Tuesday was a testament to the strategic brilliance of the NFL. That "bounty" scandal, the one termed "earth-shattering" by an unnamed league official in Sports Illustrated, got pushed to the side because Peyton Manning will be released Wednesday at a noon (ET) press conference. That news was not earth-shattering.
You'd never know that from watching ESPN, which treated the situation with the gravity of an assassination attempt. But as much as some would love to knock the Worldwide Leader -- which, as a matter of disclosure, helps with my mortgage every month -- it isn't out of step with the people it's serving. That tenor was shared by a significant sample of the social media universe and, of course, the people on the Indianapolis local news. As if we haven't seen this coming for six months. The NFL is good at this.
After football fans seemed to be blindsided by something as shocking as sunset, their attention immediately turned to where Manning will play next. Assuming, you know, he plays again, which still isn't guaranteed. We also have no idea how much money it will take another team to sign him. And, most importantly, we have no indication what compromises a quarterback whose run his own offense for years will be willing to make to fit in with an established offensive scheme or coaching staff.
But you already want to guess where Manning will play next? I got you. Here's a rundown of possible destinations for Manning, all with pros and cons no more ridiculous than forecasting what will happen in a situation few outside of the psychic population truly have any grasp on.
New York Jets
Pros: Two games annually against the Patriots, whom Manning has quietly owned since 2005 (5-2 as a starter, including postseason). More SNL!
Cons: Playing for the Jets when Eli's quarterbacking the Giants? Does little brother make him take the middle seat when they ride to dinner, too?
Pros: No general manager will give him a bigger hug if he joins the team. It won't even be close.
Cons: Only team in the NFL that performs better without quarterbacks who put up points and hit receivers in stride.
Pros: Probably 35. Maybe 40. Unfortunately, NFL rosters should have 53.
Cons: This is the other team in Ohio. But looking at the Browns' roster, maybe they could use 13 to go with those 40 pros.
Pros: If his agent, Tom Condon, plays it right, he can convince Daniel Snyder to pay him approximately $123 million per year.
Cons: His would-be offensive coordinator has mediocrity, literally, tattooed on him. And there's no convincing Snyder to, literally, give Manning the team, leaving it stuck with its biggest problem.
Pros: Five years after getting a championship ring, he can laugh at LeBron like he's his Ghost of Winless Past. Maybe even a wildly ironic Eddie King "How does it feel to be me?" Except with relief, rather than strung-out anguish. Oh, and the Dolphins got pretty good after they lost to Denver and I refused to watch them play again last season.
Cons: Ummm...this one is way harder than I expected it to be. Let me get back to you.
Pros: Remember when Manning played with Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James and the Colts defense was good? The Texans would be kinda like that.
Cons: They did lose to the Colts last year. I don't care who was playing quarterback for Houston. They lost to Dan Orlovsky.
Pros: Indoor stadium. Larry Fitzgerald. Even Shaq stayed healthy while living in the desert.
Cons: After missing a season, two games against the 49ers behind the Cardinals' offensive line? Why not just buy a motorcycle?
Pros: Might be a receiver away from the Super Bowl...and that's with Alex Smith starting. And they don't play the 49ers twice a year.
Cons: Not just Super Bowl or bust. It's Super Bowl or have television pundits ask if you're as good as Smith. And, as crazy as it sounds, there might not be a consensus.
So there you have it. By training camp, Manning could be anywhere, from the Redskins to his recliner. Until then, we'll keep guessing. And who knows? By the end, we might actually know what we're talking about.