Of all the things written, posted, tweeted, shouted or cried about the end of Peyton Manning's tenure in Indianapolis, I thought one of the most poignant came from a guy who has gotten to know him very well over the past decade.
"Going to be weird taking Peyton Manning off of TEAM_ID 10 tomorrow," Donny Moore, EA Sports' "ratings czar" for Madden NFL, tweeted on Tuesday. Moore has analyzed Manning's attributes and tendencies as much as, and possibly more than, an NFL writer or broadcaster.
TEAM_ID 10 is the Colts, the team to which Manning had always been assigned, in both Madden and in real life, over a 13-year career. To outright release a textbook, franchise quarterback and first-ballot hall of famer requires a special ferment of circumstances, and this situation truly saw them: a season-long injury; an extremely unwieldy contract, and the opportunity to draft the best quarterbacking prospect in a generation.
No additional roster updates are planned for Madden NFL 12, in fact. Manning never was available for online play this past season because of his injury (Madden's online rosters reflect the real world depth charts.) In offline play, Manning is yours to activate, trade, or release as you see fit. So little will change about his role in the game, although special edition cards of Manning in Madden Ultimate Team are a mortal lock.
We know who will be quarterbacking Indianapolis next year. What we don't know is where Peyton Manning will end up. Here is a look at the teams that have been discussed as potential landing pads, and how Manning will look in their uniforms, through the game Donny Moore works on: Madden NFL 12.
Pushing aside Tim Tebow isn't as outlandish as it sounds. Pat Bowlen and John Elway are smart enough to know that Tebow isn't a sustainable solution next to Manning, and are probably feeling pushed into starting Tebow by the tremendous hype behind the guy. Manning is one of maybe three quarterbacks who could be a palatable option to fans that have fallen hard for Tebow time. The weather at a mile high can be brutal, though.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning:The Broncos retired No. 18 for quarterback Frank Tripucka, so let's assume Manning wears 16, as he did in college. If so, D'Andre Goodwin gets paid.
You could argue that the Cardinals would have been a contender if they'd gotten a consistent season with a single quarterback last year. It boggles my mind that the Bidwills would give Manning enough money or answer the questions he has about the franchise's commitment to winning.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Stephen Williams.
Manning would have a great target in Dwayne Bowe and a solid defense keeping him in the game. Jamaal Charles is a fabulous runner but he's coming back from a knee injury. Head coach Romeo Crennel would probably be the most amenable to letting Manning run the offense by himself.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: No idea. The Chiefs retired No. 18 for Emmitt Thomas, a cornerback who currently coaches the Kansas City secondary. No. 16, Manning's old number in college, has been retired for Len Dawson. Joe Montana wore No. 19 in Kansas City. I have no idea what Manning would wear there.
Listening to sports radio, the conventional wisdom is that the Dolphins will offer the most guaranteed money. That said, the team may also be more interested in Green Bay backup Matt Flynn, as Miami's new head coach is the Packers' old offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Roberto Wallace.
Good weather (maybe not in January), a favorable division, a rising star head coach and a franchise that was a fumbled punt away from making the Super Bowl. Plus one of the league's proudest franchises with fans who reward winners. Candlestick's still a dump but there's a lot to like about the 49ers. Is the feeling mutual? The franchise said today that they have no official interest in Manning and another source told the NFL Network they've made an offer to current quarterback Alex Smith.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Brett Swain.
No, no, and no. The reason Manning isn't retiring is because multiple Super Bowl trophies cement a quarterback's greatest-ever legacy. Manning is trying to win another, and he'd be playing in the same stadium as his brother, who just won his second. The constant comparisons in the media capital of the world is something that family certainly doesn't want to hear. Playing the Patriots twice a year may be tolerable in Miami; it would be unbearable as a Jet.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Logan Payne.
It's despairing to me to think of a player like Manning ending up with this franchise, which for nearly a generation has been a bunch of bunglers and underachievers led by one of the worst owners in professional sports. But it would be so typical of the Redskins to bid against themselves and give Manning a contract figure that overcomes whatever reservations he has about playing outdoors, and his brother twice a year.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Terrence Austin.
This franchise has been extremely aggressive in player management since Pete Carroll came to town and seems only to lack a solid quarterback for a playoff run. It's an outdoor stadium, but there is a lot to like about Seattle that there isn't in a lot of other so-called front runners.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Receiver Sidney Rice wears No. 18, so a lot of money will change hands or Manning may go back to 16.
Another franchise that would seem to make a lot of sense, both for stadium, contention and surrounding talent. Sticking it to Andrew Luck twice a year has some appeal, too. But reports have suggested the Texans are committed to current quarterback Matt Schaub and won't pursue Manning.
Guy who will make a lot of money selling his jersey number to Manning: Lester Jean.
Note: This post originally had the Texans as TEAM_ID 30. Moore told me that the Texans are actually TEAM_ID 32, as Madden's ratings structure predates the Texans' 2002 debut.