship, but how sure are you that will happen?

Money Spent On Manning Is Money Not Spent Elsewhere
The Seahawks are on a fantastic trajectory as it is. Signing Manning is an "all in" scenario that means they must win it all in the next few years, and then be willing to suffer some growing pains for the years after he retires. The alternative is to spend the estimated $23M per year on pass rushers, linebackers, wide receivers, and extending talent already on the team. Seattle's entire starting defense by the end of last season cost roughly $20M

None of these reasons individually are enough to scare someone off from signing Manning, but all of them together make adding him a questionable move. The Seahawks are onto something great with the patient approach to building a roster through the draft. Patience has not even been all that necessary given the amount of talent added in just two drafts. Going big on Manning feels like it could put the entire process at risk without enough reward to justify that risk. The next obvious question is, "if not Manning, who?" The answer nobody wants to hear is that there may not be a good answer this year. The draft offers a variety of options. Portis may grow up to be more than expected. The team could draft two quarterbacks this year, and another one next year. The absence of a clear quarterback solution, however, does not warrant making a rash decision. 

10 comments :

SneakyPete said...

We have seen a fair amount of turnover at the O coordinator position in Seattle, and while Pete Carroll is building something that is getting attention, I don't think his public approval rating is much higher than Obamas.

So, to speculate that 2-3 years of Manning could potentially derail an offense, that history has shown, is likely to change, shouldn't be too much of a concern.

The backups that Manning would groom, you mentioned 1 who is undrafted 3rd stringer (behind Whitehurst), and another who is pure speculation. That thought doesn't hold water.

Carroll's offense this year, I believe, had a lot to do with who the QB was. Jackson was asked to do very little. TJack had 108 yards rushing this year, there are only 7 QB's that had less. Yet Pete said before the combine to ESPN's Mike Sando that "we'd like to have a guy that can run a little bit and complement the running game and do something for us -- get out on the edge and threaten enough to keep the run game that we're so committed to alive and at its best." That is the opposite of what he showed this year with Jackson. Which leads me to believe, the offense we have seen the last 2 years, is built to suit the QB the team has.

While I'm not leading the Peyton bandwagon, he has publicly said he will take an incentive latent deal, and certainly represents an improvement over Jackson, a QB in the draft, or signing the 7th round pick with 2 starts out of Green Bay.

Peyton has vision on the field, instincts, and leadership. You can't teach those things.

While I wouldn't tell anyone to blindly support singing Manning, I don't agree with the argument to not sign him.

Matson said...

If Manning is not signed immediately when the free agency starts, and even not before the draft, Seattle might become a realistic option for him because most of the other QB needy teams have already filled the position at that point. The only reason why this would happen is his health, and getting confirmation about it. This does not seem very likely but at that point it is a question of money whether signing him would be a good idea.

Meanwhile I think that Kyle Orton might be the guy who could competition to Tarvaris and possibly even already has those "Clutch Game Manager" -skills that Carroll has said he is after. Not a bad option at all.

Jeff Fritchman said...

If we have Manning /Wayne $$ available, then hand Flynn a chunky check and don't change your entire offense for a 2 year(possibly) noodle armed QB. Then groom this offense into a perennial balanced powerhouse and spend the change on your drafted pass rush...championship!!

Anonymous said...

This article makes many good points! I personally don't want the Seahawks to have any part in the Peyton Manning medical experiment. Because that is exactly what it is!

Jeff said...

You present a very good case, but overall I just disagree.

In my opinion, you're just nitpicking. This sort of reminds me of what happens around draft time every year.

i agree that there is signifcant risk to Manning and it's not a slam-dunk. But wasn't signing Drew Brees coming off major shoulder surgery somewhat similar, despite the age difference. I'm sure many Miami fans at the time could've written a similar piece.

And really? Saying Josh Portis' development as a drawback for one of the best QBs of all-time seems insanely ridiculous to me.

Yeah the Favre thing might have set the Vikings back. But overall their poor drafting did.

Listen to Brock Huard when he talks about Peyton. I find your article to be very good logic on why there's risk in signing Manning but not wanting the Seahawks to get Peyton just boggles my mind.

You're cons are all well-written and insightful but the pro's are just so much bigger. If Schneider/Carroll are willing to go "all-in" like the national media guys are saying, I think most of us should be too.

Dan Heinrich said...

"All in" is fine, but know the risks. For Brian, those risks are too great. The big one to me is the injury. So the Hawks go all in, scrap what they had been building for a huge potential reward and the guy plays three games and goes down under a career ending sack. Think there's no chance of that? How mobile is Manning now? What happens when Okung has another high ankle sprain? How good will his protection be then? Manning is enormously talented no doubt, but no one really knows what injured Manning is capable of. Those who have had the best look, the Colts, said no thanks. If Manning does come here (and I think he is going to replace Hasselback in Tennessee; sorry, Matt), I will be very excited for the possibilities, and pee my pants scared every time he drops back.

Insider Steve said...

Your cons are very well thought out and they should be laid out in the manner in which you did. There is always a buyer beware, and with Manning, it's the unknown that makes this a scary proposition. Here is what I will say though, I believe Pete Carroll needs to deliver at title in year three or four. A ton was promised that he needs to deliver on. I'm not saying a Super Bowl this season, but he does need to deliver a deep playoff run, with a potential Super Bowl appearance in 2013. With Tarvaris Jackson, Josh Portis, or whoever the Seahawks draft, that doesn't deliver the results that I believe are required. No disrespect to Jackson, but he cannot deliver the goods.I understand these consequences fully, but we also know what Manning's upside is when healthy. This would be questionable move, no doubt, but it would be a gamble well worth the risk because of what it could deliver. And that IS the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

I just heard one of your guys on KJR talking about this and must say that you should be more choosy when putting comments out in the mainstream media.

The guy talking was absolutely inane and was trying to argue with former (long-time) NFL QB Hugh Millen. It's clear your guy has never played the game and has very limited or no experience in it.

Foolish.

Hawks: Sign Manning now.

eburghawkfan said...

No. Just, No. I love Payton Manning. I want him to win a superbowl to stick it to the
Colts. I just don't see him fitting into the situation here in Seattle.

Unless he is clearly coming in to learn our system, and mentor our future quarterback, then no thank you. Go stick it to the Colts somewhere else. I will root for the guy (unless he goes to San Fran or Ariz).

I don't mind Seattle looking into him. Maybe he is willing to be a much better stop gap thatn what we have. But that's what we need is a transition quarterback (like TJack). I 'm not sure Manning wants to be viewed that way. I think we could win a superbowl with him, but he would still be a temporary solution.

Payton is only a good idea for Seattle if he's willing to mentor in the real QB of the future.

Anonymous said...

Seahawks are a joke. PM isn't going there, and neither are any prized free agents anytime soon. Pete Carrol is a horrible coach, and that division is a absolute joke.

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