MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 20: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins shouts after a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Speculation. Supposition. Suspicion. These are the three S's that have surrounded Manning Mania for the past few weeks. It all started off as a wonderful dream. "Miami is on top of Peyton Manning's short list," "Peyton Manning has been released," "Peyton Manning is in Miami." The town was experiencing an emotion it hadn't felt for 13 years. Songs were being made, quotes from Reggie Wayne saying he'd love to play in Miami with Peyton were being recorded, and countless upon countless of photo-shopped heads of Peyton Manning in a Dolphins uniform were being created. This year everything was going to work out the way it should for the 'Fins.
Unfortunately, in the back of our heads we couldn't possibly think that Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross would be able to sign the greatest Free Agent in the history of the NFL. A man that called elite receiver Dez Bryant's mother a prostitute and a man that surrounded his team with celebrities couldn't possibly pull this off...or could they? The answer to that question has not been revealed, but the events that took place over the course of a week might have given us a glimpse of what this team will look like coming into August. Let's take a look back at Manning Mania.
CHAPTER ONE: The Perfect Fit
Exactly one week ago the face of the Indianapolis colts, Peyton Manning, was relieved of his duty as Quarterback and was now a free man. After 14 years of overachieving greatness with the Colts, Peyton was now taking his talents to another city. Presumably so, that city was South Beach. Why? Well first things first, Manning has a house there. Don’t you think Peyton would love to live in his permanent home for the remainder of his NFL career? Don’t you think he would love for his daughters to go to school in Miami? Don’t you think Manning would love to play in 75-degree weather every season? Of course! As any good realtor would say "Location, location, location." Step one was completed. So what else did the Dolphins have to offer?
For ten years the Dolphins have been abused by the New England Patriots. Tom Brady and his Hall of Fame arm have turned us into the little brother that never grew up in the division. Every year is the same story: "The Miami Dolphins keep it close with the Patriots, but Tom Brady is too much to handle." Year after year this team is squandered underneath the carpet because the Patriots are in a whole different league. However, here comes Peyton. If there is one thing Peyton Manning was born with that no one else in the league has, is his competitive drive. There is a fire underneath his stomach that hasn’t lost a flame throughout his whole career, let alone his whole life. And if there is one person that fuels that fire from within, it’s Tom Brady. However #18 feels about playing his brother Eli, he feels the opposite way when playing Brady. "The War of 18-12" is a rivalry that ranks amongst the Federer vs. Nadal, theArmy vs. Navy, and the Magic vs. Byrd. In they eyes of Peyton, passing up two opportunities to beat your nemesis might be considered foolish, which makes this the second reason for Manning to sign with the Dolphins.
The last incentive: the "53" in the locker room. What made this team unlike the Browns, the Chiefs, and the Broncos was that they had the better overall squad. A top 6 defense, an up incoming Offensive Line that needed a couple tweaks, a solid running game, and a good coaching staff were all logical reasons for Manning to sign with the Dolphins. However, Peyton Manning can’t throw it to the defense. Peyton Manning can’t throw it to the offensive linemen. Peyton Manning can’t throw it to the coaches; so who would he throw it to? At first the answers were all simple. The Dolphins had Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess (still on team), one of the rising combos in the game. Not only that, but there was speculation that Miami would probably end up signing Reggie Wayne to make the ‘Fins have one of the most dynamic Wide ReceiverCores in the NFL. All of that was music to the average Dolphins fan’s ears, until a massive bombshell hit the heart of Miami at exactly 4:00 p.m. yesterday. I’ll hold on to that, but for now, I’d like to see what went wrong before Free Agency even started.
CHAPTER TWO: Peyton Has Left the Building
About a day after Peyton Manning was released, a Yahoo.com poll came out demonstrating the odds of teams landing Manning. Miami was the clear favorite at 3:1, but the one team that caught my attention was the Denver Broncos. Oddly enough, the Broncos odds increased from 50:1 to 25:1 over the course of a day. "Nothing to scoff at" said Dolphins fans across the country, "they have Tebow to worry about." Or so we thought. Last Saturday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins FO pulled a Ted Ginn Jr. on Peyton Manning, and had him slip through their fingertips as he made his way towards Denver.
From this point forward the tides had officially turned in the Manning Sweepstakes. Peyton had left Miami without saying a word, and went on to go meet with his buddies John Fox and John Elway. Soon enough, the media was on top of it, and within hours, the Denver Broncos were now the favorites to sign Manning. Really? The Denver Broncos? The team whose odds at Manning were at 25:1? Let’s see what they have to offer:
1. Strong relationship with Front Office: Manning recently said he was "underwhelmed with the structure in place" with the Dolphins Front Office. Can you blame him? A FO that has its back against the wall by fans and is embarrassing itself world wide with Harbaugh & Fisher scandals is definitely one to be underwhelmed about.
2. Playoff Caliber Team: Last year, the Broncos proved the nation wrong and bounced back from a 1-4 start to go en route to a playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Do not try selling me on the fact that the Broncos made it their because of Tebow. I wouldn’t go as low as they won in spite of him, but the entire team had to carry a large load every single game for it to happen. Protecting a guy like Tebow from getting killed by pass rushers is a seemingly impossible task to do, but their Offensive Line did it. Not only is their O-Line one of the solid points of this franchise, but the running game and Receiving Core is solid as well, including a pro-bowl Running Back in Willis McGahee (1200 yards rushing) and a rising star in Demaryus Thomas. The last focal point of this Denver team is its defense. A defense that is able to keep Tim Tebow, every Sunday, at the end of games to win, is a tremendous defense in the NFL. With starters like Champ Bailey, DJ Williams, and Von Miller, Peyton Manning has to be excited looking at this team.
3. Salary Cap: With roughly $39 million under the cap, the Broncos are in the position to sign any player Manning wants, while Miami is limited to their options.
The agony was aggravated from there on. After "a very successful meeting" with the Broncos, Peyton made his way to the desert to visit his golfing buddy, Ken Wisenhunt, and the Arizona Cardinals. Another successful meeting had just occurred. Once again, the media jumped all over the story of both visits and beat it until it had no more pulse. "PEYTON MANNING WILL NOT BE VISITING WITH ANY MORE TEAMS," yelled Adam Schefter from the mountaintops of Bristol, Connecticut. Excuse me? Just a second ago Peyton Manning was in Jeff Ireland’s backyard, and now they won’t even arrange a meeting. It was despicable, disgusting, unbelievably believable…but false.
On Monday night, Joe Philbin, Mike Sherman, Jeff Ireland, and others arranged a meeting with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. The meeting lasted about 6 hours, and ESPN reported that it was indeed a "good meeting." It was said that both Philbin and Sherman made positive impressions towards Manning and that Manning wouldn’t make his decision on the day the earth stood still, the start of Free Agency.
CHAPTER 3: Frenzy Among Frenzies
It was 4:00 p.m. I casually scrolled up my twitter feed to see if any news had struck upon the hour, and what I saw, what we all saw, was unimaginable. Brandon Marshall had been traded to the Chicago Bears for two 3rd round picks. Immediate reaction to the story was to yell out vulgarities, but my second reaction was to ask the simple question: Why?
First "Why": Mr. Ireland, why would you trade the best player on the Dolphins for two 3rd round picks? Sure, Brandon Marshall is a head case, but you DO NOT trade a 5-time 1,000 yard receiving, pro-bowl Wide Receiver for two 3rd picks, especially when you have a terrible knack for 3rd round talent: Daniel Thomas (including him because of trade), John Jerry, and Patrick Turner. Supposedly, the Dolphins have been trying to deal Marshall since the combine, which does not explain the bizarre "two 3rd rd. picks." Lastly, there have been rumors swirling around over an "incident" Marshall had at a club with his wife, which might be reviewed from the NFL. If the Dolphins decided to trade away Marshall partially because of this incident, then the hope from this city will soon be gone.
Second "Why": At first, shock had filled the minds of fans all over once the trade was made final, but soon enough that shock somehow turned into optimism. "Maybe this trade is to clear up cap room for Wayne, Manning, and Garcon." "Maybe this trade is to clear up cap room for Vincent Jackson and Manning." "Maybe this FO actually knows what it’s doing." Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Shortly after the announcement was made, breaking news regarding the Free Agency market had spread like wildfire. Within short notice, Pierre Garcon had signed a large contract with the Washington Redskins, shortly after, Vincent Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and before the night was to a close, the Indianapolis Colts came out with the news that they had re-signed Reggie Wayne. The last news regarding Reggie is what broke the heart, if still there, of all Dolphins fans. The whole community believed that Reggie was a package deal with Manning, and that Marshall was traded for this sole purpose. Unfortunately, due to his re-signing with the Colts, Marshall might have been traded for the purpose of getting rid of him.
The Dolphins now find themselves in an unremarkable position. Brian Hartline is the number one receiver on the team, Matt Moore is still the starting Quarterback, Brandon Marshall was traded for a couple of M&M’s, and somehow, Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross have made fools of themselves once again. However, there is still a small glimmer of hope. Within the next week or so all these questions asked today will be answered, and fans will finally know where this team stands.