Peyton Manning to Broncos Decision

By Walt - @walterfootball
March 20, 2012

If you somehow missed it amid all the coverage on ESPN and tweets on Twitter, Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos. I've posted my Peyton Manning signing grade here, which includes the repercussions for the 49ers, Titans and other teams.

But did Manning make the correct decision? Should he have gone elsewhere, or is Denver the best possible situation for him?

I'm going to take a look at all of the factors, such as supporting cast and coaching, and I'll rank each of the Manning contenders based on what they can provide in each category. The Manning contenders (throughout the whole process) are: Broncos, 49ers, Titans, Cardinals, Dolphins and Redskins.

Supporting Cast:
  1. 49ers
  2. Cardinals
  3. Titans
  4. Redskins
  5. Broncos
  6. Dolphins

The 49ers have the best supporting cast with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. Moss is a bum, but he toed the line with Tom Brady, so I imagine he'd do the same with Manning.

I selfishly wanted Manning to sign with the Cardinals so he could hook up with Larry Fitzgerald. As for the Titans, Kenny Britt, Chris Johnson and Jared Cook comprise a pretty good supporting cast. Britt is coming off an ACL tear, however.

The Redskins are next on the list because of Pierre Garcon and a strong running game. The Broncos and Dolphins don't have much to offer in this area. I like Demaryius Thomas, but that's the only skill-position player Denver has of note. Willis McGahee is running on fumes.

Offensive Line:
  1. Titans
  2. Broncos
  3. Redskins
  4. 49ers
  5. Dolphins
  6. Cardinals

The Titans are the clear favorites here because they surrendered just 24 sacks in 2011. They also added Steve Hutchinson to improve the left guard position. Manning has played behind some terrible offensive lines over the years, so it would be scary to imagine how well he'd perform with lots of time to throw.

The Broncos, Redskins and 49ers are all close. They allowed 42, 41 and 44 sacks in the regular season, respectively. I slotted Denver ahead of Washington because the Redskins have two linemen coming off injuries.

The Miami and Arizona fronts are atrocious, ranking in the bottom three in terms of sacks permitted (52, 54, respectively).

  1. Cardinals
  2. Redskins
  3. Broncos
  4. 49ers
  5. Titans
  6. Dolphins

Ken Whisenhunt has recently taken a future Hall of Fame quarterback to the Super Bowl. Mike Shanahan did the same, but a long time ago. It's close, but I'm giving Whisenhunt the edge because of recent history.

The 49ers and Broncos both have strong head coaches who have had postseason success. The Titans and Dolphins, meanwhile, have new, unproven head coaches.

Organizational Stability:
  1. Titans
  2. Broncos
  3. 49ers
  4. Cardinals
  5. Redskins
  6. Dolphins

Tennessee once again gets the nod in this category because Bud Adams promised Manning a "contract for life." I thought Manning would go to Tennessee because of this.

The Broncos are next because of John Elway despite the fact that he completely botched the Tim Tebow situation. The fact remains though that Denver has a strong front office and ownership.

San Francisco and Arizona are next. I trust the Yorks slightly more than the Bidwells. Both, however, are infinitely superior to Daniel Snyder and Stephen Ross. Everyone knows about Snyder, but Ross is a complete joke. He's turned a respectable Miami franchise into a circus. No one wants to play for him and his B-list celebrity friends.

  1. Cardinals
  2. 49ers
  3. Titans
  4. Broncos
  5. Dolphins
  6. Redskins

Manning has never been as good outdoors, so I initially thought the Cardinals would be the team to sign him. They were the only suitor with a dome. The other NFC West team is next because they offer good weather, for the most part.

Denver and Tennessee are close in terms of the weather and fan base. I'm giving the latter the slight edge because of the altitude in Denver.

Miami seems like it should be higher on this list, but Manning reportedly hated the circus atmosphere that the city had to offer. Being married and entering his late 30s, Manning doesn't party like LeBron James, so taking his talents to South Beach wasn't as appealing.

The Redskins are last because Manning would have to deal with the media insanity while battling his brother twice per year.

Playoff Path:
  1. 49ers
  2. Cardinals
  3. Broncos
  4. Titans
  5. Redskins
  6. Dolphins

Going to any of the western divisions would offer Manning an easy path into the playoffs. The AFC West is better than the NFC West, and San Francisco has the edge over Arizona because Manning would not have to deal with the 49er defense as a member of that team.

The Titans are next. The Texans are a great team, but the Colts and Jaguars wouldn't pose much of a challenge.

Going through the two eastern divisions would be brutal. Battling Tom Brady twice per year wouldn't be ideal.

Cap Space:
Figures as of March 11, per Pro Football Talk
  1. Broncos ($44.7M under)
  2. Redskins ($31.1M under)
  3. Titans ($28.1M under)
  4. 49ers ($21.8M under)
  5. Dolphins ($11.8M under)
  6. Cardinals ($16.4M over)

Cap space is important because Manning wants his new team to bring in his entourage, which includes Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, and perhaps Joseph Addai and Dwight Freeney.

Adding up all of the totals, we get:

1. 49ers - 19
2. Broncos - 20
3. Titans - 20
4. Cardinals - 22
5. Redskins - 27
6. Dolphins - 39

There it is. Manning should be a Niner. Of course, the top three numbers are so close that it understandably was a difficult decision. The 49ers, Broncos and Titans all made lots of sense, so we can agree that Manning made a good choice. At least he was smart enough not to go to Miami.

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