For all the reasons that pursuing Peyton Manning can make sense for the Seahawks, there’s one football deal-breaker: The offensive line isn’t ready for him.
Not that I don’t think the Seahawks shouldn’t make a bid. After all, being used is a part of our sporting tradition.
I mean, if Prince Fielder can use the Mariners to help him get a better deal from Detroit, and David Stern can use Chris Hansen and Sonics sentiment to squeeze Sacramento into a better deal for the Kings (and New Orleans for the Hornets) why should the Seahawks miss out on the opportunity to be door-matted?
I understand how the free market works, and playing one against the other is as American as a Ponzi scheme. So there is no shame in that game. Right? Besides, we volunteered for pro sports.
So pride aside, there is much to recommend Seattle to Manning, starting with owner Paul Allen. Bold dude.
Aside from his adventures in space travel, brain science and rock music, Allen has busted some unexpected sports moves. Or did you see coming in 2005 the Seattle guy’s poach of the Sonics’ Mr. Seattle, Nate McMillan, to become the Trail Blazers’ coach in Portland? Did you see coming Pete Carroll’s departure from USC to become Seahawks head coach after Allen axed one-time local hero Jim Mora after a single season?
As one who as been full or part owner in three pro sports franchises, winner in none, Allen must have an itch that yearns for an industrial-strength scratch.
Unfortunately for Allen, while there is no salary cap on coaches or facilities, there is a salary cap for NFL player payrolls. Even though the Seahawks are well under the current cap, the amount available for Manning is finite without financially straitjacketing the franchise — although salmon-fishing off Allen’s 300-foot yacht would help Manning’s kids forget the meatloaf-comfort-food of the Midwest.
Seattle has another asset in Carroll, one of the premier recruiters in college, pro ball or used cars. Besides the ability to talk the chrome off a trailer hitch, Carroll would willingly adapt his offense to accommodate an aging, immobile quarterback who may not be able to turn his head. With the return of Marshawn Lynch at running back, as well as most of a defense that was seventh in points against (19.7 ppg), Manning could be the difference-maker with his remaining skills and leadership.
As to the non-football considerations — geographic isolation, unsexy football profile, outdoor stadium, etc. — even Manning probably doesn’t know yet how to sort them for any market. Having never been in this situation, things may become more or less important by the day to him, so for outsiders to suggest they know the order of Manning’s priorities is specious at best.
There is, however, a fairly objective football consideration that looms above all as the deal-breaker for Seattle — the offensive line. It’s unlikely to be ready to protect Manning in 2012 the way he needs protecting.
It’s not that the O-line is bad. It’s just unproven. Despite the literal and figurative gains made in the second half of last season, it’s unclear in March how healthy in September will be key figures such as Russell Okung, James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Max Unger and Robert Gallery. They all missed games last year with a variety of injuries, and no amount of off-season treatments and surgeries prove anything by Tuesday, when Manning is eligible to make his decision.
Several replacements, including tackle Breno Giacomini — the first of Seattle’s 18 unrestricted free agents to be re-signed — were reasonably credible, but cumulatively less than what some other teams can offer for the most important teammates Manning will have.
Seahawks management knows this better than any outsider. Hell, it’s a big part of the reason they signed in the last two years two temps for the QB position, Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. So many linemen were going to be so unproven that it would have been foolish to put a premier QB in the crosshairs of opposing defenses. Throw in an actuarial-table-destroying series of injuries among them, and the plan proved out its wisdom, even if consecutive 7-9 seasons didn’t electrify the fan base.
The OL greenness was a good part of the reason they could let go a veteran QB, Matt Hasselbeck, who still had game in him, as his first season in Tennessee established.
But now, the pursuit of Manning goes against the plan, because Manning is available about a year too soon for the OL to do right by him. There’s a chance that all could come together at once to make the Seahawks a 12-4 team. But at 36 and a year out of football, Manning would be silly, as is often heard at the senior-special buffet line, to buy green bananas.
Seattle’s interest feels like an impulse buy, a little like the decision Carroll made at the end of the 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in October. With 13 seconds left and faced with the choice of a fourth-and-eight to get a first down, or an attempt at a club-record and nearly NFL-record 61-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Hauschka, to win, Carroll chose to kick.
It fell short. So did Carroll’s explanation.
“I wanted to give them a chance to win it,” he said. “We were going to take a shot on making a historic kick.”
The decision was a classic Carroll impulse, buttressed by years of years of having his impulses validated by the best college football program in the West. But the Seahawks, relatively speaking, aren’t USC, Seattle isn’t LA, and the NFL isn’t a place that often indulges impulse.
All last season, Carroll preached to fans for patience while his youngsters came together. For the most part, he was right. Now he would be well-served to listen to his own words.
But no more 61-yard field goal attempts. Stick with the green bananas.