|Manning's new home stadium could wind up being the one where he won his Super Bowl ring. (Getty Images)|
Where is Peyton Manning going to land is anyone's guess, but let me make a case for Miami.
The Dolphins haven't had a quarterback who struck fear in the hearts of an opponent since Dan Marino. New owner Stephen Ross has a half-filled stadium, luxury boxes to sell and merchandize to push. Peyton Manning answers all of those issues, and the football should be pretty good right away.
Keep in mind former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is now the coach in Miami, and if Peyton is looking at the head coach as an important part of his decision, he's going to like what he sees. Last year the Packers offense was bullish on the passing game with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers called 593 pass plays in 16 games, or 37 per game. Green Bay was No. 1 in the NFL in completions, yards and completion percentage in pass plays over 20 yards.
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Peyton will get the green light to go vertical in the passing game. Green Bay was aggressive as a first-down passing attack, calling 218 pass plays on first down, or 14 a game. Green Bay was also impressive with its passing game when it was out in front. There was no sitting on leads -- the Packers called 352 pass plays when leading games. Green Bay really used the three- and four-wide receiver packages -- 449 times, as well as a significant amount of no-huddle. Peyton will appreciate the offensive philosophy of the new Dolphins, which could be a perfect fit.
Consider what a Miami offense would look like if free agents Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme followed Peyton from Indianapolis. In 2010, the last year Manning was together with his three receivers, Wayne had 111 receptions, 1,355 yards, six touchdowns. Garcon had 67 receptions, 784 yards, six TDs, and Tamme in nine games had 67 receptions, 631 yards and four TDs.
Add in Brandon Marshall, who has averaged 95 receptions a year for the past five years, and Reggie Bush, who averaged 56 receptions a year for the past four, and this could be the most dangerous offense Manning has ever directed. I asked Bill Polian what Peyton brings to a team besides his quarterback skills, and his first comment was "He makes everyone better in the organization." If he makes this group better, there's no telling what would happen overnight in South Florida.
Last year the Dolphins finished strong, going 6-3 after a 0-7 start. Chad Pennington and I talked about the 2011 team, and he thinks they were the best-kept secret down the stretch. He thought two keys to bringing Peyton to the team would be that QB Matt Moore is a very solid No. 2 QB if Peyton needs time to get ready, and that Peyton would love the left tackle, Jake Long, and fullback, Charles Clay. If Miami grabs a solid right tackle in the draft, it could be as good an offensive line as Peyton ever had in front of him.
Raheem Brock, a defensive lineman who played with Peyton for eight years, said, "Don't be surprised if defensive players didn't want to follow him wherever he goes, especially south Florida." Raheem said, "Peyton was a great teammate to the defensive guys and was always offering up encouragement even when the defense was struggling."
I asked Brock and others what Peyton was worth on the field when it came to points in a game. They all agreed he was worth at least seven. Well, Miami was 6-10 last year and lost five games by fewer than seven points. That sounds like a 6-10 team would turn into an 11-5 team.
Finally, Pennington said it best: "Peyton will feel energized by the new challenges ahead of him."
He may energize South Florida even more than the new experience energizes him. Polian told me he thought Peyton has four years left in his career, and if that's the case, Stephen Ross can't afford to lose the battle for Peyton. Whatever Ross has to pay to secure Peyton Manning will come back to him two times over.