You would think Sports Illustrated would shed light on Peyton Manning’s brief visit to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this month. But not only were the Cardinals barely mentioned in the recent article, “Peyton Manning’s Long Game,” the magazine muddied the waters.
Manning, in case you’ve forgotten, came to town on the weekend of March 11-12 for a meeting with coach Ken Whisenhunt, selected players and owners and officials. The national media seemed to consider the Cardinals and Manning’s passing and play-calling abilities “a perfect fit.” As far as anyone knows, Manning did not throw a single pass for the Cardinals or undergo a physical to check out his neck injury.
So what happened? Manning signed with the Denver Broncos, and the Cardinals were not, in reality, even a finalist for the All-Pro quarterback’s services.
The SI writer, Peter King, first mentions the Cardinals in an off-handed way. He writes that Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks coach, showed up in Colorado unannounced and offered to talk with Manning on his flight to Phoenix. Manning apparently said, no, and Carroll flew back home.
Manning’s Arizona adventure, likewise, is wrapped up in a paragraph and describes anything but a meeting. It was while in Phoenix, King infers, that Manning discovered the media knew too much about his whereabouts and came up with a plan to outwit them. He would fly to, of all places, Indianapolis, where he was released by the Colts. There, the day after the Cardinals visit, he would meet with the Miami Dolphins.
Since the theme of the article is that Manning’s decision was based on “familiarity” with the teams, their coaches and opponents, King said the Cardinals Whisenhunt is “a golfing buddy” and once coached Manning in Pro Bowl. So much for shedding light.
The confusion is this. While King writes the Cardinals were “finalists” along with Denver and the Tennessee Titans, it does not work out that way on a timeline. Manning told the Cardinals four days after his visit to “move on.” And they did, paying Kevin Kolb his $7 million roster bonus and ending the Manning speculation.
Three days later, on a Sunday, March 18, Manning knew he was going to Denver. On Monday, he made calls to the two other true “finalists,” the Titans and the San Francisco 49ers.
So, bottom line. No one knows if Manning or the Cardinals were really serious about making a deal. Or was it all a show, as I suspect.