So apparently, Peyton Manning is getting paid more than he'd like to be.
In a recent story on The MMQB over on si.com, Manning's agent Tom Condon shared an interesting story with reporters about the conversation he had with his client following his release from the Colts in 2012. During that conversation, Manning, who was being wooed by several teams that were willing to pay him upwards of $25 million per year, was absolutely adamant that he not make a penny more than Tom Brady, who is currently due $18 million per year. He ended up signing in Denver for $19.4 million annually, but was apparently so mad to learn of the pay bump that Condon had to sit him down and convince him to sign the contract. You can read the article here.
Personally, I think that this is an absolute non-story. Honestly, who cares? What we have here is just some classic filler to round out one of the quieter times in the NFL year, something to generate a bit of discussion, and not much more than that. Furthermore, this isn't even really Patriots-related news, other than the fact that Tommy B's name was mentioned and that New England has something of a checkered history with Tommy C. Because of that, I never even thought about commenting on it until I got back from lunch this afternoon to about 15 texts and several emails, from both Patriots fans and haters alike, asking me what I thought of the whole matter. And while the honest response to that question is "I haven't really thought much about it at all," that wouldn't make for a very good article. And since I don't want to disappoint my dozens of fans and really don't feel like working on this project I have due tomorrow, I decided to think about it a bit more.
Luckily, I didn't have to think all that much, because it's pretty obvious what's going on here.
The fact of the matter is this: for better or worse, right or wrong, Peyton Manning's good name took a massive hit as a result of this past Super Bowl. He had a regular season for the ages, a competent playoffs against an overachieving Chargers team and a decimated Patriots team that had absolutely zero business playing in the AFC Championship Game, and then got completely embarrassed in the game that was supposed to cement his legacy and silence everyone who says he can't deliver when it matters. No matter where you stand on Peyton Manning and where his place is on the All-Time list, Super Bowl XLVIII will always and rightly go down as a huge black mark on his resume. To do what he did in 2013 only to do what he did on the world's largest stage is something that just can't be undone.
There are undoubtedly those who will make the case that it isn't even remotely fair to put all the blame for that blowout on Manning's shoulders, and those who make that case are 100% correct; you win as a team, and you lose as a team. However, I would also say to those people that you can't have it both ways. If the narrative when the Broncos are winning is "look at what Peyton Manning is doing with this team," the narrative when they are getting destroyed also has to be "look at what Peyton Manning is doing with this team." That isn't even on Manning, either; this is just what the media has decided to do and will continue to do. They love them some Manning, and they never miss an opportunity to build him up as their own personal Golden Boy.I don't agree with it, either, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
This last game, however, has made it very hard for any kind of media-spun storyline praising Manning to come across as anything but contrived. To talk about how great Manning is on the heels of his most recent performance would seem very much apologist in nature, and even the most ardent of the out-of-the-closet Manning lovers would get called out for refusing to acknowledge the obvious.I actually can't remember a period when so much time has gone by with so little Manning talk; it has been almost two months now, and you'd be hard pressed to find all that much Manning-related on the major sports outlets. To be honest, it's been very refreshing.
But all good things must come to an end.
What needs to happen, therefore, is a slow, steady trickle of reminders about what a great, humble, and genuine guy Manning is - a player who puts the integrity of the game above all else. A player who just wants to play football, who doesn't care about money, or prestige, or any of that other stuff. And what better way to lay that groundwork than to tie his contract details to the man against whom he is constantly compared?
This is a very well-timed, well-thought out move by Manning's agent to get the Manning wheel turning again. This story is in actuality two years old; why only just talk about it now? Why did Manning's agent make a special point to bring up Manning's salary request in a random interview so long after the fact? It would seem to me that there were plenty of other opportunities to make this particular fact known, but Condon chose right now specifically so we can slowly start generating some positive Manning press, press that can continue to build as the offseason goes on. As the Super Bowl gets farther and farther into our rearview, we can slowly stop talking about that game and start saying what we're used to saying: that Manning is a genuine, stand-up guy (which he is; you'll get no argument from me there). Next up, we'll get the "Manning has moved on" articles that can highlight how a player as competitive as Manning will never be truly over a game like that, but he's just using it as motivation to come back better than ever this year. From there, we can learn about Manning reaching out to his receivers and rookies after the draft and trying to get a passing camp going. Then we can get to June mini-camps and how sharp Manning looks and how the Broncos are ready to pick up right where they left off. By the time the regular season rolls around again, the Manning Express will be chugging along right on schedule. But before all that, there needs to be something to wash the stink of failure off of our collective skins, and using money, contracts, and Tom Brady to do that is a perfect way to repair the damage. Very smart move by Condon.
Again, absolutely none of this is on Peyton; the last thing I would want is to make this about him or add any more fuel to the already burned out and extraneous fire that is Brady vs. Manning. Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time, he's one of the best to ever play the game, and he wasn't nearly as deserving of all the blame he got for his Super Bowl loss. And I would also be foolish if I didn't acknowledge that the media loves them some Tommy B, too; I've seen more Brady family vacation photos than I have my own. But the one thing that Brady has never had to worry about was his legacy - that's already set in stone. Manning, however, just took a pretty big hit. And like any good agent, Tom Condon is laying the groundwork to get his guy back into our good graces again.
And, unsurprisingly, it's already starting to work.