The Spotter’s View: In the Aftermath of Manning

The Cardinals and Titans are living in the Aftermath of Manning

You know that game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It’s based on the idea that Bacon is the center of the entertainment world and can be linked to any actor/actress in six connections or less. The game has been around since 1994 and if you don’t know the ins and outs of it by now – well, then this particular post won’t make much sense to you.

Regardless, I’m one-paragraph-committed to the idea now so no turning back.

Here’s how it relates to football from The Spotter’s View. I just got out of my morning production meeting for MNF and the name Peyton Manning came up. Not an unusual name to hear when discussing the NFL but for a Cardinals/Titans matchup in the pre-season – it just didn’t seem to “fit”. Manning has never worn a Cardinals or Titans uniform, he doesn’t play in either team’s division, he’s not playing tonight in another game, there hasn’t been any major news story regarding him in the last few days…..so – why did his name come up?

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon Peyton Manning. Let’s get in our time travel machine of choice here and revisit Manning’s version of The Decision.

Now that we’re back in February of 2012 (pre-Bronco Manning), we can look at the other teams who were courting the future Hall of Famer. Obviously, Denver won the prize so we can count them as having one degree of Manning. He’s their star player and hopes to be the reason a third Lombardi Trophy ends up in The Mile High city. Indianapolis lost Manning but had him for 12 seasons so they have two degrees of Manning. They also have a horseshoe for a logo which might explain their insane luck of holding the top pick in the NFL Draft back in 1998 (when Manning came out) AND in 2011 (when Andrew Luck came out). I mean….how does that happen?

SIDENOTE: Teams like Miami and ironically Denver have spent the better part of a decade searching for their next “franchise” quarterback. They’ve failed miserably. The Colts? Well, they’ve made the seamless transition from an all-time great to a prospect with unparalleled potential without missing a beat. Luck(y).

Let’s get back on track here. Denver has Manning = 1st Degree of Separation. Indy had Manning = 2nd Degree of Separation. But what about teams that almost had Manning? Do you recall who those teams were? Shouldn’t they be in the 3rd Degree? I say yes.

The 49ers were rumored to be in the hunt but have steadfastly denied having had any interest in signing Manning at any point. So maybe they’re even deeper into the Degrees of Manning. But the other two teams….they’re truly 3rd Degree-ers.

Not surprisingly, they’re also competing against one another tonight on Monday Night Football – which fully explains this rambling post. That’s right…the Cardinals and the Titans were also finalists in the Manning Sweepstakes. Remember? It was thought Manning would love to play with an elite WR (Larry Fitzgerald) and in a dome, which is why Arizona made sense. It was also believed that since Manning was from Tennessee that he would have an inclination to return home. Both teams almost landed him but failed and in the Aftermath of Manning we’re now seeing the consequences.

The Cardinals have two quarterbacks vying for the starting job which obviously means they don’t have one at all. John Skelton seems to be the comfortable choice as he’s played slightly better than Kevin Kolb thus far. But the former Eagle has shown some signs of promise earlier in his career and might have a higher ceiling. He needs to learn to play within the pocket much better though if any of his potential is to translate into production. Kolb can’t stay with his progressions and regularly changes his launch point after #1 isn’t open, usually by rolling right even when the pocket is still secure. You can’t win games in the NFL doing that. Not consistently anyway. Skelton meanwhile plays with confidence when the defense stays “vanilla” but looks completely lost as things get more complex.

Two quarterbacks. No answers. This is the 3rd Degree.

Tennessee is in the same boat despite naming Jake Locker as their starter. Locker is a talented kid with all the physical tools to succeed in the NFL but he has two major flaws at this point in his career that will be huge hurdles for him to overcome. First, he’s wildly inconsistent. That’s not an attribute of the great QBs in this league. Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Brees, etc…all those guys are consistent, reliable. Locker is not, at least not yet. I wrote a 3-part series on Historical QB Comparisons and if I would’ve done Locker, his comparison would’ve been Donovan McNabb. Big guys, athletic, strong, HUGE talent, could make the impossible plays but regularly missed open throws and failed to play with much consistency. I see McNabb when I look at Locker. Second, he has zero experience.

His backup at this point is Matt Hasselbeck, who threw for 3,500 yards a year ago and seems to have some fuel left in the tank. The issue is that Locker represents the future and Hasselbeck – by nature – is the past. You can’t move forward, after-all, if you’re standing still. The Titans need to see if their former first-round pick can play. They need to see if Locker is the long-term answer. They need results. What they’re likely to get though is a struggling youngster and a declining veteran.

Two Quarterbacks. No answers.

This is why Peyton Manning is still the center of the NFL. He not only influenced his former team ( Colts drafting Luck), his current team (Broncos deal Tim Tebow, change offense) but also his almost teams (Cardinals and Titans both being stuck in QB Purgatory).

If we dug even deeper we could bring up the Jets and Tebow being impacted by Manning. We could talk about RGIII going to Washington because Manning didn’t want to play in the same division (NFC East) as his brother, Eli. We could list all of the roster changes around the league that were caused by Peyton’s move.

Instead…watch Monday Night Football tonight and see what life is like in the Aftermath of Manning. Two teams, four quarterbacks and Six Degrees of Separation.

Follow the Monday Night Spotter on Twitter: @TheSpottersView

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