It’s confounding – even more difficult because you normally wouldn’t want to put your mind through this sort of agony – to realize what the Broncos would look like without Peyton Manning. It may have not been all that distant of a possibility.
Mike Shanahan – the Broncos ‘Coach for Life’ – nearly enticed him to sign with Washington instead of Denver.
“I talked to Mike and [Washington offensive coordinator] Kyle [Shanahan] when I came out here to visit Denver. That was very early in the process. I was just sort of getting a feel,” Manning said of a conversation in March of 2012.
The longtime Colt had just been released and a number of teams were in the process of showing why they would be quality suitors to the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Broncos and Redskins were both among that group and at that time Washington appeared to be a more stable fit.
Similarly to the way Manning diligently prepares for a game, he did the same with game-planning for his next team. His choice would surely be calculated.
“I feel comfortable talking to them in [what was] a very new and different situation for me,” Manning said. “He’s a guy that I knew and respected and had a football relationship with and I enjoyed sitting down with him and Kyle. We talked a lot of football.”
Manning was impressed. Shanahan was detailed oriented and organized, something he was able to see working with him for an abbreviated amount of time at the Pro Bowl. He also had a winning track record as he led the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowl wins as their head coach.
Then just days later everything was over.
“Right around that time was when they made that trade and so things changed real fast,” Manning recalled. The Redskins move – trading three first round draft picks and a second round draft pick to the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick – ended nearly an possibility of the four time NFL most valuable player choosing Washington.
Shanahan would get a quarterback of the future, as they ended up picking Robert Griffin III, rather than Manning.
“They were kind of in a different position after the meeting than maybe before when we scheduled the meeting. It was because of Mike Shanahan being there that I even set that meeting and had a consideration for the Redskins,” he continued.
We may never know how close, or if Manning would have chosen to play for Shanahan and Washington. For Denver, being naïve may be for the best.