It's been almost two weeks since Peyton Manning took part in a bizarre press conference in which he said a somewhat-tearful goodbye to Indianapolis. As his open-market availability enters its third week, Manning still hasn't made up his mind which team will be his. In the meantime, he has helped shatter the confidence of a handful of quarterbacks.
Apparently feeling left out of an organization's plans is a heartache he wants to share with his fellow quarterbacks. Tim Tebow attracted a legion of fans for his success, despite often playing like garbage for 55 minutes of a game, but has never won the respect of Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, an old-school gunslinger of the past. The ongoing courtship of Manning has left Tebow wondering where he's going to end up – either traded or serving as a backup after taking over a moribund Denver team at midseason and leading them to the playoffs. If there was any doubt as to whether Elway would prefer someone other than Tebow as his starting QB, his cross-country trip to work out Manning (along with head coach John Fox) can't be promising.
Manning also made a stop in Arizona, where the Cardinals had until last Friday to pay a $7 million roster bonus to embattled starter Kevin Kolb. Kolb was left in limbo for a week until the Cardinals finally were informed they had to move on without Manning and paid Kolb his bonus – letting him keep his job, but with the knowledge he wasn't their first choice.
Miami held off setting up a visit with free agent Matt Flynn, who played for new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay, while the team did its due diligence on signing Manning. As it turned out, he waited more than a week to say "thanks, but no thanks" to Miami. Washington got out of the running by trading three first-round picks for the rights to Robert Griffin III.
Tennessee has offered Manning the rare lifetime contract, less than 12 months after using the eighth pick of the draft on Jake Locker and signing veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who also remains in limbo. The same is true in San Francisco. The 49ers have signed Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, but haven't re-signed Alex Smith to a long-term deal because they, too, are hoping to lure Manning.
While he has been a one-man hurricane of destruction within the quarterback ranks, one person who hasn't been impacted is Vikings QB Christian Ponder.
In an interview with NFL Network this weekend, Ponder said he can sympathize with the quarterbacks that have had their careers held hostage by the whims of Manning and his prolonged decision. He believes they all have their own sense of pride and having their team make such outward overtures to another QB has to be a blow to their psyches.
"They're not going to come out and say it, but you're ego is definitely going to be hurt," Ponder said. "You look at yourself as you're the guy – ‘I want to be the guy. I want to be the guy starting next season and be that franchise quarterback.' If your team is looking at another quarterback to bring in, that hurts a little bit. But I think these guys use it as motivation."
Tebow and Ponder have established a friendship when both were the respective faces of their college teams in Florida. He said that his advice to Tebow would be to keep his head held high and make the most of it.
"I know Tim Tebow," Ponder said. "I know that he's been playing with a chip on his shoulder already. I think he's going to use that as the extra motivation now and he's going to keep rolling. You have to prepare yourself as if you're going to be the starting quarterback because you don't know where you're going."
Ponder had to take a back seat to Donovan McNabb when the veteran was signed almost immediately following the end of last year's lockout just days before Ponder's rookie training camp. Thanks to McNabb's poor play, Ponder's timetable sped up considerably and he enters the 2012 offseason as the unquestioned starter.
He has a lot of work to do, but he is happy part of it is not sweating out Manning's decision. He said those who will be the most impacted by the eventual Manning decision can look at it one of two ways – either be bitter or learn from one of the best the NFL has ever seen. Losing a starting job is a blow to any QB's ego. But does it make a difference that it's Manning who is going to eventually take somebody's starting job?
"It does," Ponder said. "He's arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. If you're getting replaced by that guy, it's not as bad as if it was someone else. The advantage of it is you get to learn from the guy. You get to sit back and watch him work and learn what he does. Obviously, he's successful for a reason. To be able to sit behind him and learn has to be a great opportunity, but I'm glad he's not coming to the Minnesota Vikings. I wouldn't be playing next year."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Ponder sympathizes with QBs in Manning's wake
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