Surprise! Another article detailing the reasons why former Indianapolis Colt and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning will land in Arizona. I don’t have any more inside information than the coffee cup I am holding does, but I am armed with the wild speculative superpowers that randomly take hold of people when a free agent of Manning’s stature starts making the rounds. Even though I am Arizona Cardinals fan, my assessment is objective, as I am someone whose team has been tortured with ineptitude at the NFL’s key position since quarterback Kurt Warner retired. I can assure you, the reader, that these huge black and red Fandom Goggles I am wearing will not impair my judgment in the slightest. So, without further ado, here are my reasons why Manning will be in Cardinal Red next year instead of Denver Orange or Miami Coral.
1) Larry Fitzgerald – Manning’s work ethic and preparation for games is legendary, and the only receiver I can see matching his attention to detail and effort among these three teams is Fitzgerald. Miami has Brandon Marshall, and while he is a good receiver, he is not in the same class as Fitzgerald. In Denver, they have a talented young receiver in Demaryius Thomas, but he still doesn’t come close to comparing with Fitzgerald or Marshall. For those fans who would say, “But look who was throwing to Marshall and Thomas?” I would say look who was throwing to Fitzgerald! Despite being thrown to by Kevin “Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up…Again” Kolb and John “High and Over Fitzgerald’s Head” Skelton, Fitzgerald transcended the incompetence at quarterback and still played well, notching another 1,000 yard receiving season this past year.
Wide Receiver Rankings: 1) Cardinals, 2) Dolphins, 3) Broncos.
2) Weather – In the summer, it gets so hot in Arizona the roof of your car can double as an outdoor grill; however, for training camp, the Cardinals will be further north in much cooler Flagstaff for the start of training. After September, the weather cools down considerably, and there is very low humidity, so you aren’t walking around in 80-degree weather drenched in sweat. It is said there are only two seasons in Arizona: hot and hotter. That may be true but 110 degrees in a dry heat feels a lot better than 100 degrees with 95% humidity and rain everyday at 3PM. Denver can get quite cold in the winter time, a condition that could aggravate Manning’s past injuries if he gets hit hard enough. Miami has the same heat as Arizona, but also a debilitating humidity that can be unbearable to play in.
Weather Rankings: 1) Cardinals, 2) Dolphins, 3) Broncos
3) Dome Games – The Cardinals are the only team of the three that play with a retractable roof. This is really a no contest area since Arizona will play at least 11 of its games this year in a dome environment and every year, they will play at least eight games in University of Phoenix Stadium. I think Manning might even prefer to play in Denver over Miami given the precipitation in southern Florida, but sunny southern Florida still has an appeal over the winters of Colorado. The Cardinals also play on natural grass, another plus for Manning to play in the desert.
Stadium Rankings: 1) Cardinals, 2) Broncos, 3) Dolphins
4) Money – I just can’t see a player with Manning’s skill and desire to win allow money to be the deciding factor on where he chooses to play. Obviously getting paid is part of the equation, but if Arizona can offer him a competitive contract, and perhaps bring in one of the former Colts receivers (Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon), Manning may take less to play in the desert. However, as it stands, the Cardinals are dead last of these three in terms how much money they can offer him.
Money Rankings: 1) Broncos, 2) Dolphins, 3) Cardinals.
5) Offensive Line –Arizona’s offensive line is terrible in pass protection; in fact only two teams were rated worse by Pro Football Focus (Chicago Bears and New York Giants) in pass protection than Arizona. However, Warner was able to make a below-average line look better-than-average when he was with the Cardinals, and Manning’s quick release will definitely be able to do the same. It is unclear how much better though, as I’ve seen Girl Scouts stop traffic better than the tackles Arizona currently employs (apologies to Girl Scouts everywhere). Surprisingly,Miami’s and Denver’s graded out only slightly better in pass protection, coming in at 23rd and 24th respectively.
Offensive Line Rankings: 1) Dolphins, 2) Broncos, 3) Cardinals
There you have it. My fact-based biased opinion of why Manning will land in Arizona. I believe Arizona is a great fit for Manning, and of all the teams interested in him, the Cardinals have the best chance with Larry Fitzgerald, great weather, 11+ dome games, a competitive contract, and an offensive line that will get better with him behind center. Did I mention I was a Cardinals fan? I doubt anyone can tell….Even as Adam Schefter reports Manning’s preferred landing spot is Denver, I sit in denial and assume it’s just leverage from Manning’s camp!
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