In today’s world, the gravity of the accusation outweighs the veracity of the charge. In case you’ve been living under a rock, yesterday, Benjamin Allbright reported that two anonymous sources told him that the Denver Broncos tried to trade Peyton Manning to the Houston Texans earlier this offseason.
Allbright’s report came on the heels of and echoed NFL.com’s Matt “Money” Smith, who first broke the report on a podcast a couple of weeks earlier, although it did not get the traction in the media, like Allbright’s Twitter report later did.
According to Allbright, factions within the Broncos organization wanted the Brock Osweiler era to begin with a fresh start at head coach. New coach, new system, new quarterback.
The Broncos immediately responded, denying the report and decrying the accuracy therein. Respected beat writers in Denver and Houston, Mike Klis and John McClain, respectively, were implicitly told by the teams they cover that the report was false, that no trade talks ever occurred.
The plot thickened this morning, however, as Sports Radio 610 in Houston reported that another anonymous source confirmed that “very preliminary” talks about the Texans acquiring Manning occurred before the five-time league MVP agreed to restructure his contract in March and before the Texans signed Brian Hoyer.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Manning’s new contract with the Broncos has a “no-trade” clause. And yet, his agent, Tom Condon, denied any and all knowledge that a dialogue was opened between the two teams regarding the acquisition of Manning’s services.
And that brings us to the moment. Some people, including our very own Jake Marsing, didn’t like the way Allbright went about promulgating this story. Marsing took exception to the fact that Allbright admitted that he did not wait for confirmation, or denial, from the Broncos before making his report.
What I’m hearing mostly from people (especially on Twitter), is that where there’s smoke, there’s fire and that three anonymous sources stands as irrefutable proof that the Broncos did in fact attempt to trade Manning to Houston.
After all, if Elway did in fact attempt to trade Manning and failed, why would he or the team ever admit it? That’s the logic. And it’s true that if they did in fact overtly try to trade him and failed, subsequently re-structuring Manning’s contract minus $4M, they would have nothing to gain by admitting it publicly.
That is, supposing that Manning didn’t know, which if the attempt was overt, as Allbright’s report makes it sound, then Manning’s agent would likely have been involved. Meaning, this wouldn’t be news to Manning, thus no risk in pissing him off by admitting it.
The Texans, on the other hand, don’t have much to lose by coming clean, other than getting Elway’s dander up. There are unwritten rules in NFL front offices that dirty laundry simply isn’t aired in public, and yet, the Texans front office is leaking like a sieve, if you believe these anonymous sources. You don’t think that alone might upset Elway and trickle down to the rest of the league?
Klis’ take that things got tense during renegotiation talks and that all kinds of things could have been said, including the spitball inspiration that perhaps another team might be interested in Manning, makes sense to me. But the key component to that theory was that Manning was never truly in danger of being traded. It was all about leverage.
The Broncos likely needed some kind of leverage to get Manning to agree to the first pay-cut of his career. The Broncos wanted him to give up $10M but eventually settled with $4M. Maybe that was a factor. Maybe it wasn’t. The truth probably lies somewhere in between Allbright and Smith’s reports and the Broncos and Texans denials.
Right now, both sides have plausible deniability. We’ll probably never know for sure whether Elway tried to trade Manning. However, “preliminary talks” and overtly attempting a trade are two different things. Some might argue it’s a matter of semantics, but there’s a big difference between fielding a call and aggressively trying to effectuate a trade, for example.
The Broncos denial of these reports are interpreted as evidence to the contrary. That’s the world we live in today. Be that as it may, Manning didn’t get traded. He accepted a pay-cut and has the opportunity to earn the $4M back by winning the Super Bowl.
From the moment Gary Kubiak was hired, he was nothing but supportive and complimentary of his 39-year-old quarterback and expressed the sentiment publicly, on multiple occasions, that he hoped Manning would return. And return he did.
For a time, Kubiak’s Texans were the leaders in the Manning free agent sweepstakes of 2012, but the rumor is that Kubiak nixed the deal at the penultimate moment. The speculation is that Kubiak never wanted Manning.
People forget that Manning did not want to sign with an AFC South team and compete twice a year with the team who drafted him. Hence his decision to walk away from Tennessee and the mountain of money they offered him.
Sure, there was uncertainty surrounding Manning’s neck and nerve regeneration but are you really going to say with a straight face that Kubiak preferred Matt Schaub to Peyton Manning? The Texans were an upper-echelon quarterback away from being a bona-fide Super Bowl contender. I don’t see it. The Texans left the Manning sweepstakes because they had no choice.
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And if you are going to subscribe to the notion that Kubiak didn’t want Manning in Houston, why would Elway make Kubiak his top head coaching target after John Fox was fired?
Manning was involved, according to Elway, in the search for a new head coach post-Fox. The decision was Gary Kubiak. From there, Kubiak comes in and wants to trade the guy held in such esteem by the organization’s front office that he was involved the decision to hire him?
As “W” would say, that’s fuzzy math. Was Elway and/or Kubiak so champing at the bit to begin the Osweiler era that they were willing to cut ties with the organization’s best hope of bringing home a third Lombardi Trophy? All for a guy who has yet to start a game in the NFL? We’re not talking about Andrew Luck here.
NFL coaches aren’t big on uncertainty. And even though Elway and Kubiak are friends, I find it hard to believe that Kubiak wanted to begin his career as head coach of the team who drafted him with a question mark at quarterback, especially with a future Hall of Famer on the roster.
Conversely, the rumors could be true. But if the Broncos didn’t want Manning and it was that big of a priority to move on to Osweiler, they could have cut Manning before the March 9th deadline, and gotten out from under his $19M cap number.
As you can see, I’m trying to work through the logic of the Manning trade rumor here but I’m not seeing it. Hopefully, better information will come to light.
Today, in an NFL.com report by Chris Wesseling, he revealed some interesting nuggets, including a quote by Ian Rapoport..
The Denver Broncos were never going to trade Peyton Manning. Responding to a Tuesday report that the Broncos discussed Manning with the Houston Texans early this offseason, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport told the Rich Eisen Show Wednesday that the account of the alleged trade talks was "not how it went down."
"I do believe there was some conversation between the Texans and several teams who have quarterbacks," Rapoport added. "What it sounds like is that the Texans -- without a quarterback and before they signed (Brian) Hoyer and (Ryan) Mallett -- reached out to teams and tried to see what was there."
Elway fielding calls for a Manning trade inquiry is a far cry from the Broncos "tried to trade Manning to Houston" headline. Alas, 'tis the world we live in.