San Francisco 49ers fans were shocked when the news came out Peyton Manning would be signing with the Denver Broncos. How could a future Hall of Fame quarterback pick the 8-8 Broncos, who’s defense gave up 40 points or more in five-games last season over the 49ers? On paper and on the field, the 49ers were the best team for Manning to choose from. But logic does not always win out. Here are five reasons why Manning did not sign with the 49ers:
The biggest factor to sway Manning to the Broncos and away from the 49ers, was not having to play in the NFC. It is well documented Manning wanted to avoid having to play against his brother Eli Manning. During the regular season it would not have been an issue, however, with the 49ers losing to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, chances are both of these teams would meet in the playoffs. The 49ers will be hosting the Giants in 2012, so we know they would have had at least one meeting this season. If Peyton is going to deny Eli another shot at a Super Bowl ring, he would rather it be in the Super Bowl than the NFC playoffs.
Also, the NFC has way more better teams at the top of their conference compared to the AFC. For Manning, the road to get back to the Super Bowl is easier in the AFC.
Control of the Offense
The Denver Broncos were willing, albeit begrudgingly, to mold the offense around Tim Tebow last season. Certainly, Broncos head coach Jim Fox would do the same for Manning, if not more so than Tebow, which is another reason why he went with Denver over San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh would have molded the offense to make Manning more comfortable but little would change from the power-run/West Coast offense currently installed. Harbaugh likes to have control and direction of the offense. He would have relented somewhat but nowhere near the way the Broncos were willing to bend the offense for Manning.
Super Bowl or Bust Mentality
A majority of NFL fans outside of the 49ers, Broncos and Titans, would have picked San Francisco as Manning’s most likely destination, with the team being the only one advancing to a conference championship game last season. Moreover, the 49ers have a stout defense that is the top-three, if not top-one, defenses in the NFL with many key players locked up for two more seasons. Even the 49ers talent on offense topped the Titans and Broncos. Throw-in a good offense line, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree with Manning, and you have a legitimate Super Bowl contender. More so than with Alex Smith at quarterback.
In Tennessee, Manning would have become the Pope of the state because of his roots there when he played at the University of Tennessee. The Titans signaled they were willing to make him a Titan for-life, by giving him a front-office job after he retired.
Manning compared the 49ers, Broncos and Titans and saw Super Bowl potential in all three. With the 49ers he would be expected to at the very least get to the NFC Championship. But we all know had the news broke in San Francisco’s favor, Niner fans would have started purchasing their plane tickets for New Orleans, where the Super Bowl will be held next. And I would have gotten a ‘Super Bowl or Bust: Manning 2012’ tattoo.
Going to Tennessee, there would have been Super Bowl expectations but it would have been less intense compared to in San Francisco. As a favorite son of Tennessee, Titans fans would probably look the other way with a non-Super Bowl appearance this season.
In Denver, there is still expectations of getting to a Super Bowl, but really all Manning needs to do is at least make the playoffs and win one playoff game, for Broncos fans to be satisfied and forget about Tebow. What Manning saw in Denver was a chance to compete and win, but with less expectations of a Super Bowl either this season or next. Manning can control the expectations in Denver, more than he could in Tennessee and even more so than in San Francisco.
The Secrecy of the Workout
Were the 49ers willing to give Manning a 5-year, $95 million deal? Probably not. I only say this because Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke kept the workout a secret, or tried to at least. The 49ers heard Manning was healthy and looked good in his workouts and decided to take a look. I don’t blame the 49ers for taking a look but they should have been more upfront and public about. Alex Smith was not told about the workout until a few hours before it became public. The secrecy I think alienated not only Smith, but Manning too. Manning was probably seriously interested in San Francisco but being told to keep the workout a secret probably did not sit well with Manning. This could have been another factor in Manning deciding where to sign. Unfortunately for the 49ers, the secrecy did not help anyone as Manning is in Denver and Smith is still unsigned.
John Elway Factor
All three finalists for Manning’s services had former players in charge of courting the quarterback. The 49ers had Harbaugh. The Titans had head coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. Anytime an image or video was shown of Manning visiting with the Broncos, John Elway and Manning looked like they were joined at the hip. The Elway factor I think is what sealed the deal for Manning.
At 37- and 38-years old, Elway won his first and second Super Bowl titles before retiring in 1999. Before Elway won his two Super Bowls, the Broncos were thinking of going in a new direction minus the Hall of Fame QB. Instead, Broncos sixth-round pick Terrell Davis from the 1995 draft turned into a Pro Bowl and MVP running back. Davis helped save Elway’s career in Denver by giving the team a running back who could take the throwing load off Elway. With that help and more, Elway won his first two Super Bowls, back-to-back, late in his career.
I mention this because Manning is in almost the same position as Elway was at this point in his career. For his neck’s sake, Manning knows he cannot carry the load like he did in Indianapolis by throwing a majority of the time. The Broncos showed last season they can run the football, really well. This will take the offensive load off Manning much like Elway in his final years in Denver. Elway probably looked Manning in the eye and said something like, “we may not be the best playoff ready team compared to San Francisco or Tennessee, but it’s not just about this season. It is about starting to build now and add pieces in the future to win multiple Super Bowls. This organization and I have been through the exact same thing you are going through now. This franchise knows how to build around an aging but capable quarterback.”
It also didn’t hurt Elway and Manning were already close friends before Denver’s courtship started.
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