Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Manning Madness

Amidst the annual week of unadulterated, unashamed use of bracket terminology, Peyton Manning has allegedly arrived at a "Final Four." His decision, which has been narrowed down to the Denver Broncos, the Tennessee Titans, the Miami Dolphins, and the Arizona Cardinals, is expected to be announced very shortly, perhaps in the next 24 hours.

While the four remaining teams make a lot of sense, the decision process hasn't been easy. Manning's "Elite Eight" had some thrilling, highly contested matchups. Let's take a look at how the Dolphins, Titans, Broncos, and Cardinals emerged from the quarterfinals with victories.

East: Miami Dolphins vs. Washington Redskins
In tennis this matchup would be a walkover; in team sports it would be a forfeit; in Super Smash Brothers it would be a "NO CONTEST." The Washington Redskins took themselves out of the Elite Eight by trading away their 2012 first and second- round picks, their 2013 first-round pick, and their 2014 first-round pick all for the ability to draft RG3. While he's certainly a good player, Washington has too many holes to be a contender and D.C. might be in for another John Wall-esque train wreck, where one great player leads one terrible team to many, many awful seasons. Miami, which has several of the same issues (especially now that Brandon Marshall is gone), advances to the next round by default. The fact that Peyton may accidentally bump into LeBron James on the street and will almost certainly be invited to Chris Bosh's birthday party could be a liabilities in the Final Four.

South Region: Tennessee Titans vs. SEC Commentator Job
Many football fans were adamant that Peyton would be making a return to his SEC roots in one way or another. One compelling option for Manning would be a color commentary gig for SEC games. While CBS would certainly be glad to add such a famous name to its broadcasting team, the nation would hate to see another awkward love triangle of commentators. For the love of God, what would become of Gary Danielson?? Heading down to the Tennessee Titans lets Peyton get close to his SEC glory days without forcing him to play the role of television homewrecker.

Midwest Region: Denver Broncos vs. Cialis Commercials
Peyton's game last year was, well, impotent. So the opportunity to hang up the jersey for good and return to the throne as King Peyton of the Commercials seemed like an obvious choice. And what better product to work for than Cialis? Even if Manning is broken, he can still perform. Now that's a powerful message. But the allure the Broncos was too great. An opportunity to play for a team that is largely a title contender, save for one enormous flaw, is hard to resist. Denver's defense is solid, but they'll need a quarterback whose game isn't so flaccid if they want to win a Super Bowl.

West Region: Arizona Cardinals vs. Politician
Everyone loves a good athlete-turned-politician. I can't think of a soul in America who wouldn't vote for Peyton, besides all AFC South fans who cheer for teams that aren't the Colts. Besides, I hear running for governor is always in vogue. Manning would be a dynamite politician, but the situation in Arizona is too hard to walk away from. How do you resist going to a team that just, less than one year ago, was acquired via trade for a pro-bowl cornerback and a second-round pick AND signed a $64 million contract with $21 million guaranteed? Who doesn't love ending another guy's career