The Eagles should be all-in on the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes

Peyton Manning has both a Super Bowl win and better numbers than Michael Vick.
Peyton Manning has both a Super Bowl win and better numbers than Michael Vick. (AMY SANCETTA / Associated Press)
Posted: March 11, 2012

The following column is not meant as a slight to Michael Vick, who is a pretty good quarterback and a guy who has become a fairly decent human being. But as a fan of the Eagles, if you wouldn't want Peyton Manning to be your quarterback next year instead of Vick, then you don't know much about football.

And I don't mean that in a bad way.

The Manning Sweepstakes are in full whirl, and the only question we haven't been able to answer yet is whether the Eagles are interested in acquiring the neck-bone-challenged, sure-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback to secure a better run at a Super Bowl. And oh, did I mention that next year is the Super Bowl year of reckoning for the Eagles regime under Andy Reid?

So far, according to the reports, 12 NFL teams have already inquired as to Manning's services, only a couple of days after the Indianapolis Colts effectively replaced the old Buick to make way for a younger model named Andrew Luck. Manning visited the Denver Broncos on Friday, and was reported on his way to Arizona to speak with the Cardinals on Saturday. The New York Jets, who were among those who showed interest, dropped out of the Manning sweepstakes when they signed quarterback Mark Sanchez to a three-year contract extension.

As you are reading this, undoubtedly a couple of more teams have made a connection. We can only hope the Eagles will be one of those teams.

In an interview in Thursday's Inquirer and Daily News, when asked about his interest in Manning, Reid said: "We're obviously happy with Michael [Vick]. That's not something we're . . . we're happy with Michael."

Woodward and Bernstein would call that "a non-denial denial." And it's the classic Eagles way. The signing of Vick three years ago didn't come out of left field, it came out of a dusty storage locker behind left field. Vick was the last guy this morally righteous team would have considered. The Eagles signed him. And then a year after that, they wound up giving Vick a $100 million contract. Nnamdi Asomugha? Weren't interested in him either. Then, bam! The Eagles work the back channels better than Jack Ryan in a Tom Clancy novel.

I don't know if the Eagles have a shot at acquiring Peyton Manning. I can only tell you it's a heck of an idea. It would be very much like a major college basketball coach having a starting point guard, then being in position to recruit a better starting point guard. Recruiting over somebody makes terrific sense if it can increase your chances of winning. And in the NFL, it's purely about winning.

The deal would go something like this: The Birds sign Manning, then make the best draft pick deal they can for Vick, hopefully a third-rounder. The emphasis on this draft will be on defense, so there's another pick that might be able to help that situation.

Would the signing of Peyton Manning be risky? Certainly. Neck injuries are an inexact science. If Peyton gets planked in Game One of a 16-game NFL regular season, then you've got Trent Edwards in a very long season. But for the purposes of this exercise, assume Manning is healthy, and follow the logic:

Peyton Manning is simply a better quarterback. Here are the numbers: Manning has thrown for 54,828 yards in his career, and in his two seasons before the injured year, he threw for 4,500 and 4,700 yards, respectively. He has thrown for 33 touchdowns in each of his last two seasons, which may indicate that with Manning at the helm, the Eagles probably wouldn't suffer as much in the red zone. His completion percentage lifetime is a staggering 64.9 percent, and in his last three seasons, he averaged 67.0. Manning's lifetime passer rating is 94.9. Vick's completion-rate lifetime is 56 percent, 21 touchdown passes is Vick's career high, and his lifetime passer rating is 80.9.

If you're worried about Manning's lack of mobility at this stage of his career, consider that he's never had much mobility, but he doesn't get sacked much because, unlike Vick, he gets rid of the football quickly. You don't play about 1,000 games in the NFL at quarterback without knowing how to sidestep a few land mines.

Andy Reid's future. I don't know how Andy feels about this, but if I were a coach in a year where a contract extension at the end of the season depends on my success in that season, I'd much rather cast my lot with Peyton Manning than Michael Vick. He simply gives you a better chance to win. Remember, Reid chose Vick over Kevin Kolb for that same reason.

Won't Andy restrict Peyton? We're all aware that the head coach of the Eagles is a diabolical offensive egotist.

Maybe only because he's really never had a QB he could completely trust, not even Donovan McNabb. But you can't tell me that, even as stubborn as he may be at times with his beloved West Coast offense, Andy Reid would have the chops to curtail the brilliance at the line of scrimmage of one Peyton Manning.

Peyton won't play in the NFC East. A more ridiculous analysis I have never heard.

Tony Dungy suggested the other day that Peyton might find it distasteful to play in the same division against his brother Eli. He wouldn't want to play a part in eliminating his bro from the playoffs.

I know he's St. Tony, but come on, man. This is pro football. The Manning brothers have been bred to be competitors.

Suppose Peyton signs with another NFC team and that team has to play the Giants in the last game of the season or the first game of the playoffs. What, is Peyton going to take a dive? The Williams sisters try to beat each other in tennis, right?

Peyton Manning is supposed to make his decision in the next few days. I sincerely hope that the back channel to Philadelphia is open.

Parting shot. There are three issues sports fans are supposed to care about on moral grounds but really don't: NCAA cheating, athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, and whether NFL teams and players are issuing bounties to take an opponent out of a game. Just saying.


Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic.

Contact him at mikemiss@975thefanatic.com.

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