Let's separate facts from speculation this morning because there is much of both swirling around the Peyton Manning derby.
Fact: The Dolphins are in lockdown mode. The organization has decided and orders have been passed throughout the organization that no one is to speak to the media even under the cover of background or off-the-record conversations. People that normally answer my texts or emails are ignoring me now -- beyond my family, I mean.
Fact: One source that ignored the orders at least one last time before also shutting down told me the Dolphins still expect to speak with Peyton Manning before he picks a team to play for in 2012, assuming he's healthy.
Fact: Peyton Manning himself has not said which team, if any, are the leaders in his mind on where to play. He has not eliminated the Dolphins yet.
Fact: ESPN reported this morning Manning's two "likeliest landing spots" are Arizona and Denver," and that Miami "isn't as high on the list" as the other two.
Fact: Last I spoke with someon in the Manning camp, which was Friday, I was told it was Arizona and Miami the likely spots with Denver needing to make up ground. Obviously this was before the Manning visit to Denver.
And now some interpretation:
The Dolphins are not out of this yet. The Dolphins typically operate by having general manager Jeff Ireland telling the agent representing the player Miami is interested in not to speak to the media about Miami's interest -- an approach that almost always gets ignored because an agent's agenda, by definition, is to drum up interest in his client not diminish it.
In this case, however, there may be nothing wrong with diminishing the Dolphins because there is so much attention on Manning and so many team interested that not including the Dolphins in the conversation is not a hinderance to his marketability.
Moreover, when the Dolphins have previously gone into lockdown mode it is never to cover that nothing is happening, but rather usually to protect something that is happening. I believe the Dolphins want to play this coy because they still clearly believe themselves in the game and don't want to risk being eliminated.
I think they also might have gotten spooked by that report that Manning was upset by all the media attention in Miami. Guess what, folks? He got the exact same treatment in Denver when he arrived Friday night -- complete with Helicopter chase coverage -- and the Arizona media hasn't exactly ignored his presence, either. So the attention concerns still feels artificial.
This is a concern: Denver, by sheer consequence of having John Elway as president, had someone who speaks the same language as Manning with him constantly. That's a plus. Arizona, by sheer consequence of the fact coach Ken Whisenhunt is an offensive mind and has taken a team to the Super Bowl and has a longstanding relationship with Manning, has someone with Manning who speak the same language as Manning with him constantly.
I'm not sure who the Dolphins would put in front of Manning who speaks the same language. Owner Stephen Ross doesn't. Ireland has never played or coached. And unless I am unaware of it, neither coach Joe Philbin or offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have any sort of previous longstanding relationship with Manning. This is troubling.
The Dolphins could address the issue by having Dan Marino part of the team working to get Manning ... but I don't know if Marino would do that. I don't know if it would feel contrived since Marino really doesn't work for the team. I don't know if that's the best or only way to get past the issue of making Manning feel he's got someone in the room that speaks his language.