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What's most important to Manning? Relationship

It has been argued that because Peyton Manning is so thorough in his approach to football, he is going to approach his search for a new team the same way. He's going to analyze a team's talent, salary cap, offensive line, relative strength within its division, all that before deciding where he'll land.

And that is probably correct. But none of those are the most important aspect of his search for a landing spot where he'll continue his career.

So what is that No. 1 variable that he's judging in the teams he's considering?


The Dolphins, who spent five hours with Manning Monday afternoon and evening, came away from their visit believing Manning is looking for a comfort zone, a group of people he can be at peace with and find a bond with. The club representatives that met with Manning during their meeting in Indianapolis did the best they could to make Manning feel like he'd be at home with the club.

They do not know if they succeeded. Nobody but Manning really knows, regardless of how plugged in any pundit (including me) tries to convince you they are on the matter.

Peyton Manning will probably decide which team he'll go to based on his comfort level with the people he expects he'll be working with, including coaches, general managers, assistants and perhaps teammates.

That is why Manning probably took his trips to Denver and Arizona first. That is where he feels the greatest sense of relationship going into the process. He is friends and respect Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt based on a bond forged years ago at the Pro Bowl.

He feels a kinship to Denver's John Elway based on their mutual experiences. He also knows coach John Fox.

Today he was reportedly meeting with the Tennesee Titans. He's quite familiar with the state, having played for the University of Tennessee Volunteers once upon a time. He's heard stories about coach Mike Munchak from father Archie Manning because they were teammates once.

And this: The Titans Monday confirmed the hiring of Dennis Polian, the son of former Colts General Manager Bill Polian, to serve as a personal assistant to Munchak. Polian is very familiar with Manning and vice versa and it is possible he will be present in the meeting between Manning and Munchak.


So what did the Dolphins offer in this regard? I do not know. The Dolphins aren't saying. It's a state secret. But my guess is it probably couldn't have been very compelling.

The truth is Miami's coaching staff doesn't have any strong bonds to Manning. Yes, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman reportedly recruited Manning to Texas A&M in the 1990s. But that seems to be it.

Unless the Dolphins got Dan Marino (a Manning friend) or Bill Parcells (a Manning confidant) or yesterday hired Cooper (the QB'solder brother) or Tom Moore (Manning's offensive coordinator in Indy) to come along on the trip, the ties the bind Manning to the Dolphins seem flimsy.

No, the Dolphins Monday were actually trying to build a relationship rather than rekindle one. On his other meetings Manning seems to be rekindling with people in Arizona, Denver and perhaps even Tennessee.

Does this mean the Dolphins have no shot at Manning? Not necessarily. Obviously Manning took this meeting because on some level he thinks it might work in Miami. Former teammate Reggie Wayne has been in Manning's ear about joining the Dolphins and making things work there. Wayne is a former University of Miami standout.

Manning also likes South Florida. He lives here part of the year and his wife is said to love it here.

But can the Dolphins consider themselves leaders with Manning on the relationship front? Even one member of the organization admits that isn't so.

In that regard, Denver is probably the leader, followed by Arizona, then Tennessee, then the Dolphins. So yes, the Dolphins have a lot of ground to make up on this all important issue. Does it kill their cause and chances?

No. But it definitely isn't helping.