On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts released 14-year veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning was drafted as the first overall pick in 1998 by the Colts and went on to have a hall of fame career in Indianapolis.
Since 2001, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Manning have been the two most accomplished quarterbacks in the NFL. While their two teams faced off several times over the last decade, the two went head to head in three playoff games. Brady got the best of Manning in the 2003 AFC Championship game and the 2004 AFC Divisional playoff but Manning finally knocked Brady’s Patriots out of the playoffs in the 2006 AFC Championship game on the way to his first Super Bowl. Brady and Manning have had several great matchups but with two AFC East teams reportedly interested in Manning, they could now face each other twice each year.
The first team reportedly interested in Manning are the New York Jets. While sources say the Jets will take a look at the quarterback, it’s unlikely they’ll make a move for him. For the Jets to pick up Manning, it would take quite an organizational shift. The Jets have invested $30 million in their current quarterback Mark Sanchez over three years. However, the Jets have recently made a move similar to getting Manning. In 2008, the Jets picked up Brett Favre who had left the Green Bay Packers after spending 16 years with the NFC team. The difference between the two situations though is that the Jets signed Favre after a 4-12 season and were desperate. The Jets are coming off an 8-8 season after two consecutive trips to the AFC Championship game with Sanchez as their quarterback.
The team most likely to sign Manning are the Miami Dolphins, another AFC East team. The Dolphins have made it clear that signing Manning is the top priority for the team this offseason. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has said he’ll do whatever it takes to sign the 11-time pro bowler. One reason for signing Manning is that the Dolphins have had a problem at quarterback ever since Dan Marino retired in 1999. Since that year, the Dolphins have had 17 different quarterbacks start for them. In 2011, the Dolphins had two quarterbacks start during the season in Chad Henne and Matt Moore. Another reason for Ross wanting Manning is to have a marquee player on the roster. In 2011, the Dolphins were 28th in the NFL in attendance. Already Peyton fever has taken effect in Miami. Even with the Miami Heat signing Lebron James and Chris Bosh in 2010 and with the Miami Marlins acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell this summer, Miami sports fans and athletes want Manning in South Beach. Heat star point guard Dwayne Wade let his feeling known on twitter Wednesday with his tweet, “peyton that number 18 wld look gr8 in a dolphins uniform..steve ross let’s go.. marlins & heat style..All in.”
Over the past decade, Brady versus Manning has been arguably the most exciting personal rivalry in the NFL. The two future hall of famers have had classic battles with two being for a trip to the Super Bowl. Now, with the Miami Dolphins likely to sign Manning, the rivalry looks to be rekindling. Even if the two quarterbacks aren’t what they once were, biannual matchups would add a new spark to what was once one of the most anticipated matchup in the NFL.