Peyton Manning's release from the Indianapolis Colts didn't come as a surprise Wednesday, as the situation had been brewing for months. The Colts have the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft and are eyeing the franchise-altering Andrew Luck, while Manning is coming off multiple neck surgeries and was due a big bonus. It was inevitable.
It's a sad ending to one of the greatest player-team relationships in the history of sports. Like him or not, Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. And while Manning's tenure with the Colts is over, his career is far from it.
While there are plenty of suitors for Manning, there is only one clear fit: the New York Jets.
New York is the grandest stage in all of sports. It's the biggest of all apples. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Have any other cliches? You get the point. Manning in New York would be the best thing for him, the NFL, and of course, our beloved New England Patriots.
Sure, Manning could fit in with other teams. Aside from the Jets, the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals all appear to be interested in the four-time NFL MVP. But none of the above are particularly good fits for both Manning and the the league.
Out of those three possible destinations, Manning to Miami would probably be best for the league. The Dolphins haven't had a quarterback of Manning's caliber since Dan Marino, and Manning's presence in South Beach would make them an almost instant Super Bowl contender. That rejuvenation of the Dolphins' franchise would certainly be good for ticket sales and popularity.
Alas, it's not the best fit for Manning. The soon to be 36-year-old gunslinger isn't exactly looking to go to a rebuilding team, which the Dolphins certainly are. Even with Manning under center, the Dolphins aren't a lock to win a Super Bowl. Sure, his addition helps, but they would still need to add several other critical pieces to make themselves true contenders. As for Arizona and Washington, they don't fit the billing either. Both are good football markets, but again, neither are bonafide Super Bowl locks with Manning. It would work, but it's not the best possible scenario.
New York City is the grand daddy of them all. The city that never sleeps fulfills both the goals of Manning and the NFL. Manning would go to a top market and he would make an already contending team even better. And yes, maybe Rex Ryan's annual Super Bowl guarantee would actually come true with the elder Manning on his team.
We haven't even gotten into the best part of the discussion yet, either. Peyton signing with the Jets would intensify two rivalries, the ones between the Jets and New York Giants and the Jets and the Pats. Think about it, Manning vs. Manning (the other being, of course, reigning Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning) for the honor of New York. Want to see television ratings through the charts? Pretty sure a Manning vs. Manning rivalry in the same city would put to shame the previous highs for Jets and Giants games.
Don't even get me started on a Jets-Giants meeting in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.
Onto the local angle, moving Peyton Manning to the NFC would officially bring the Manning vs. Tom Brady rivalry to a close. The yearly meetings between Manning's Colts and Brady's Patriots were some of the most entertaining football games of the season. Peyton leaving the conference would mean that he and Tom Terrific wouldn't do battle nearly as often.
While Manning on the Dolphins would keep that rivalry with Brady alive, it wouldn't be as exciting. The Patriots and Dolphins have played some good games, but they don't have nearly as intense a rivalry as the Pats and Jets do. Add the Brady-Manning aspect to that rivalry, and we will have at least two epic regular season meetings at Gillette Stadium and MetLife Stadium.
It really is the perfect marriage for all involved. Not all Patriots fans will agree, because this would mean that the Jets would become good again -- quite possibly better than the Pats on paper. But that can also work in favor of Brady, who may get a charge out of playing Manning in a Jets uniform.
Here's hoping that we'll be seeing Manning receiving the key to New York City very soon.