Peyton Manning probably couldn't have chosen a better landing spot after his famous departure from the Indianapolis Colts back in 2012, going on to break records and win his second Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Before he agreed to move to the AFC West for the final four years of his Hall of Fame career, however, Manning was "fairly close" to sharing a division with his brother, Eli.
That's according to former Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who told The Athletic as part of an extensive oral history of Manning's free agency tour that D.C. was on the quarterback's early wish list.
"We were very much interested in Peyton at that time," Shanahan said. "I mean, I followed his career. I know him quite well, so I feel like we had an excellent chance to get him. But knowing that Eli was in the NFC East, it surely wasn't a slam dunk."
Even though a move to Washington would ensure Manning would play Eli and the New York Giants at least twice a season, Peyton himself confirmed that Redskins brass were among the first to touch base with him during free agency.
"While I was in Denver, I had a little lull there before I left," he said. "I went over to Mike Shanahan's house and visited with Mike and Kyle Shanahan, and we sat in their den and watched film. Kyle went over their offense. I was really impressed with Kyle ... I had known Mike for a long time, played for him in a Pro Bowl, and we've stayed in touch, and so I felt comfortable talking to them."
Ultimately, Manning explained, the Redskins' trade up to No. 2 in the 2012 draft, where they later selected QB Robert Griffin III, all but ended their courtship: "Even Mike kind of knew that eliminated them," Manning said, comparing Washington's situation to that of the Colts, who were a sure bet to draft a young QB after moving on from him.
And yet Shanahan, who once coached current Broncos general manager John Elway, still believes Manning had a desire to play for the Redskins, regardless of how that offseason unfolded.
"I think Peyton was disappointed," Shanahan said. "Kyle and I were kind of surprised that he still wanted to meet with us. I can remember talking with Elway one time not too long ago, a few years ago. He said, 'Mike, do you realize that Peyton, I think, was going to go to your place? I think he really wanted to go to your place more than our place.' I said, 'Really? I didn't know that.' And that came from John. I knew we were fairly close."