It's easy to forget that Peyton Manning was a free agent following a 2011 season in which he didn't play one snap while he recovered from neck surgeries. And despite questions about what type of player he'd be after the procedures, there was plenty of interest in the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Ultimately, he ended up in Denver, where he led the Broncos to two Super Bowl appearances, including a title three months ago.
But it almost didn't happen.
"I was pretty close" to signing with the Titans, Manning told the Tennessean's Dave Ammenheuser on Thursday.
It's no surprise that the Titans were in the mix; Manning starred at the University of Tennessee, and then-Titans owner Bud Adams was so desperate to land the franchise quarterback that he offered Manning a lifetime contract.
"[Manning] is the man I want. Period," Adams said in March 2012. "And the people that work for me understand that. They know who I want. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans, and I will be disappointed if it doesn't happen."
And it didn't.
"I was hoping we would win out," Adams said after losing out to the Broncos, via NFL.com. "I thought we'd be ahead of Denver. I thought he'd want to stay in Tennessee."
A few months later, a report emerged that Adams was willing to pay Manning $25 million a year, which was nearly $6 million more than the Broncos gave Manning in 2012. There was another report that Adams, who died in October 2013 at the age of 90, fired team executive Mike Reinfeldt after the 2012 season for primarily one reason: failing to deliver Peyton Manning.
"Adams felt like Reinfeldt didn't act fast enough -- or at all -- when the owner told him he wanted the Titans in the Peyton Manning chase last spring," the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt wrote at the time. "And Adams has held it against Reinfeldt ever since."
If you're looking for a silver lining, Tennessee's current quarterback situation is much better than Denver's. Plus, there's no guarantee Manning would've replicated his success with the inferior Titans roster.