INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dolphins are going to chase Peyton Manning if he becomes available in free agency. That is already decided. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross loves the idea of Manning and has established him as the offseason quarterback priority.
Matt Flynn second.
Drafting a quarterback third.
The Dolphins see Manning as a way to win games, sell tickets and become relevant again. Within their circle of power, they think Manning can do for Miami what Joe Montana did for the Kansas City Chiefs in the early 1990s -- and if you don't remember, that included one failed trip to the AFC title game in Buffalo.
So why am I against the addition of Peyton Manning?
Let me count the ways:
He is a huge injury risk. Huge! I'm not so much worried about his neck, which has undergone three surgeries in the past 20 months and is clearly a big issue. I'm not worried that a Rex Ryan blitz or Vince Wilfork would catch Manning in precisely the wrong position and injure his cervical spine that has undergone three surgeries in less than two years. The risk of neck injuries are a fact of life for all NFL players.
I'm more concerned with Manning's much-discussed dead nerve condition that has affected his triceps in his throwing arm and has weakened his ability to throw. I was told Sunday that Manning's arm strength has diminished by as much as 40 percent as a result of the weakened triceps muscles. And I was told the issue wasn't just to the point where he can throw on game days, but there would be legitimate worry he can throw four or five times a week.
If you know Manning, you know he relies heavily on building an instinctive relationship with his receivers. He wants them to see what he sees. He wants to know how they run their routes and he wants them to know where he's likely to place the football. The only way to gain that is to throw to them -- a lot.
But there is doubt he could throw day after day even if his nerves regenerate because the muscles in his arm could fatigue more easily than they once did.
But put all that aside for a second. Seriously. Cast that to one side and suppose for a second that Manning's arm will eventually be capable of working about as well as it did when he was in his prime. The fact will remain he won't be in his prime with Miami.
He's 35 years old now and will be 36 next month. That's about the time Dan Marino started his precipitous and sudden decline. Montana, too. Troy Aikman was done by age 34. Steve Young was done by 38. Warren Moon had his last excellent season at 36 although he hung on a couple of more years, toiling in mediocrity.
The fact of the matter is if Peyton Manning plays in the NFL in 2012, he would be the second-oldest starting quarterback in the league and that assumes that Matt Hasselbeck will be starting for the Tennessee Titans -- something the Titans are prepared to change because former first-rounder Jake Locker will be coming into his second season and is the future in Tennessee.
So unless Hasselbeck wins a starting job, Manning might be the oldest starting QB in the NFL.
What about that fact suggests a long-term solution to Miami's quarterback troubles? Oh, that's right, nothing!
The fact of the matter is if the Dolphins sign Peyton Manning it will be because they cannot solve their QB problem the tried and true way -- through the draft. They will have admitted they cannot identify a potential franchise QB at age 22 or 23 and have the conviction to draft that player, develop that player and win with that player for years and years. They will be saying they must instead take someone else's discarded quarterback, one whose best days are behind, and gamble he still has something left in the tank to serve Miami's desperation.
This is akin to treating a deep wound with a band aid. The band aid may stop some of the bleeding for a short time, but it will not help heal the wound. It will not keep the wound from becoming infected. The Dolphins quarterback situation is a deep, deep wound. And the only way to heal the hurt is finding a player that can fill the spot and play it at a high level for the next 7 or 8 years, not the next year or two ... maybe.
Now, I understand the allure of Manning. You see the possibility and think the Dolphins would be adding Manning in his prime. You see the possibility and think he would make the Dolphins instant contenders and get them to the playoffs. It is a gleaming vision of the possibilities.
I say to you all that shiny stuff reflecting in your eyes is fool's gold. The Dolphins have been down this road before. Four years ago, having no answer at quarterback, the Dolphins turned to often-injured Chad Pennington who fell to them like a blessing from the sky.
And it was good for one season. Pennington's great play led the Dolphins to the 2008 AFC East championship. It was fun. But it was fleeting.
NFL games have a way of finding a man's weakness and Pennington's surgically repaired shoulder was eventually exposed just as Manning's injury will eventually be exposed. And when that happened, the Dolphins were left right back where they started -- looking desperately for a franchise quarterback that they didn't spend a high enough draft pick to select.
(The fact Pennington helped Miami to an 11-5 record also pushed the team well to the back of the pack in the ensuing year's draft.)
That's what would happen if Manning comes to Miami. If Manning signs, the pressure will be on to win now. We'll be in win-now mode even though the coach is new and has a bit of a honeymoon period coming. He will have to produce and general manager Jeff Ireland will have to surround Manning with as much talent to win now as possible.
That means addressing must-haves -- like a right tackle and a pass-rusher. That probably means not drafting a quarterback in the first round because Matt Moore is still under contract and that, along with Manning, is enough use of resources at one position.
So, again, the Dolphins will return to all-in mode with a quarterback that needs to be in that mode because his time is running out. Except the rest of the Dolphins roster isn't ready to be all-in. The rest of the Miami roster needs significant upgrade along the right side of the offensive line, at tight end, on the defensive line and possibly in the secondary where a nickel corner and free safety are needs.
It simply does not fit. And so, I predict, if the Dolphins go with Manning, they may have some short-term gain (at best) but have again set themselves up for more long-term pain -- like 2008 and the years that followed. History repeating.
I know, I know, many of you are all in on Manning. If he comes in and wins a division title, you'll be happy with that. Some of you think he might even win a Super Bowl in Miami in his declining years even though he won only one in 14 years with Indianapolis while he was in his prime. (I admire your ability to dream.)
Me? Give me a free agent chase of a great pass rusher. Give me a trade-up for Robert Griffin III or the selection of whatever rookie QB the personnel department gets most comfortable with. Give me the signing of 27 year-old Matt Flynn even. Get me some more improving and building for the long haul. Get me the short-term pain in exchange for the long-term gain.
I know I'm in the minority. I am like a salmon swimming upstream and the Miami plan and the Miami fans are big brown bears waiting in the middle of the flow to swallow me because of my opinion.
That's fine. Let's talk in two or three years when we're right back where we started and you're screaming for a young QB and a new coach and a new GM -- again.